Bill Hader won this year’s Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series — well-deserved, as anyone who watched HBO’s electric dramedy Barry knows well. But it seems like his fellow nominee Donald Glover, who created and stars in Atlanta on FX, was planning something big if he had won the award.
We all saw a glimpse of it, but maybe only a handful of us understood what Glover was getting at — or that we were even looking at Glover, or anyone from Atlanta. Here’s a screenshot in the tweet below of what flashed on screen briefly following Hader’s acceptance speech:
The man in the red velvet suit looked ... off, right? Not quite like an average actor, or even an average person. (Whatever that means, of course!) This white man with brown hair, it turns out, was a memorable Atlanta character — this time played not by Glover, apparently, but by co-star Lakeith Stanfield — in a huge amount of makeup.
Stanfield wasn’t just dressed up for a random joke. It’s a straight reference to “Teddy Perkins,” one of the more bizarre episodes from this season of Atlanta. Much was made of the title character’s haunting appearance following the episode’s airing, because of his high cheekbones and seemingly pounds of makeup ... and also because word on the street was that Teddy Perkins was actually Donald Glover under there.
And he was! And Donald Glover, instead of retiring the character, decided to bring Teddy Perkins out one more time, although it appears he gave Stanfield the costume this time. Donald Glover, as viewers later caught upon re-watch, was actually seated elsewhere in the audience. What a night people.
Was this the last we’ll get of Teddy Perkins? Who’s to say. A third season of Atlanta airs next year.
Update: We’ve updated the post above with clarification and additional information about the Emmys audience goof.
Update 2 (Sept. 18): OK, holy crap, there has been another twist in this story.
Hiro Murai, who directed the “Teddy Perkins” episode, posted the following on his Instagram around midnight PT last night, after the Emmys ceremony had wrapped up:
In the middle of Murai and our boy Ted is ... Lakeith Stanfield.
Did he and Donald Glover take turns dressing up as the character? Did they hire some completely unrelated third actor to screw with all of our heads? Will we ever know the answer?
I vote no on that last one, and it will forever make my head spin. Atlanta may have gone home empty-handed, but I’m certainly going to think more about this prank — and its wonderful second season! — more than anything else that happened last night.
Update 3 (Sept. 19): I’m at a loss for words at this point. Yet another wrinkle has entered this ongoing storyline.
Jay Pharaoh of former Saturday Night Live fame shared his own Instagram pic featuring Teddy Perkins at the Emmys. It didn’t make it to social media until Tuesday, but here it is:
What. Is. Happening.
Is Jay Pharaoh behind the Teddy Perkins ruse, the one that continues to haunt us? Complex makes a convincing case that suggests he is. Jay Pharaoh isn’t part of the Atlanta cast, but what does that even matter anymore? This is the most elaborate split-second sight gag we’ve ever seen outside of, like, Arrested Development.
At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Teddy Perkins was just an actual human being. Please let this saga be over.