In a wide-ranging New Yorker profile ahead of the second season of his award-winning FX show Atlanta, Donald Glover discusses the various ways he’s had to navigate racism inherent in the entertainment industry. One of those anecdotes bolstered the widely accepted convention that his former Community co-star Chevy Chase is a nightmare to work with.
Although Chase sounds like he was being completely obnoxious to Glover on set, the Atlanta creator explained his behavior as that of a deeply insecure man desperately clinging to relevance. From the New Yorker:
Chevy Chase, one of Glover’s co-stars, often tried to disrupt his scenes and made racial cracks between takes. (“People think you’re funnier because you’re black.”) Harmon said, “Chevy was the first to realize how immensely gifted Donald was, and the way he expressed his jealousy was to try to throw Donald off. I remember apologizing to Donald after a particularly rough night of Chevy’s non-P.C. verbiage, and Donald said, ‘I don’t even worry about it.’ ” Glover told me, “I just saw Chevy as fighting time—a true artist has to be O.K. with his reign being over. 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.” (Chase said, “I am saddened to hear that Donald perceived me in that light.”) Glover quit in the fifth season, too bored to do it anymore
Glover also touched on his stint as Lena Dunham’s love interest on the second season of Girls, which was widely perceived as a ploy to satisfy critics who correctly called out the show’s lack of diversity. Dunham related an instance where she reached out to Glover in an attempt to absolve herself of any guilt:
The year that “Internet” came out, Glover appeared in two episodes of HBO’s “Girls”—cast, he suspected, to placate critics of the show’s lily-white sensibility. His character was Sandy, the black Republican boyfriend of Hannah, played by Lena Dunham. When Hannah broke up with him, Sandy began pumping his shoulders to imitate her privileged cluelessness: “ ‘Oh, I’m a white girl, and I moved to New York and I’m having a great time, and, Oh, I’ve got a fixed-gear bike, and I’m going to date a black guy and we’re going to go to a dangerous part of town.’ ” Dunham told me that Glover improvised his lines: “Every massive insult of white women was one hundred per cent him. I e-mailed him later to say ‘I hope you feel the part on “Girls” didn’t tokenize you,’ and his response was really Donald-y and enigmatic: ‘Let’s not think back on mistakes we made in the past, let’s just focus on what lies in front of us.’”
Still, Dunham has nothing but a deep and abiding admiration for Glover and his body of work:
In Hollywood, Glover has become the model for how to succeed on your own terms. Lena Dunham, the creator and star of “Girls,” said, “At least twenty people have told me, ‘I’d like to make something like “Atlanta.” ’And I say, ‘Oh, you mean a show that toggles between painful drama and super-surrealist David Lynch moments to take on race in America?’ That’s not a genre—that’s Donald.”
Well, looks like she’s right about one thing.