Comedy Drama Atlanta Returns on FX Canada

The Emmy-winning comedy returns to find Earn et al. far from Atlanta, but still facing plenty of issues that hit close to home

The Emmy-winning comedy returns to find Earn et al. far from Atlanta, but still facing plenty of issues that hit close to home

Since season two of Atlanta ended four years ago, a global crisis set off a social reckoning, providing much fodder for a show where involuntary laughs often soften the blow of equal parts succinct and disconcerting commentary. But as the insightful comedy returns to television, co-creator and lead actor Donald Glover would like viewers to know that the 10-episode season that appears so relevant it could have been written last month, was conceived not as observation but as foreshadowing. “I’m going to try to put a disclaimer before [the episodes],” says Glover. “A lot of this stuff is going to seem like a parody of stuff that happened, but we actually prophesied most of this in 2020. The world is extremely predictable.”

And yet, predictable though they may have been, even Glover couldn’t help but be affected by the events of the past two years. “We all changed,” he muses. “COVID was a very reflective time. All of us kind of grew up.”AtlantaFX Canada

That may be the case behind the scenes, but as the third season takes our core foursome—Earn (Glover), Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) and Van (Zazie Beetz)—on the Paper Boi tour through Europe, the group is still struggling to find their place in the world. Now add to that the fish-out-of-water element of being an outsider in new surroundings. “Season two was us being distrusting because of all of the success. We were trying to understand what that meant,” says Glover. “Season three is us like, ‘Yo, we are in control,’ but what does that mean? What is this really? And it’s not Atlanta. There are different rules in different places, and people go through different things.”

The viewer’s reintroduction to the series that never fails to challenge perceptions began on March 24 with a standalone episode about a young kid who discovers the challenges of growing up Black. “That episode is emblematic of the entire season and our experiences,” says writer and executive producer Stefani Robinson. “The entire season, from my perspective, is about the idea of curses and what that means, the trickle-down effect of some really dark things and generational spookiness.”

AtlantaFX CanadaThe second episode, which aired that same evening, had us joining Earn and the crew in Amsterdam, where things quickly got terrifying and bizarre for each character. “I think funny and scary touch very much,” Glover reflects. “I like things where you’re kind of creeped out and not sure where to place those feelings.” But rather than go for shock value, Glover’s desire is to shine a light on the things people normally are happy to put in their blindspots, including one especially surprising scene. “We just wanted something that was going to be just terrifying to watch, something that you’re not supposed to see normally,” he says. “In the writers’ room, we had up on the whiteboard: ‘Do what others cannot.’ No one else is going to show that, and we just were like, ‘Let’s do something that’s kind of intense.’”

AtlantaFX CanadaThe ongoing pandemic restrictions in Europe, which could potentially have added even more intensity to the season, ended up having a silver lining. “There were no tourists, so we were completely by ourselves,” says Glover. “We really had a blast being alone, and we got to shoot in places like museums that they don’t let you shoot in. We had the Four Seasons by ourselves for weeks.” The long delay in filming also meant that the cast and crew’s reunion was a particularly joyful one. “When we all saw each other in London, it was a total love fest because we haven’t seen each other in so long. But also, we just hadn’t seen people in such a long time,” says director and exec producer Hiro Murai. “The first day, it was just so giddy. We couldn’t get any work done because we kept getting wrapped up in stories and stuff.”

The fourth season, which has already been shot and is set to premiere this fall, will mark the end of the series. Thematically, Glover promises some wild swings as the show nears its demise. “The theme we had towards season four became, ‘Just have more fun.’ We just did with season four what we did in season one, which was act like we’re going to get cancelled.”AtlantaFX Canada

To the multihyphenate, saying goodbye to a show that, for its second season garnered a record 18 Emmy noms, is simply natural progression. “I feel like when the conditions are right for something, they happen, and when the conditions aren’t right for it, they don’t happen,” he reflects. “The story, it really was us. Everybody in that writers’ room, everybody on set, it really was what we were going through and what we talked about, and that’s the only way I like to make things. And it ends perfectly. The story was always supposed to be what it was.”

Atlanta airs Thursdays at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. on FX Canada