Donald Glover Reveals How He Convinced FX to Make 'Atlanta'

Sometimes you just have to hit TV execs with the Trojan horse approach.

donald glover
Image via Phillip Faraone/WireImage
donald glover

Atlanta is back this week with its first new episode since 2016, a return to glory that also brings with it a must-read new magazine profile of creator/star Donald Glover.

Tad Friend spoke extensively with Glover about the new season for the New Yorker piece that dropped Monday. Though Glover's groundbreaking series is now rightfully considering really fucking great, he initially had to employ some Trojan horse methodology to get FX to say yes.

Donald Glover wants TV to tell hard truths. Is the audience ready?

— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) February 26, 2018

"I knew what FX wanted from me," he said. "They were thinking it'd be me and Craig Robinson horse-tailing around, and it'll be kind of like Community, and it'll be on for a long time. I was Trojan-horsing FX. If I told them what I really wanted to do, it wouldn't have gotten made."

Elaborating further on this approach, Stephen Glover—Donald's brother and frequent creative partner, including on Atlanta—explained that initial series discussions with the network glossed over the show’s more existential and visually driven elements. "Donald promised, 'Earn and Al work together to make it in the rough music industry. Al got famous for shooting someone and now he's trying to deal with fame, and I'll have a new song for him every week. Darius will be the funny one, and the gang's going to be all together,'" Stephen said. "That was the Trojan horse."

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Ultimately, it worked. Despite getting hit with some studio notes (and claiming that the network only liked the pilot after it performed well in testing), Donald and Stephen were eventually told to "lean into" the parts of Atlanta that might be perceived as "weird" by network boss John Landgraf. "Steve always reminds me, 'FX didn't want to do this show—you had to beg them. Fuck them!'" Donald said. "I like Landgraf, I've learned a lot from him, but FX is a business. It's not there to make some kid from Stone Mountain, Georgia's dreams come true."

Elsewhere, Glover briefly discussed previous chapters of his career that have since come to a close, including his years as Troy Barnes on NBC's Community. Co-star Chevy Chase "often tried to disrupt [Glover's] scenes" and made "racial cracks" during breaks between takes. When the Chase topic was broached with Glover for the interview, he explained the importance of "true" artists knowing when to bow out. "I just saw Chevy as fighting time—a true artist has to be O.K. with his reign being over," he said. "I can't help him if he's thrashing in the water. But I know there's a human in there somewhere—he's almost too human."

The piece, featuring photography by Awol Erizku, also includes some kind words on the Solo star from Jordan Peele, Lena Dunham, and Ryan Coogler. Check it out in full here.


​​Atlanta kicks off season 2 Thursday, March 1. You can currently revisit all of season 1 on Hulu.

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