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Donald Glover on why he had to leave Community to move his career forward

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Why Atlanta is his most personal work yet

Donald Glover is a firm believer that in order for anything to progress, something needs to die.

During the panel for his upcoming comedy on FX, Atlanta, Glover spoke briefly about why he decided not to appear in the final season of Community, despite creator Dan Harmon's attempts to bring him back. For Glover, he viewed that part of his life as over and he didn't feel like it would have served the show, audience or him as an actor.

"I think everything should have death clauses in them," Glover said. "I'm glad things end because it forces them to progress. It wasn't like I was running away from it, I was just done with it.

"I had so much fun on Community, but there's a reason why Dan ended the show. He likes endings too."


For Glover, leaving Community and focusing less of his time on his side projects, including his successful hip-hop career as artist Childish Gambino, led him to writing, pitching and developing Atlanta. The show is based in the titular city and follows Glover as he tries to go from rags to riches while experiencing microaggressions within the hip-hop community.

According to Glover, the show is a comedy through and through, but it was more important to him to be able to tell an honest story about the black community than it was to worry about whether the comedy translated to the majority of audiences.

"The show is about being black and it's hard to write that down," Glover said. "It's something that you have to feel. Some of them are going to be like, 'Oh, this is cool' and some of them are going to hate it. That's just how it goes."

Glover said that Atlanta was one of his most personal projects yet. There are plenty of moments within the show that will be hard for some viewers to swallow as it teeters on the edge of what constitutes dark humor and human drama. Glover's aware of that and said much of the way the comedy in the show is perceived will be based on who people watch it with.

"It's kind of comedic based on when you ask and who you ask," Glover said. "I feel like we've seen the Richard Pryor or Gene Wilder [bit about] 'black people do this and white people do this' for a long time. That was interesting because people didn't know much about black culture, but that's changed now.

"I wanted the show to be more about questions than comedy."

Glover added that the show will question people's perceptions of the black community in the South and remind them of the injustices black people still face there on a daily basis.

"The show is about being black and it's hard to write that down"

One of the reasons Glover wanted to focus on the hip-hop community was because many of the biggest rappers have also faced police brutality and other urban injustice. For someone embedded within that industry himself, Glover said he’d always wanted to explore those issues.

"What was important to me was that this show was personal and that this show had a specific take," Glover said. "All you can really ask for is that a show has a specific point of view and I think we did that really well with Atlanta. We're bringing in local rappers and people like Migos to make it feel more authentic."

Despite the close connection Glover has to the hip-hop community, he said he didn't want to bring any of Childish Gambino into the show because he wanted to keep it separate from his stage persona. Glover said it wouldn't have been as fun for him as a writer, director and actor, and he didn't want the audience to feel like they had to question how much was real and how much wasn't.

"People are always like, 'I don't get this guy, I don't understand him,'" Glover said. "And I think that's good. I think that's real good. I don't want people to ever think they fully understand me."

Atlanta premieres on FX on Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. ET.