Actors corner: Donald Glover

Kate Dunkerton discusses why Donald Glover is one of the most influential actors in the industry.

Kate Dunkerton
22nd June 2020
Credit: Getty Images, IMDb
A man of multiple talents, Donald Glover is an actor I will rave about to anyone who will listen. One minute he’s a stand-up comedian, the next he’s releasing an RnB single under the guise of Childish Gambino. Not only is he known for his involvement in the film and TV industry, but he has recently gained new fans through his racial activism, which usually bleeds into his work.
Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC, IMDb

Before he was releasing number one albums, Glover’s big break came after being noticed for his writing talent by Tina Fey, leading to a gig as a writer for Fey’s hit sitcom 30 Rock. From then on, Glover’s career has only resulted in a snowball effect. Glover rose to prominence as Troy Barnes in the comedy series Community. Portraying Troy Barnes, a former jock who befriends a diverse group of people at a community college, it was Community that established a cult following amongst fans. Leading to stand-up comedy, Glover has performed to thousands who enjoy his blunt sense of humour. Although his humour might not be for everyone, I personally think his special Donald Glover: Weirdo is hilarious, but also in a cringy way. And that’s only because Glover isn’t afraid to speak the truth, particularly with political and social issues.  

"This is America" is raw, unadulterated truth, which is what makes it so powerful

Glover’s political side particularly comes out in his rap music under his stage name Childish Gambino. After releasing hit albums including Awaken, My Love!, it was in 2018 that Glover released the groundbreaking “This is America”. Speaking out on the gun laws and racism against black people in America, it was the shooting of a church choir in South Carolina which sparked Glover’s inspiration, and can be seen in the music video. “This is America” is raw, unadulterated truth, which is what makes it so powerful. The music video is eerie and intense as Glover dances around a warehouse shirtless before shooting a man in the back of the head whilst holding a Jim Crow stance, followed by more depictions of violence against African-Americans. It’s a music video that needs to be watched multiple times, as we see so many things as once and you notice something new each time, touching on a specific issue related to racism and gun violence in American culture.

Credit: Donald Glover Vevo, YouTube

Although Glover has starred in supporting roles in big-budget films such as Spiderman: Homecoming and Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as voicing Simba in the live-action remake of The Lion King, television is where Glover shines brightest. This has been proven with his FX series Atlanta. The series follows Earn Marks as navigates the Atlanta rap scene with his cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry), aka Paper Boi, and their friend Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) whilst trying to provide for his daughter and Vanessa (Zazie Beetz), his on-off girlfriend and mother of his child.

Atlanta has been noted as being the only series with an all-black writing staff, a rarity in television

Credit: FX Networks, IMDb

Often pitched as a comedy, I’ve always thought of Atlanta as more of a drama series, as it focuses on a range of issues from police brutality to familial duties. Atlanta really showcases Glover’s unique humour, especially as he acts, writes and directs the series. Met with critical acclaim since its release, Atlanta has been noted as being the only series with an all-black writing staff, a rarity in television and Hollywood. Glover has since broke records with his accolades, going onto become the first African-American person to win the Emmy Award for Best Director for a comedy series, as well as winning Best Actor in 2017. Despite this acclaim, it’s a series I’ve rarely heard people mention or discuss in the UK.

Glover isn’t afraid to break the mould and do something which fits his style

What makes Glover stand out from other actors who direct and write simultaneously is that he doesn’t use Atlanta for self-glorification. As the lead actor as well as being a leading showrunner, Glover isn’t afraid to step back and give the other actors their moment on screen. This is particularly seen in the episode “B.A.N”, a satire which focuses on Alfred and the manipulation of the media during a talk show interview. This unique approach is noteworthy, as actors who direct often appear in the episodes themselves. In contrast, Glover takes his time to step back from his leading role to deliver a high-quality episode, without his character, by serving primarily as director and writer. The episode was either lauded or polarized critics, with some welcoming the shift in narrative style and some deeming it too radical. Either way, Glover isn’t afraid to break the mould and do something which fits his style, producing a thought-provoking series that discusses social and political issues in America and it’s effect on African-American citizens.  

Credit: FX Networks, IMDb

Whether you want comedy, drama or RnB music, Donald Glover has proven himself to be one of the most talented actors in the industry. This is the only Donald who can make America great again.

Credit: WatchMojo.com, YouTube
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