“This is probably the most grounded season,” Donald Glover said of the fourth and final season of Atlanta during a TCA press conference. Premiering tonight at 10/9c with a double-episode premiere on FX, the creator, showrunner, executive producer, writer, director, and star was joined by some of his fellow cast and creative team for a look at what’s to come as the series draws to a close. “It explores people more than we have before. We're living at a time where you just don't give people the benefit of the doubt. So I felt like this is a good time to explore that a little bit more.”
“I remember the first day of the writers' room, Season 1, and Donald looked at all of us in the eye and said, ‘We are going to get canceled because of what we're going to try to do,’” recalled executive producer and writer Stefani Robinson. The spirit of Atlanta has always been a little wild, but after tackling some heavy topics, fan response to Season 3 was mixed. “A lot of the reaction was, ‘This is too crazy.’ I think people forget, there was an invisible car in Season 1 that ran people over. It's almost part of the DNA of the show. From the beginning, it feels like that's always been the mandate.”
With Season 3 breaking the mold, the season finale was a character-centric episode for Zazie Beetz, who plays Van. “What's nice about doing television is your writers and producers get to know you better,” Zazie shared. “I feel like all the characters on the show are sort of ghost versions of ourselves and of what all of us are going through. So I felt very connected to Van this past season and was honored about having her arc.” The episode gave Zazie a wider range of emotions to play with, but also left things unresolved leading into Season 4. “Donald and I talked about this when we were shooting the episode. We didn't want the feelings that Van was having to be resolved at the end of the show and that she was still searching and experiencing and journeying. Season 4 is a bit of a continuation of that, just as it is for all the characters. She had a little bit of her ‘come to Jesus’ moment, but then there's still work to be done and doing it at home, which is a different experience than doing it when you're unmoored. I'm really excited about Season 4. And I also like how we've all grown up as the television show has kept going. I think people will be surprised.”
“I think the legacy of it is going to be about experimentation and how much weird stuff we've been able to do, and hopefully that leads other people to want to take risks and do weird stuff too,” concluded Stephen Glover, executive producer and writer. “Hopefully that's the legacy we leave.” Stephen has also learned how to decipher between genuine feedback for the series vs the internet’s ability to oversensationalize a few people’s opinions. “Being in Atlanta and walking around or even in L.A. walking around in the streets, I run into Black people all the time who are, like, ‘This is my favorite show, and I appreciate everything you guys do. And you guys are making me want to do cooler stuff and weirder stuff.’ The kind of TikTok generation and Vine skit generation kids, they'll hit me up online and say how much they love the episodes and love things. So, for me, that is the real conversation that's happening out there that I listen to. Internet stuff isn't always real. You know, it's not how people really feel. So I kind of get my feelings from the streets, to sum that up. I listen to the streets.”
“Our show started kind of punk, like no one cares,” Donald Glover reminisced. “No one cares about a lot of stuff. That was my mindset, anyway. I was like, no one cares. And then by the end, we cared about a lot of stuff. A lot of our lives changed in a lot of ways. We kind of grew up. I think we ended up being a show about people; before I think it was about, do people matter?” The short answer is yes, people do matter. And summing up the theme of the fourth and final season, Donald says we should all find joy in life. “We talked a lot about that in Season 4. We can do whatever we want. People can do whatever they want. You just have to find your own happiness, and that's a process. Not to make it sound like therapy, but have more fun. That was the heart of it.”
Have more fun with Earn, Alfred ‘Paper Boi’ Miles, Darius, and Van in the Season 4 premiere of Atlanta tonight at 10/9c on FX. New episodes will stream the next day on Hulu.