Donald Glover didn’t set out to make the blackest or most diverse show on television when he started developing Atlanta. He had something a bit more ambitious in mind.
Created and starring the Community alum, Atlanta follows the penniless Earn Marks (Glover), his rapper cousin Alfred Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), and their seemingly perennially high friend Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) as they work their way through the Atlanta rap scene. It also stars Zazie Beetz as Van, Earn’s best friend with whom he shares a daughter.
The show, which has been called one of the best new series of fall, stands out for having an entirely black cast and writers’ room, which is still rare on television. Rather than just stand as a bastion for diversity, Glover wants the show to actually push the medium forward by introducing new and unique voices.
“Hopefully, we speak to something broader than diversity because, to be real, that conversation is lame to me now. It’s kind of done,” says the 32-year-old actor, explaining that he thinks its obvious people want to see different things on television. “It’s more important that we have a coalition of points of view… I don’t want to win an award for having the most black cast of all time. I’d rather change a dynamic.”
“I think this show will hopefully allow me to get different points of view out in the same way [Tina Fey’s] genius point of view helped her lift up other people, including myself. I want to do that for other people,” says the Georgian native, adding that he hopes his show allows someone like Atlanta staff writer Stefani Robinson (Man Seeking Woman) to get her own show.
Furthermore, the demographic make-up of the show has more to do with Glover’s commitment to creating a series that’s honest. The cast is entirely black because it’s a show about how weird it is to be black in America that’s set in a city where over half of the population identifies as black.
“It depends on the context of the story you’re telling,” says Glover. “I tried really hard on this show to be honest about language, the way people talk, the way black people are treated, the way women are treated, the way all disenfranchised groups, gay people, are treated.” He also promises that season 2 will have a stronger female presence because “Atlanta is kind of run by black women.”
One of the things that attracted him to setting a show in Atlanta was the economic and racial segregation in the city, which he thinks speaks to something American. “I feel like a lot of shows are like ‘This is how it should be,’ and if everybody knew how it should be, things would be that way. But they’re not,” says Glover.
At this point, Glover knows that the show will be considered a “black show” because it’s about rap and the cast is black, but he doesn’t really care. “I’m not mad at the idea of people being like ‘This is a black show,'” he says. “I would be mad at the idea of people being like ‘this is a good show for a black show.'”
Atlanta airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.