2013’s Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, Murai said, a short he and Glover made about a rap star aimlessly moving from room to room in his mansion on some coast, drifting among the friends and possessions he’d collected.
Atlanta also messed with TV conventions, slyly planting surrealist notes—a black Justin Bieber and an invisible car—into an already-winking show. It developed, Glover told me, as a result of hanging out with his brother Stephen, who’s also a writer for the show. “I started seeing more of the world and getting in more arguments and talking about more shit. Like black women telling me: ‘ Black men don’t do shit for us.’ I’m like: ‘Damn, you really feel that way?’ And they’re like: ‘One hundred percent’.”
The success of the first season was great for Glover, but he’s aware the second season has a lot to live up to. The first day back on set, Murai told me, “felt like Bizarro World”. They took such a long hiatus that they’d forgotten, at least at first, how to make the show. “It feels like it grew into something else. It’s a little more short-story-oriented.”
“I tried to do the Q-Tip take on it,” Glover said, referring to the co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest. “After their first album, he was like, ‘ I’m kicking this sophomore-slump shit in the ass.’ ”
Glover said it was good to be back in the neighbourhoods that make up Atlanta’s set. “It felt like we could walk through the hood and people knew who we were.” And then there’s the night they were shooting in Bankhead. “Shots started popping off. Like, pop, pop, pop, pop,” Glover said. The cast and crew stood around, uncertain, until they heard faster return fire. “I wasn’t hearing it hit the leaves yet. Sometimes you hear a gunshot”—here he approximated the sound of, well, bullets hitting leaves— “where you know it’s fucking close.” No one on set wanted to wait to hear that sound. Everyone got low and went inside; production was cancelled for the night.
“That’s part of the respect,” Glover said. “If you go in the ocean, you have to respect the ocean. You know that you can drown. I don’t want people to think life is a fucking Disneyland, and we’re working, like, ‘Isn’t it cool that people live this way?’ It’s not.”
Over dinner, Glover told me that he gets anxious when he’s close to something real. “I know season two of Atlanta is something because it makes me nervous.” Bullets-whipping-throughleaves nervous.
Glover was born
in 1983 and raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia, the site of the largest Confederate memorial in the U S. “If people saw how I grew up, they would be triggered,” he said. “Confederate flags everywhere. I had friends who were white, whose parents were very sweet to me but were also like, ‘Don’t ever date him.’ I saw that what was being offered on Sesame Street didn’t exist.”
When he was 11, Glover wrote himself a letter: “I’m gonna try and I’m gonna save the world.”
Though his parents raised him as a Jehovah’s Witness—a faith that has strict prohibitions on pop culture—Glover says Star Wars occupied a rare space in his home. It was important enough that his dad took him out of school to see the prequels. He remembers biting the lightsabre off his Darth Vader action figure when he was a kid, but recalls his blue-caped Lando Calrissian figurine even more intensely. Until the Jedi Mace Windu came along in 1999’s The Phantom Menace, Lando was the only black person in the Star Wars universe. In the original trilogy, Lando goes from a fiercely independent smuggler trying to avoid the Empire’s scrutiny to a genuine hero who saves Princess Leia, Han Solo, C-3P0, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2. “I had a doll that I slept with—the only black doll in the store—that my mom bought for me. And my dad bought me Lando,” Glover said.
Some years ago, he heard a rumour that a movie featuring Lando was in the works. “I told my agent: ‘I wanna be Lando,’ ” but his agent didn’t like his chances. “That was exactly what I needed to hear,” Glover told me, “because I’m the person who’s not supposed to make it, so much so that I don’t think people