Atlanta Robbin Season (Second Season) has started, and will play back to back after EMPIRE, making it a super musical big night in on FOX Africa, from Thursday 29 March at 9.50pm.
The series stars Donald Glover as Earnest ‘Earn’ Marks, Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred ‘Paper Boi’, Miles Lakeith Stanfield as Darius, Zazie Beetz as Vanessa ‘Van’ Keefer. It follows two cousins who work through the Atlanta rap music scene in order to better their lives and that of their families. “Earnest ‘Earn’ Marks,” an ambitious college drop-out and his estranged cousin become stars.
“Earn Marks” (Donald Glover) is a young manager trying to get his cousin’s career off the ground. “Alfred Miles” (Brian Tyree Henry) is a new hot rapper trying to understand the line between real life and street life. “Darius” (Lakeith Lee Stanfield) is Alfred’s right-hand man and visionary. “Van” (Zazie Beetz) is Earn’s best friend and the mother of Earn’s daughter.
The first season of ATLANTA won two Emmy® Awards as well as two Golden Globe® Awards and AFI, Peabody, PGA, WGA, TCA, NAACP and Critics’ Choice Awards.
Brian Tyree Henry chats from Los Angeles:
Q: How does this season differ from the first, and why is it called “Robbin’ Season”?
BRIAN: In the first season, we didn’t really have any themes. But instead of calling this one Atlanta Season 2 we called it Robbin’ Season, because with the notoriety and the fame that’s happened for all these characters, there is a sense of danger and loss and darkness now. We filmed the first season in the summer, and this one we filmed in the fall and winter, and in Atlanta, especially, that’s the time that people flex. So you’ve got your Christmas gifts and your new jewellery, and people are going to jack you for that, and there’s home invasion, getting mugged. There are still going to be the absurdities of our universe, but at the same time there’s something a lot darker with these characters – relationships are tested and pulled apart that may not be recovered.
So this season is all about us navigating this city that we know now that we’re so exposed, and how do we live. There’s a sense of walking through this town of Atlanta that we know, and not knowing it.
And that went for us as the actors: we had not been in Atlanta ourselves since the first season came out, so now you’re back, everyone recognizes you and you’re, like, “Oh that’s great, but I might get mugged.” People could be, like, “Oh, that’s Paper Boi – we can jack him.” So there was this sense of danger.
People got a chance to (celebrate us), but at the same time, it didn’t stop (Donald) Trump from being elected, it didn’t stop the world from happening. No matter how much you want to celebrate me, I’m still living next to somebody with a Confederate flag who doesn’t give a (explicit) if I’m Paper Boi or not. I’m still in East Atlanta and, yes, people may celebrate the show but be like, “Well, this guy got money.” So you just have to be very smart, and I think that’s what this second season is really about, especially for Alfred. It’s the realization that we cannot walk through this world the way we used to. It’s about protecting yourself.
Q: In the era of Trump, how important is it to have a show about young African-Americans trying to make it?
BRIAN: There’s no way to walk in this country as a black man and not have it be political. For us, placing (the show) in Atlanta and in the South, especially, there was no way to dodge that. If you put three black men on a billboard, automatically people are, like, “That’s a black show.” And if I’m wearing a gold chain, then I must be this or I must be that. What we’re trying to do is show that whatever you think you see in the silence, it doesn’t speak for us, for where we come from, who we are as a family, or what we want to make of ourselves.
I don’t want to say that our show’s political but, damn it, it is. Me waking up is political, me sitting here with you all is having a stance on something.
And Trump – what can we say? We all watched this shit unfold, and I think you already know where we stand as three black men. But what if we actually don’t even talk about it? What if we (the characters) actually are just trying to (live) our own lives and do what we have to do when this is the world we’ve got to live in? I don’t think it’s necessary for our show to (talk about) that, at this point. What this season serves to do is show you that our lives are completely different, and that living is harder, but either way you have to survive.
Q: How does this season examine the idea of exploitation
BRIAN: “Exploit” a great word because that is what’s happening to us – how we’re exploiting each other and the environment exploits us. Alfred has been known as “Alfred” his whole life, and now all of a sudden around the block he’s Paper Boi to everyone – but no one knows what he’s lost to get there, what it took for him to be where he is. And left and right, people want something from him. But he has to know how to play the game, so he’s robbin’ too. He’s like, “If we’ve got to go to the radio station, then I’m going to rob them on this one – I’m going to get this free stuff, I’m going to get this and get that.” So Robbin’ Season is about exploitation but it’s also about: “Why did you do it? What are the things that you were trying to get from somebody else?”
Q: How did Donald Glover approach this season?
BRIAN: I think his eye is still as meticulous and sharp as it was, but I think he realizes that beyond it all, the closeness of us as a cast is so important. This is the closest we’ve ever really been, because we all have our own projects, and it was all about the exposing of what we needed from each other in order to make this thing come together. And he was there every day – he made sure that we were all good, but we also had to make sure he was good. There was this sense of protection that we needed for each other this season, and I think it’s going to show.
Q: What has the series done for trap music?
BRIAN: I don’t know – trap is going to do what trap is going to do. I’m still shocked that trap is (this popular). I was watching (the TV channel) Viceland the other day and I was like, “They gave (rapper) 2 Chainz a show?” But I don’t think that trap speaks for the people and where they’re coming from – I think trap has now reached this level of entertainment and bringing people together. It’s about how you evolve from it that matters.
Q: Why are we seeing more gritty comedies on TV these days?
BRIAN: I think because the stakes are very different now. We’re listening to each other. We can call out bullshit a whole lot more than we used to. We’re also willing to accept bullshit a little bit more than we want to. And we’ve changed what comedy means because this presidency is comedy – no one’s laughing, but it’s hilarious. It can cost us our lives, though, so now you’ve got to change the scope of what you thought was comedy. But how do you know unless you’re in a room with people who feel the same way? So I think what’s happening with television is people are like, “We’re tired of seeing this shit – tell us something we can really relate to.” We didn’t think Atlanta was going to be seen as a comedy but, at the same time, you have to laugh at the absurd in order to stop from crying. I guess that’s what we serve.
Q: Are you aware of the fan reaction to the show outside the US?
BRIAN: Just recently, it happened. Me and my good friend Daniel Kaluuya, who was the lead in Get Out, filmed a movie together called Widows this summer. And I was obsessed with him but thinking, “He doesn’t know who I am – no way.” And then we met and he said, “You’re Paper Boi, right? So I’m starting to understand that we’ve crossed the water a bit, but I don’t think I really understood the impact it had until I got to actually talk to him about it.
Q: How would you communicate the themes to viewers in other countries?
BRIAN: I really believe these characters reflect people that we all know anywhere. Anywhere, someone can relate to a Van (played by Zazie Beetz), to a Paper Boi, to an Earn (Glover) – we’ve all had this thing of, “What’s it like to make it”? And apparently, trap rap travels very far and wide! But I think just the situations and the absurdities of trying to make a living out of what you love to do, and with family, it translates regardless. So I’m actually quite impressed and very enthusiastic about how you all (audiences abroad) are going to receive this season, because it’s very different from the first.
What: Atlanta Robbin’ Season (Atlanta 2)
Where: FOX Africa
When: From Thursday, 29 March 2018 at 9.50pm