SXSW 2022 – as we have established – was such a welcoming and wonderful experience. With 2020 being canceled and 2021 being an all-digital event, coming back into a hybrid in-person/digital setting was everything we could have hoped for. This year, the film/television panels and events were spread out further into the week than years past, and we were thrilled at the thought of trying to get a glimpse of Donald Glover and the Atlanta team on the red carpet on Saturday, March 19th, at the Paramount. Not expecting to get a chance to actually step foot into the theater, we were shocked when we got into the premiere with no issue as secondary music badge holders. Viewers were promised the first episode followed by an extended Q&A. We got that PLUS the second episode!
“We like to under promise and over deliver.” – Show creator, Donald Glover.
If you love Atlanta already? You will be pleased right out the gate. If you didn’t love Atlanta already? It’s absolutely time to give it a try!
Without any big spoilers: The first episode is a reimagining of real events. Because there are plenty of things that happen in this real world – in our individual lives – where you just think: that could have happened differently. One of the things the cast revealed in the Q&A was that, in putting together these final two seasons of Atlanta – If you didn’t know, now you know. Seasons 3 and 4 have been filmed, and they will be the show’s last – they spent a lot of time watching other amazing shows like Succession while asking themselves: What is something these shows CAN’T do that we can?
And with the preview of just the first two episodes? This team can do a LOT that others can’t!
During the first season, the writers and cast genuinely felt like they were trying too hard – and, upon reflection, they can still feel it in the work itself. During season 2, they were trying hard to prove that season one wasn’t a fluke. They earned that success, and they did a brilliant job. In these final two seasons? They’ve grown up, survived 2 years of a pandemic, some even have growing families that they didn’t have before. Admits Donald of how he writes post-children: “Kids make you soft as butt.”
The consensus this time around? “We’re just trying to have fun.”
And, when the Q&A host asked if some of the subject matters in the first two episodes were based in truth (including instances of black face and euthanasia), show writer (and show creator Donald Glover’s brother) Stephen Glover said: “That shit is just funny”.
“We’re just fucked up people,” Donald added. “It came from us.” He went on to explain the correlation between fear and comedy, which are both massively present in Atlanta. “Fear and comedy are closely related, they’re always touching each other. They’re very connected. That’s why we’re trying to do that.”
From a viewing perspective? This show has always hit the tough, societal, human notes right alongside the wacky, weird, hilarious, bizarre WTF moments.
The panelists revealed that their writer’s room has been a physical location – but also a group text thread filled with memes and videos. Which, in hindsight, is made crystal clear in season 2, episode 6 with the character of Teddy Perkins (IYKYK). Donald Glover revealed that the character and episode were inspired by a photo of Michael Jackson ducking and covering, and the follow-up question: “What if you were being chased by that version of Michael?”
After this theatre viewing, we can admit it’s OUTSTANDING to watch alongside other fans, but just as hilarious, poignant, and effective when watching alone. Starting this season, you can watch it on Hulu the day after the episode airs on FX. And if the rest of the series continues with the cadence of the first two episodes of the 3rd season? You will not want to miss a single second.
The insight during the panel revealed self-awareness and an all-encompassing relatability to the content. With everything I learned about the creative process behind Atlanta, with its text thread writer’s room, I am feeling inspired to start my own writer’s room text thread. Because, my friends and I are SURELY clever enough to create our own epic, highly anticipated show, right?
On second thought, I think I’ll leave it to the pros. I already miss you, Atlanta crew!
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