This week, A few members from the cast of Glover’s new show “Atlanta” joined press and audience members for a premier of the first two episodes followed by a QnA mediated by The Breakfast Club’s Angela Yee.
The night as a whole was awesome, and the first two episodes were hilarious, but some of the night’s highest moments had to have come from the great questions raised by Angela. She brought a few interesting opinions out of the trio and kept the audience interested the whole time. You can read the transcription of the panel at NYC’s Paley Center for Media below:
Donald: Me and Steven wanted to base him off of what Atlanta “hood like” icons were to us when we were growing up. People who were cool, but also looked like Gucci when he first came out. I just liked that polo fresh look, where he feels like he’s the freshest n*gga in the country. I felt like I wanted him to be a dude with a dope polo and hopefully as the season goes on his fashion taste changes the more he gets around. Yeah, I wanted it to be like Young Jeezy in the early days.
So any special guest appearances being that it’s Atlanta?
Donald: Yeah, you get some. But, I didn’t want to bring in a bunch of people we know because I feel like it would be entourage in a bad way. I didn’t want it to feel like too much. But we definitely have some people there. Migos are in like the third episode.
Now would you bring Van around Paperboy and to the concerts? Is that something that she needs to be around and see?
Brian: Nah they don’t fuck with each other.
Zazie: We don’t have one single shot.
Brian: Yeah the one time we’re together we’re on the phone which is crazy because the first time we met each other we fell in love. Then they told us we don’t fuck with each other and I was like, “Ah damn!”
Zazie: I feel like they’re also Earn’s two worlds and they would collide if they were together.
Donald: They both feel like the other one ruined Earn’s life. Both of them see each other as, “you could just grow up if it weren’t for the other person”
Let’s talk about the use of the n-word by white people because that’s definitely an issue in the show
Donald: The funny thing is the first time we shot that pilot, Standards and Practices were like, “you gotta bleep all the n-words except for the one the white guy says because it’s part of the story”. That’s so hilarious that we have to do it. We’ve always talked about wanting to make a show that was “punk”. I didn’t want to make something that felt like okay to see. I wanted something where it almost felt like you weren’t allowed to see it. When I was a kid and was watching the Chapelle show I felt like, “oh I’m not supposed to be watching this”. So if we’re really going to do that and tell real stories it’s got to feel real. They tell me they don’t like to blur things but I’m like, “no the blurs are what make it feel real and that I’m not supposed to see this.” We’re just competing with the internet because you can see f*cked up stuff so easily. You can see 30 second fights, I watch that all the time, you can see people get shot five times a day everyday. So if you’re on TV being like “no n-words” I’m like where is this place? What universe is that? It feels fake to me. I never felt like I had to defend it.
Has a white person ever used the n-word in front of any of you?
All Three: Uh, Yeah!
Do you check them?
Donald: Well that’s the interesting thing about the show, depending on where you are and who they are…
Brian: I’m more insulted when you fist bump me without asking, like why is that the first thing?
Donald: I think in that first episode, we always joked who is going to like the show or watch it in general. So I was like, well lets read what people are saying about me. I remember reading “Donald Glover seems like the type of black dude that lets white dudes say n*gga in front of him” I was like, let’s do that shit. Because there are black people like that. Let’s not pretend there are a million types of black people out there. I know there are black people in here that have had to swallow it at a certain point like “uhh this is bad for my career.” Other people, like Alfred, I don’t think are too worried about their career if they knock me out. So as much as we’ve come along, white people have come along, and they’re like oh I can say this comfortably around these people. What’s happening is that everything is changing and I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I don’t think there’s a straight line of these people can say it and these people can’t. I think it’s just an interesting thing thats happening, and there’s no n-word police that are keeping the peace unfortunately. But I’m sure people who’ve said it around me don’t say it around gucci mane, and I think they know why, so I wanted to explore that
When I think of Atlanta, and how it’s represented by the media, I can’t help but focus on what Brig Krit often talks about, where we see people only wanting to pick up on the stereotypes you see in Atlanta and Earn really plays the antithesis to those stereotypes, so I’m wondering if any of that was in your mind while writing these characters?
Donald: Well I want to hear Zazie answer that, because she’s not from Atlanta and that was one of her first times coming down there. So what types of people did you see?
Zazie: I was just asked this question earlier today. I think like calling it the “black mecca” is such a beautiful thing because there’s so many different kinds of brown people that exist there. I feel like that is not shown anywhere. I feel like I remember really feeling like there’s all these kinds of people, and the show does that showing there are so many different kinds of people of color there. The neighborhood I lived in (Heights, NYC) had so many like black punk people around.
I ask that because Earn isn’t the weird one out there, there are a ton of Earns, my little brother is an Earn. There are a ton of that, but why would Lil Jon sell that? Atlanta has stereotypes that are just interesting to people.
Zazie: People are always so shocked to meet Brian and they ask, “wait you don’t talk like that?”
Brian: There’s nothing better than having a journalist come up to me and say “you speak so well” Like yes, I have a degree from Morehouse and from Yale, I should speak well. It’s not that big of a deal
Donald: But the funny thing is that most of the time they’re disappointed. But I guess the quick way of answering that is that the reason I chose Earn, is there’s a million kinds of him, and there’s a million kinds of people there. We chose regular people, we based it off of our friends. Earn was me at the time, Steve is more like Darius. We’re all from Atlanta, we all hang out and I don’t think a lot of people understand how someone like Donald Glover I was trying to get at. It just happens. I just wanted Earn to be a regular dude, who is kind of an asshole sometimes. The stereotypes Big Krit talks about come up because they’re interesting and they’re easy to do and make Vice articles about. No one wants to write a Vice article about me, I’m super boring. The stereotypes are interesting.
By Arthur Banach and Nishat Baig