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Donald Glover Gets Real About Racism and Being a Black Creator In Hollywood

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Donald Glover conceptualized “Atlanta”
in 2013. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

The road to an Emmy-winning series wasn’t easy for Donald Glover. As a Black creator breaking into Hollywood TV, the singer-rapper-actor had to overcome several obstacles before he could get FX’s now-hit series, “Atlanta,” on the air.

Back when he got his first industry job as a writer on NBC’s “30 Rock,” creator and comedian Tiny Fey admitted it wasn’t necessarily his talent that got him the gig.

“I wondered, ‘Am I being hired just because I’m Black?’” he told The New Yorker in an expansive March profile.

Fey admitted that was largely true and while she applauded Glover’s talent, she took him on because money from NBC’s Diversity Initiative “made him free.”

After three years, Glover quit the show and scored the role of Troy on the peacock network’s sitcom, “Community.” It was there that he ran into a few issues with “Saturday Night Live” alum Chevy Chase.

“People think you’re funnier because you’re Black,” Chase apparently said in between takes.

“I just saw Chevy as fighting time — a true artist has to be O.K. with his reign being over,” Glover 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.”

“Community” creator Dan Harmon noted the way the 74-year-old actor “expressed his jealousy was to try to throw Donald off.”

In response, Chase told The New Yorker, “I am saddened to hear that Donald perceived me in that light.”

Finally, when it came to “Atlanta,” even when Glover pitched the series about a unique story of Black life, he had to be careful about what he presented to the network.

“I knew what FX wanted from me,” Glover said. “They were thinking it’d be me and [“Hot Tub Time Machine” star] 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.”

His brother and “Atlanta” story editor Stephen Glover, added, “Donald promised, ‘[Characters] 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.’ That was the Trojan horse.”

Yet for people like “Get Out” director Jordan Peele, the series — even with it’s off the wall episodes like the one about a Black man who is transitioning to become white — works.

“For Black people, ‘Atlanta’ provides the catharsis of ‘Finally, some elevated Black s—-,” he said.

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