Stephen Glover Thinks Whiteness Is a Curse

For Atlanta co-executive producer and writer Stephen Glover, history keeps repeating itself. “You think you’re going to get out of high school and you’re like, ‘I’ll never have to do that again.’ And you go to work and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is kind of high school,’” Glover tells Vanity Fair over the phone, from the outskirts of Atlanta. To Glover, it’s a fitting analogy for the European sojourn Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (LaKeith StanfieldVan (Zazie Beetz), and Earn (played by his older brother, Donald Glover) embark upon in the third season of Atlanta, whose finale aired last night.

“There’s this idea of ​​’Oh, I’m going to go somewhere bigger and better, and it’s all going to be different,'” Glover says. Like, no. It’s kind of the same.”

This sentiment pervades the third season of the Emmy-winning show, as the crew confronts the haunting nature of whiteness—this time with a European flair. “I think this season, we knew we wanted to do something different—change it a little bit. And this one was definitely about a theme,” Glover says. “We were calling it ‘the curse of whiteness.’ That’s the flavor we went into the season with.”

With one season of Atlanta left, Glover answered VF‘s questions about white Earnest, famous guest stars, and where the series goes from here.

Vanity Fair: It felt like the narrative action of season three was secondary to an exploration of the insidiousness of whiteness.

Stephen Glover: When we were in the [writers] room, we talked about a lot of different things that were going on, a lot of different things that had happened to us—the state that we were in. And we kept coming across these ideas that circled around whiteness, and the idea of ​​whiteness. We just started to break down these feelings that we had. I like the word insidious, or even cursed because on some level it’s… it’s a curse. So it’s not like you have to actively be doing anything, you know? It happens. It’s like a law of nature.

One of the funny ones—I mean, I guess it’s not funny, but it’s funny to us, anyway—is the idea of ​​Black people wanting revenge against white people [laughs]which was created because of all the terrible things white people have done to black people throughout history.

But now there’s this belief that if the tables get turned one day, they’re going to be worse to us because of what we did. White supremacists—they’re scared. Their biggest fear is a day when that might happen. Barack Obama it’s like,Oh my God.” You know, it’s the joke of, like, he’s going to make all white people slaves [laughs]—this kind of the irrational fear that exists.

And because of that, they have to be worse people. Black people don’t care—It’s not like they were like, “Obama’s gonna punish white people for us.” But it creates this momentum that’s just kind of funny. This idea that you can’t ever give up your superiority.

The standalone episodes, in particular, seem to deal directly with the curse of whiteness.

The standalone episodes really were taking these big ideas and putting them into their own stories. So the irrational fear that they have for revenge? For me, there’s some of that in the reparations episode. The standalone episodes are really where we got into those big questions. I think the ones with the main characters are definitely on theme too, and have some of those bits in there. But with the standalone episodes, that’s really where we crafted these big ideas and tried to distill them into the best story we could at the time. I think we did a good job. They were definitely fun to do.

I wrote “Three Slaps,” the first episode [of season three]. For me, it was probably my favorite episode to write in the whole series. It just felt like I was able to mix a lot of the things that we’ve been doing from the previous seasons, plus these really big ideas we had, and the fun and challenge of trying to distill them into something palatable. That episode’s like a fairy tale, also. It took the idea of ​​teaching a lesson—like, Hansel and Gretel is this scary story.

Yeah, those Brothers Grimm fairy tales were really dark and messed up.

Definitely [laughs]. I mean, Hansel and Gretel‘s about kids getting baked into a pie, and getting eaten and put in the oven. And it’s really about, ‘Hey, don’t wander off in the woods,’ which is a very reasonable request of a parent. Like, ‘Hey, if I send you to the woods, somebody might try and give you candy and kidnap you,’ but here’s the fun version of that [laughs].

Speaking of that first episode, I was really fascinated by the character of white Earnest (Tobias Siegel), who books the season. He was such an interesting and tragic figure.


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