Are you familiar with the descriptor: Renaissance man? It’s rarely used any more. But then there’s Donald Glover. He’s an actor, a writer, a producer, a stand-up comedian and a Grammy Award nominated rapper. With all this boundless talent either you’re going to love him or be green with jealousy. Read on. I think you’ll find Glover your next choice for “if I could have dinner with someone living or dead.”
Donald Glover was born in California and raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The family were observant Jehovah witnesses so Donald didn’t watch TV growing up. Considering how in tuned Glover is with pop culture there must have been some sneaking going on. It turns out, there was. He told the Village Voice in a 2011 interview that he would take his Talkboy, record the audio of episodes of The Simpsons, wait until bedtime, and listen to them as he lay in his bed. These illegal nighttime rituals would play a vital role later in life.
Glover went to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to studying dramatic writing in the hopes of being a playwright. But get this: senior year Donald got an e-mail from David Miner, a producer on 30 Rock. Miner had heard it through the grapevine, via Tina Fey and before that Amy Poehler that Glover was a gifted writer. They asked him for some writing samples. He sent the spec script he wrote for The Simpsons in which Homer is arrested for stealing a single song off the Internet and taken to court by the RIAA, where he must face his victims, Hall & Oates, along with one for Everybody Hates Chris and some sketches he had written as part of the sketch comedy troop Hammerkatz and as part of Derrick Comedy. So before he’d even graduated he had a dream job.
What do you do after you score a dream job? Well you quit said dream job, pick up stakes and head west to Los Angeles. That’s exactly what Donald did. It turns out it was the wise move. Glover landed his first big acting role as the dim but lovable Troy on Community. The show found a devoted fan following and made Donald a recognized face. It may seem that Glover is mainly a TV guy but some choice movie roles have come his way as well that include the Magic Mike sequel and The Martian (2015).
We’ve come to the point where can’t proceed any further without talking about Glover’s other passion – his music. Under the name Childish Gambino (a name he got from a Wu Tang Clan name generator) Donald has recorded and toured steadily since his freshman year at NYU. When Community became a cult hit there was an interesting dichotomy going on in Glover’s life. People were having a little trouble reconciling that the adorable Troy from TV was also the cutting edge rapper Childish Gambino performing at SXSW and college campuses across the nation. He has released three albums as Childish Gambino, the second Because of the Internet (2013) was nominated for Rap Album of the Year and the single “3005” for Best Rap Performance. This love of music and writing has come together for Donald in a big and exciting way. His TV series Atlanta is debuting on FX this month and it is every bit Donald’s creation. He has written, produced and stars in the show about the music scene in the southern city so close to where Glover grew up.
Donald Glover is a man very much with his finger on the pulse of geek culture. It’s present in so many of his lyrics. It’s not surprising at all that when Sony was getting ready to cast their Spider-Man prequels an online campaign was started to get Glover the lead role. Hell, even Stan Lee liked the idea! Eventually the part went to Andrew Garfield. As an inside joke, Glover appeared on the 2010 season premiere of Community in Spider-Man pajamas. He would later voice the Spider-Man incarnation of Miles Morales on an episode of Disney XD’s “Ultimate Spider-Man: Web-Warriors” animated series. And as a last laugh, Donald is in Spider-Man Homecoming though his role is unknown as of press time.
Slowing down does not seem to be a priority for this multi-hyphenate artist. I suppose when you’ve got a lot to share you just have to let it out in any way you can. Luckily for us, there’s something for everyone when you’re talking Donald Glover.
Update October 21, 2016: The news broke today that Donald is the new Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars film! It’s not like we weren’t already looking forward to this! Well done Glover!