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Donald Glover On Producing Malia Obama’s Short Film Not Hired For ‘SNL’ And That Liam Neeson ‘Atlanta’ Cameo


Donald Glover, through his new production company Gilga, is working with Malia Obama on her first short film.

The actor-writer-producer teased working with former President Barack Obama’s daughter and a writer on his new Amazon series Swarmin a GK magazine cover story posted online Tuesday. During the conversation, Glover said that he not only supports her on her new project, but also guides her.

“The first thing we did was talk about the fact that she will only do this once. You are Obama’s daughter. So if you make a bad movie, it’s going to haunt you,” he said in a larger discussion of his company’s content ethics.

Glover’s longtime collaborator and creative partner at Gilga, Fam Udeorji, who was also a producer on Guava Island and EP on Swarm, added that the team ultimately wanted to support Malia in everything she wanted to do. “Understanding someone like Malia’s cachet means something,” he said. “But we really wanted to make sure she could make what she wanted — even if it was a slow process.”

Their approach to working with Malia represents Gilga’s broader approach to filmmaking, which according to Udeorji was “more about diversity of thought than just diversity for optics.” For Glover, he is looking for space for black artists to simply create art in their own style and establish themselves as authors without having to be successful every time – with the Swarm director and co-creator specifically pointing to the careers of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Kanye West, and Martin Scorsese.

“As with Wes Anderson, there are different rules,” Glover said, adding that the director’s work “never” makes money. “It’s not about the money. It’s because a certain group of people say, ‘This is important.’ And I was like, ‘Are black people now at a point where they can do that themselves?’”

That speaks to Glover’s larger vision for his production company, which he likens to producing high-quality work the way “rich kids” do.

Rich kids don’t do anything for money. They do things based on whether it will make them happy. Like, that’s really what I realized this last go-around. I was making a lot of money, and it wasn’t that I was depressed or anything like that, but I realized it was the people around me that mattered,” he said. “People no longer get quality and need a filter. Gilga is a perfect filter for that shit.”

Glover also spoke briefly about how he got opportunities to write for 30 Rock And The daily show; hearing from a friend that Amy Poehler reportedly said he was not hired Saturday Night Live because of his stand up; Jordan Peele is key to attracting Liam Neeson Atlanta to joke about the Irish actor’s controversial past comments; and facing criticism from fellow creatives he has ridiculed, such as Tyler Perry.

Glover said that when it came to him Atlanta wink to Perry, he told the producer and writer that he was going to spoof him, but he doesn’t know how the fellow writer and producer took it. “I hope [Tyler] understand,” he says. “That’s the problem with being black. It gets so personal, so fast. I don’t shit on you.”

Still, Glover defends his work and dismisses criticism – including more recently Swarm‘s images of black women – he can face it from the public and fellow creatives like Perry.

“I’m not a politician,” he says. “I am an artist and I am good. I am a good artist. That is the difference. If I didn’t think I was a good artist, I’d say, “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.” But this is nuanced and funny. If someone did that to me, I would say: that’s good. [Perry] has the right not to feel that way.”

Within his catalog of work, there are things he has a strong sense of Atlantabut there are also opportunities that he’s ultimately thankful he didn’t get SNL as one of the “bullets” he dodged.

“I dodged so many bullets. I’m on SNL would have killed me. I have friends who made it SNL and at that point I was like, damn. But if I continue SNL, my career would not have happened,” he said. “Thanks God I didn’t get some of those pilots. I so wanted to get started Parks and Rec because it was the cool, hipster show.

As for writing for the former SNL writer and performer Tina Fey op 30 Rock earlier in his career, Glover discussed the circumstances under which that happened and how it ultimately pitted him and Kenya Barris against each other for a job.

“There is no animosity between us or anything like that, but [Tina Fey] said it yourself…. It was a matter of diversity,” Glover says, speaking to his hiring as part of an NBC diversity initiative that staffed a black creative in a show’s writers’ room without compromising the budget. “The last two people who fought for the job were me and Kenya Barris. I didn’t know until later that it was between me and him. He hit me one day and he said, ‘I hated you for years!’”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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