Donald Glover never does press like a conventional actor. So when he arrived at the Paramount Theater in Austin on Saturday night for the SXSW premiere of “Atlanta” Season 3, he turned the camera on his audience.
It was actually a disposable camera he had in his hand, and he used the retro gadget to snap shots of the reporters waiting to interview him.
“Someone left this in my room! I have no idea what’s on it. I could be in big trouble!” he giggled.
Austin was eager to get the full picture about Seasons 3 and 4, which were shot in tandem and recently announced to be the final installations of the show. Glover, who created “Atlanta” and stars as Earnest “Earn” Marks, didn’t mince words about the decision to wrap things up.
“All good things end. It felt like it was time to end,” he said on the red carpet. “I don’t like it when people [are] 40 pretending like they’re 15 and shit. It’s annoying.”
“I had no say in the matter,” joked Zazie Beetz, who plays Vanessa “Van” Keefer, Earn’s on-and-off love interest and the mother of his daughter. When asked what fans should look forward to in Season 3, Glover said that Van’s character development was the major focus.
“It’s a very honest season,” Beetz elaborated, with a gold “Van” pendant hanging on her neck. “All of the characters are out of their element, which allows things to rise to the surface that you would otherwise be able to, in habits and in comfort, suppress. And here, you can’t, because you have nothing to catch you. It’s a lot of truth and reflections of where we’re all at as ourselves and as people — as me, as Zazie.”
Season 2 left off with Earn, his cousin Alfred aka Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and Alfred’s right-hand man Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) setting off to Amsterdam for Alfred’s rap tour. The newest season is set almost entirely in Europe — though the cast and crew maintain that they’ve stayed true to their roots.
“Atlanta is everywhere and nowhere,” said Stephen Glover, Donald’s brother who writes and produces on the series.
“It’s our point of view; it’s not really about the place,” Donald added. “Although in Season 4, it makes a very heavy resurgence, as far as the actual place. Atlanta is a state of mind. Europe solidified how we felt [while writing] Season 3. [Director Hiro Murai] calls it our maximum season.”
Maximum indeed — Glover brought up a since-deleted Tweet from 2020 where he said Seasons 3 and 4 of “Atlanta” would be “some of the best television ever made. [‘The Sopranos’ are the] only ones who can touch us.”
“I talk my shit on the internet,” he said on the carpet. “I said ‘Sopranos’ and shit. I’m not backing down from that shit. I’m holding my nuts out on that shit. I just want [audiences] to know this shit is good. It’s high quality shit. I hope you can have cursing [in your story].”
Glover also revealed that Jaden Smith was originally meant to appear in an episode of “Atlanta” that told the story of a character who gets shot in the pilot: “We never did it because Jaden Smith was busy. We were supposed to release it online, just read[ing the script], which we still could do. Stephen wrote it. It’s really good.”
Titled “Three Slaps,” the first episode of Season 3 barely features “Atlanta’s” main characters, instead following a young boy named Loquareeous (Christopher Farrar). Multiple story beats are parodies of real-life viral videos of children dancing in excitement to see “Black Panther” or as punishment for acting up at school, while the episode’s larger plot is a reimagined telling of the death of Devonte Hart.
“I like to describe ‘Atlanta’ as a group thread in real life. We’re just shitting a group text thread,” said writer and producer Stefani Robinson of the more humorous allusions in “Three Slaps.” “We’re just cobbling together internet videos that make us laugh.”
“We just wanted to make a black fairytale,” Glover agreed. “I remember sitting in the writers’ room and being like, ‘What do we write about?’ We just wanted to do short stories. Something I would want to watch.”
FX will debut the third season of “Atlanta” on March 24.