It’s easy to be complacent with your current level of success, and really hard to let go of a sure thing for the chance at something greater. Sometimes we need to strive harder, reach higher, and have the faith in ourselves to dig deeper and produce more meaningful output, to accomplish the work to be in the place we were meant to be creatively and artistically.
Donald Glover started out as part of the study group on the cult comedy Community. His character Troy’s relationship with quirky BFF Abed was a fan favourite pairing, and one of the hearts of the show. While it lasted for 6 seasons, Donald Glover took a controversial exit in the 5th season. Showrunner Dan Harmon said recently, “I needed to convince myself that Donald leaving wasn’t the death of the show, but now that it’s all over, I think we can agree that it was. You can’t tell that guy, ‘Oh, now this is the time you’re going to fail, so you should definitely not keep moving forward,’ Look at his ascent. If I were Donald Glover, I would try eating the moon, because we’re not so sure he can’t until he tries since everything he tries he succeeds at.”
Donald Glover is a force to be reckoned with both literally and figuratively. His red hot career centres with no overlap on music, television, and film, and includes the role of Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Star Wars Han Solo movie, and the voice of Simba in the CGI Lion King remake. Glover is also a comedian, and his first big break was writing for Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, when he was still an RA and living in his dorm at New York University. As a Time Magazine 100 Most Influential person, he is balancing his increasingly successful movie career with his FX TV series Atlanta.
Atlanta while set in the music world does not involve Childish Gambino, his hip-hop artist alter ego. Donald Glover tells the story from the view point of a struggling single dad who tries to leverage his connections with an up and coming rapper to make a better life for his daughter. The show while a comedy, veers into the darkness of human drama, and touches on issues of race, class, crime, employment, and homelessness. It is risk taking and inventive, and a well-received contemporary masterpiece. Rolling Stone magazine named it the best show of 2016 calling it, “The most ambitious, outrageous, surreal and riotous thing to hit TV all year.” Glover has high expectations for the second season, and thoughtful insights on the key to its success. “The show is about being black and it’s hard to write that down. 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. What was important to me was that this show was personal and that this show had a specific take. I wanted the show to be more about questions than comedy. I’m really touched that people are connecting to it and like it, but … I want you to be able to watch the first season and be like ‘Wow, I like that season, but the second one is way better.’ I want that debate happening.”
Glover doesn’t involve his own talent as a musician in the making of his show, and keeps his character focused on the business aspect of management. Donald Glover made enormous strides as a hip-hop artist and rapper with his persona Childish Gambino, but has said the next album will be his last. After several mixtapes, EPs, and 3 studio albums Donald Glover feels he has nowhere left to explore with his music career. He explains, “There’s only so far you can go before you just are the radio.” It’s really too bad! His latest album Awaken, My Love! was amazing. While his sound has always been hard to describe and categorize, he switched gears and left rap totally behind for a mashup of different musical styles. Consequence of Sound has high expectations for his last endeavor, “If Glover can fuse this drive for genuine emotion and the power of reality with that wit and inventive mind for words, an even greater accomplishment may lie ahead.” Paste magazine in an album review declared, “Glover should be lauded as an envoy of music’s past, here to deliver the gospel of the funk and soul greats to the kids, instead of more millennial hip-hop malarkey. And if that falls in line with exploring his own artistic endeavors, then not only “Awaken My Love!,” but Childish Gambino and Donald Glover’s entire career, is a worthy and successful one.”
While main stream music critics seemed unsure what to make of Childish Gambino, Donald Glover’s work in its many forms has always attracted a diehard legion of devoted fans. In 2010 there was a grassroots viral internet campaign to get him cast as a more diverse and inclusive Spider Man, which lead to an eventual cameo in Spiderman: Homecoming. Director Jon Watts has said, “One of the very first things I said when I got the job was, ‘We’ve got to put Donald Glover in this movie. I don’t know who he’s going to be, or what he’s going to do, but we have to figure out a way.’”
Donald Glover took an enormous risk leaving a popular show. He took an even bigger risk in the music world with a difficult to categorize sound. The actor and comedian is so in demand his flourishing film career is delaying the second season of his masterwork Atlanta. Donald Glover has many passions, and finds his purpose in many projects. He uses his intuition and trusts himself on when to let something end, when to move on to the next thing, and when to preserve and tackle his next project. His pursuits have led him to a place where he can pitch, create, write, direct, and executive-produce a project that is both meaningful to him and important in popular culture. Donald Glover dabbles in music, while pursuing a film and TV career and doesn’t worry about being a cohesive artist or being easy for people to label. He says of his work, “People are always like, ‘I don’t get this guy, I don’t understand him. And I think that’s good. I think that’s real good. I don’t want people to ever think they fully understand me.” He is a creator, and lets the work speak for itself.
Author Bio: Tara Collum
Tara Collum lives in Toronto and grew up in Muskoka. She is the volunteer social media coordinator for the Death Row Support Project @COB_DRSP and co-writes a web serial at splitsvilleblog.wordpress.com. She is all about tea, books, mumblecore, music, long walks, and self-improvement. Follow Tara on twitter @99percentsun