The freshman season of Donald Glover’s FX comedy Atlanta was a critical and commercial hit, but Glover said audiences shouldn’t expect more of the same when the series returns for Season 2 in March.
“We didn’t look back at Season 1 for inspiration,” Glover said at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “If you do that, you tend to be risk-averse, which is really bad for us.”
As Glover and his writers began putting together the second season, “We didn’t come into it like, how do we beat last season? We said, how do we make another show we’d want to watch?” said Glover. “What we liked about the first season is we looked at it as just 30 minutes on television. We had 30 minutes to just do whatever we wanted.”
So when the 11-episode Season 2, called Atlanta Robbin’ Season, premieres on March 1, the series will feel less like Season 1 and more like … How I Spent My Summer Vacation, a movie-length version of the ‘90s cartoon Tiny Toon Adventures that Glover said (in all seriousness) was a source of inspiration for the writers. “That was a really good, mini-group [of episodes] that they did,” he said.
Atlanta’s first season averaged 5.3 million total viewers across all platforms, the highest for any comedy in FX history. Glover won two Emmys: one for best director in a comedy series and one for outstanding lead actor in a comedy.
But Glover, who hates to repeat himself creatively, tried to shut out all of that acclaim while making Season 2. “Everyone wants you to do the thing they like again,” Glover said. But instead of trying to create the latest version of the iPhone, Glover said he tried to recreate “iPhone 1,” which he noted was the real mind-blowing, game-changing model.
The Robbin’ Season title, explained Glover’s brother Stephen, an executive producer on the show, refers to the time in Atlanta each year around Christmas “where a lot of crime happens in town” because people have holiday gifts and more money. “It’s a very tense and desperate time,” which parallels what is going on with the characters,” Stephen said. “We wanted to make that the backdrop to the season.”
Director Hiro Murai said the Robbin’ Season title “puts a different frame around the show,” which will help audiences to expect something a bit different going into it.
Season 2 will parallel the real-life success of the show and many of its stars. Glover went on to be cast as Lando Calrissian in the upcoming young Han Solo movie, Solo, while Zasie Beetz stars in the Deadpool sequel.
It will follow the efforts of up-and-coming rapper-drug dealer Paper Boi, played by Brian Tyree Henry, to create a second mixtape after the success of the first one in Season 1. Among the questions he’ll be asking, Glover said: “Am I going to sell drugs or am I going to be a celebrity? You can’t do both. …. Everyone is ‘eat or be eaten.’”
Henry said this season of Atlanta was frightening for him to film.
“There were so many moments this season where I was terrified to leave my house to confront what I had to do. … It was hard,” said Henry, who noted that is exactly what Robbin’ Season refers to: “The fear, that uncertainty, of not knowing what is going to lie outside that door.”