Known as Black Hollywood and home to numerous rap stars, NFL players and a slew of reality shows Atlanta is the number one destination for young Blacks migrating to The South. The city that has garnered attention in the movie industry and rap industry for the past decade is also the setting for Atlanta, a new show on FX produced by actor/writer Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. The story follows Glover’s character Earnest “Earn” Marks and his cousin, Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, played by Brian Tyree Henry as they attempt to capitalize off Alfred’s budding rap career. Henry says the show portrays a typical person born and bred in Atlanta.
“He has a couple of hustles on the side. He’s just your local Atlanta native. He’s dabbling in rap, but really doesn’t want to get into rap and his cousin comes along and is trying to get on,” Henry explains. “I just try to play Alfred and represent the way Atlanta should be represented. This place has so many great people and the culture is so live.”
It’s a story native ATLiens and transplants can appreciate. In Atlanta, 10 minutes of fame is within everyone’s grasp, but Glover is adamant about showing a side of Atlanta too often replaced with glitz and glamour. He wants to tell the truth about life in a city that was home to the Civil Rights Movement, but found itself ranked the number one city for income inequality in 2014 and 2015. In the series his character is struggling financially with added pressure from Van, his best friend and mother of his daughter. Glover says showing the struggle is part of telling the truth about the culture and people that nurtured him.
“I wanted to give the tone that felt when I was living here and explore the other side. I wanted to make it funny and extremely real, and to compete with the internet it has be real,” Glover continues. “People don’t want to see people struggling, but it’s really interesting. Having no money is how most people are. It’s not interesting to watch people who have money. It just made sense.”
Originally from Stone Mountain, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta., Glover made a name for himself as a writer on the hit tv show 30 Rock. There he earned a Writer’s Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Series in 2009. His writing background lends itself to exploring the idiosyncrasies of relationships resulting in television that is relatable and comedic. Paul Simms, one of the executive producers of the project, says he’s interested in sharing Glover’s world with viewers because of the script.
“I read the script Donald wrote and thought it was fantastic,” Simms says. “I didn’t know anything about Atlanta and I knew it was authentic and I knew he grew up here. It seemed so exciting to me because it was a world I didn’t know anything about it, so coming down here and scouting I learned a lot about Atlanta”
The story line abandons stereotypes about Atlanta and reveals all it’s red clay grittiness. The series is not a showcase of the skyscrapers or the trappings of wealth used to lure quintessential Atlantans to The South. Instead, Glover and his team of writers get to the heart of the city…..the people. The themes of struggle, ambition, and family allow the characters to seamlessly move in and out of various factions unveiling the diversity among Blacks. Zazie Beats, who plays Van, says the city isn’t necessarily on display, but the complex demographic and culture are the focal point.
“There are rich people, poor people, happy, sad people and they all exist in the same space. You have this sweeping idea of this is a Southern city and a lot of Black people live here, but there are people from different classes, backgrounds, different levels of education and they want different types of things,” she continues. “I don’t think it’s so much about the city as it is the people who live in the city.”
Atlanta premieres on FX at 10pm EST/9pm CST. To learn more click here