Exclusive: Donald Glover's Big Inspiration for 'Atlanta' Season Two: Tiny Toons

What do Q-Tip, Buster Bunny, Wade Wilson and Billy Dee Williams all have in common? They're among the inspirations driving Donald Glover in his upcoming, hotly anticipated projects, including the film Solo: A Star Wars Story and the second season of his acclaimed TV series Atlanta.

(Photo: Facebook / Donald Glover)

After the debut season of his FX Networks series became a critical darling, Glover says he knew that the first thing he and his creative team wanted to avoid was trying to identify any formula that made Season One a success and they crafted season two, titled Atlanta Robbin' Season.

"What we liked about the first season was, we just looked at it as 30 minutes on television," Glover recently explained at FX's press tour at the Television Critics Association. "We weren't trying to think about it in terms of sitcoms or, like, tropes or what had come before. We really tried to just devolve what television was, so we just had 30 minutes to do whatever we wanted.

"So we just went into this being, like, 'Why are we going to do season two? Everybody does season two.' And I felt like the theme that we really wanted to go for was this. And I think, in the writers' room, we talked a lot about 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation' from the Tiny Toons Adventures, which was a show we all really liked. Yeah, that was, kind of the inspiration for season two. It's a good show!"

Glover's reference to a 1992 direct-to-video animated movie starring the Tiny Toons sharing tales of their summer vacation experiences was definitely not a gag, as his co-stars and creative team affirmed.

"This is one of those things that sounds like a TCA joke that someone makes, but for nine months now, I've been hearing Donald and Stephen talk about, 'Well, did you ever see Tiny Toons?'" laughed executive producer Paul Simms.

Glover said he doesn't need to have children to inspire repeat viewings of Tiny Toon Adventures.

"I watch cartoons anyway, right? Cartoons are a good relief for me," he said. "That's actually a really good thing for us to do, because I still really like cartoons and I'm really into them. So yeah, I've been just watching a bunch of cartoons. A lot more lately, but I usually do that.

The movie was later divvied up into four TV episodes and televised as part of the series. But the second-generation Looney Toons wasn't the only offbeat influence.

"In the writers' room, we had the idea to parallel Paper Boi's mix tape with our own season," Glover explained. "Like, his second mix tape paralleling when people come to you, 'Yo, that first mix tape was hot – the second one better be f—ing better!'" And you had your entire life to write the first one and eight months to write your second one. So we were like, 'Let's just do that — Let's just kind of parallel his success with ours.'

"And I tried to do what Q‑Tip said he tried to do with A Tribe Called Quest. After that first album was a big hit, he's like, 'I'm trying to kick the sophomore slump in the ass.' So just trying to make something better."

After his TCA panel, Glover revealed more details of his creative inspiration, including how he handled the role of Lando Calrissian for Solo: A Star Wars Story directed by Ron Howard.

"Take time and be honest with yourself, and ask people around you who are honest," Glover said of playing the character Billy Dee Williams made famous in the last two episodes of the original Star Wars trilogy. Glover said Williams "just told me to be charming. I was like, 'That's the best advice ever!'"

Asked if he get to rock a cape as Lando, Glover laughed. "What do you think?!" he said.

Glover enjoyed the thrill of taking his father to see the Millennium Falcon.

"I remember growing up he was like, 'This is really cool. This is the only black guy in space!'" Glover said. "And then now, I get to be like 'Oh, this is cool — you get to walk on there and see this."

Glover said he also benefitted from Howard taking helm of the movie.

"It was actually good to get another person that who was just like, 'What do you think of this?' Because he grew up under Lucas, and really is a fan himself," Glover said.

"I remember going on set one of the first times, he's like, 'Yeah, I wanna follow you on to the Millennium Falcon and then do this thing.' And I was like, 'I don't think I've ever seen the outside go into the inside.' He's like, 'Yeah, no one's ever done that shot.' Which I was like, 'Oh, that's cool! As a fan, I was like, 'Yeah, that's a really exciting thing.'

"I know there's been a lot of talk in the press about this movie, but I don't know," Glover continued. "For me, anyway it was a dream. It was really cool. … Man, it was such a blast! The Millennium Falcon is beautiful. It's a beautiful piece of architecture. Flying that is really fun."

Howard jumped in after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired over creative differences, and Glover said he made the production a smooth one for the actors.

"We've never been faced with anything like that, and I think he did a good job of coming in and telling us he didn't want to change what we were doing at all," Glover said. "He wanted us to remain confident in our vision. He just wanted to sculpt it, that was it.

"I didn't have a lot of stress on me. For the first time in a long time, I was just acting. And that doesn't happen often. Most of the time I have to write or do music, or there's a bunch of other stuff, so you wake up, you go do a bunch of things. This time I woke up and I just got to really be somebody else. So the stress wasn't there for me."


Speaking of cartoons, Glover also discussed his goals for the Deadpool animation he's making with the FX Network.

"That it's funny," he said. "That one it just seems really easy. There's not as much to hold sacred, in a weird way. I know people love Deadpool and I know people are big comic book geeks, but it's not the same as Lando or Atlanta, where you have a whole city on your back. Deadpool is very aware of himself, so, I don't have to live up to anything. So it's been actually, quite easy."