Donald Glover spent most of 2017 collecting awards (Golden Globes and Emmys), getting cast as Simba, and pretending to be Lando Calrissian. 2018 is already shaping up to be big as well. The second season of FX’s Atlanta happens in March. Incidentally, 2018 is also the year Donald Glover proved to everyone that Donald Glover isn’t afraid to tell an interviewer what kind of bullshit he’s put up with from who.
To promote the second season of Atlanta, Donald spoke with Tad Friend of The New Yorker. They discussed Donald’s success, and how he still sleeps on a couch in his Los Angeles studio. Obviously they get into what Donald did along the way to get there. This was where I was fully expecting a story involving his Community co-star and living mess Chevy Chase, and Donald didn’t disappoint. But first Tina Fey!
Tina Fey hired Donald to write for 30 Rock in 2006, and it wasn’t solely because she thought he was a great writer.
He noted that his own skin color had surely influenced his career, beginning with his first job, as a writer on 30 Rock. “I wondered, Am I being hired just because I’m black?” Tina Fey, the show’s creator and star, told me that the answer was in large part yes; she admired Glover’s talent but hired him because funds from NBC’s Diversity Initiative “made him free.”
In 2009 Donald was cast as Troy Barnes on NBC’s Community. People familiar with Community knows it was a show about a community college, and also a place where Chevy Chase terrorized everyone with his diva behavior. There was a story a few years ago about a pissed-off Chevy allegedly ad-libbing the n-word during a scene with Donald and Yvette Nicole Brown. Donald said it didn’t end there.
Chevy Chase, one of Glover’s co-stars, often tried to disrupt his scenes and made racial cracks between takes. (“People think you’re funnier because you’re black.”) Dan Harmon said, “Chevy was the first to realize how immensely gifted Donald was, and the way he expressed his jealousy was to try to throw Donald off. I remember apologizing to Donald after a particularly rough night of Chevy’s non-P.C. verbiage, and Donald said, ‘I don’t even worry about it.’”
Glover told me, “I just saw Chevy as fighting time – a true artist has to be O.K. with his reign being over. 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.”
Chevy responded to Donald’s comments, saying: “I am saddened to hear that Donald perceived me in that light.”
But at least Donald Glover was able to work out some of his feelings when he did a two-episode guest spot on HBO’s Girls as Hannah’s boyfriend. Donald’s appearance happened after Lena Dunham took a ton of internet shit for show’s lack of characters of color in the first season. At the end of the second episode, Donald’s character breaks up with Hannah by roasting her clueless white girl antics. None of which was in the script.
Dunham told me that Glover improvised his lines: “Every massive insult of white women was one hundred per cent him. I e-mailed him later to say ‘I hope you feel the part on Girls didn’t tokenize you,’ and his response was really Donald-y and enigmatic: ‘Let’s not think back on mistakes we made in the past, let’s just focus on what lies in front of us.’”
And then Lena was like “Sounds great! I’m going to grab a pair of binoculars and see what lies in front of me on my future path. What’s that up ahead? More mistakes! Terrific! Thanks anyway for the directions, Donald!”