LOS ANGELES – Donald Glover has had the kind of year others only dream about: Awards, blockbuster films, a hit TV show and a family.
“I sleep four hours a night. I don’t dream as much,” he says, by way of explanation. “But I don’t see (the projects) as different things. They’re all one.”
In addition to starring in “Atlanta,” he writes, directs and produces the FX series. In addition to creating hit music (he’s known as Childish Gambino to music lovers), he suggests songs for his various projects.
Glover sees the bigger picture, too, and realizes he’s not the kid he was growing up in Georgia. “But the thing I’m most proud of is that I can be spontaneous and weird and do whatever I want when I want,” he says. “I still haven’t lost that childlike view of life.”
Brother Stephen, who works with him on “Atlanta,” agrees. When they started talking about a second season, they didn’t want the FX series to get too familiar.
Enter: “Tiny Toons.”
“In the writers’ room, we talked a lot about ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ by the Tiny Toons,” Donald Glover says. The summer episodes were independent but, taken as a whole, “they were a movie. You enjoy them more when they are together but you can also enjoy them in little bits.”
Season two, then, has a “Tiny Toons” vibe. Called “Robbin’ Season,” it shows how folks in Atlanta get tense and desperate around Christmas. “You might get your package stolen off your front porch,” Stephen Glover says. “We wanted to make that the backdrop to the season. Our characters are going through that same desperate type of transition from their old lives to where they’re heading now.”
In the series, Donald Glover plays a college dropout working to get his cousin Paper Boi’s rap career in high gear. Domestic problems (he’s living in a storage unit when the second season starts) threaten to derail him but there’s always a choice he can make.
In life, the actor takes a similar view. Success at this point (he’s 34) is better than it might have been when he was on the NBC sitcom “Community.”
“It’s like children,” he explains. “You’re always ready but, also, not ready. I definitely would have handled (success) differently. I don’t know that I would have handled it with the context the way I do now. I feel very confident in the choices I made. I don’t look back at all.”
Playing Lando Calrissian in the upcoming prequel, “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” was actually a treat. “I was just acting. I didn’t have a lot of stress on me for the first time in a long time.”
To capture the character’s essence, he sought advice from Billy Dee Williams (who played the role in the original “Star Wars” films). “Just be charming,” Williams said.
“That’s the best advice ever,” Glover ads with a smile.
Even better, he got to take his father onto the set to see the Millennium Falcon.
“He never thought something like that would happen,” Glover says. “Growing up, (Calrissian) was the only black guy in space.”
Now, the character is part of his creative family. The film – slated for release this spring – had a switch in directors midway through shooting. Ron Howard came in to finish it and told the actors he didn’t want to change what they were doing. “He wanted us to remain confident in our vision,” Glover says. “He just wanted to sculpt it.”
Now, that’s what Glover is doing with “Atlanta.” The 11-episode second season gives him a chance to push even more boundaries and let audiences see what more he can do.
Later this year, he’ll produce a “Deadpool” television series and provide the voice for Simba in a live-action edition of “The Lion King.”
“Deadpool,” he says, isn’t as sacred as a “Star Wars” film or even “Atlanta.” “You don’t have a whole city on your back. ‘Deadpool’ is very aware of himself – you don’t have to live up to anything.”
Success aside (he won two Emmys, two Golden Globes and a Grammy in the last year alone), Glover knows what’s important. If friends treat him differently, “they’re really not your friends,” he says. To deal with those career milestones, “I try to be less childish and more childlike.”