When “Atlanta” returns for its second season this spring, it’ll be “Robbin’ Season.” As IndieWire reported earlier, executive producer/writer Stephen Glover explained that the title referred to a specific time of year:
“It’s not Season 2; it’s ‘Robbin’ Season,’” he said. “Robbin’ season is the time before Christmas in Atlanta where there’s more criminal activity than normal because it’s about to be Christmas time, it’s the end of the year, there are a lot of people with gifts, there’s a lot of robberies going on because people have nice stuff at the time or trying to make money for Christmas or during that end of the year period, kind of like a vibe in Atlanta during that time.”
While Season 2 premieres on March 1, the events on the show will kick off around “robbin’ season” and then continue through. It will continue Earn’s (Donald Glover) efforts to manage his rapper cousin Alfred/Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry).
On Friday, Donald Glover, Stephen Glover, Paul Simms, Hiro Murai, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Zadie Beets attended the Television Critics Association press tour to discuss the second season of “Atlanta”. This is what we learned:
No really. The Steven Spielberg’s ‘90s cartoon, which is going to Hulu, was referenced multiple times as an inspiration for how the executive producers conceived their approach to Season 2.
In particular, the Tiny Toons movie “How I Spent My Vacation” — which follows Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, and their friends during their summer vacation — was cited. Stephen Glover explained that it was intriguing how the film was “a whole story, but told in a bunch of parts.” Donald Glover added, “You enjoy them when they’re all together.”
Thinking about the second season in this way allowed the producers to put “a different frame around the show,” said executive producer/director Murai.
The panel wasn’t forthcoming on plot specifics, but the general idea is that Alfred’s journey as semi-famous local rapper Paper Boi very much reflects how the cast and crew felt in going back to Atlanta to make the second season. Fame in Atlanta doesn’t come with an instant upgrade in lifestyle, but instead, it’s about navigating a world that once felt familiar but has changed now that everybody knows you or thinks they know you.
“The industry isn’t part of your life [in Atlanta],” said Donald Glover. “That kind of information isn’t really passed on… I think the writers are still first-timers. They’re not in the game. They were living in the hood while we were shooting. People don’t realize how close we actually are to people.”
The flip side of the modicum of fame, though, came with suddenly feeling unsafe and not being able to live exactly the same way as before.
“It’s the narrative of anyone having success,” said Beetz. “The question applies to Alfred a lot, making the choice between, ‘Is he going to be homeboy from the street or follow his success?’ For me, this experience has completely changed.”
“Am I gonna sell drugs or am I gonna be a celebrity? You can’t do both. You can’t be a famous drug dealer,” said Donald Glover about Paper Boi’s mindset this season. “Are you going to eat or are you going to be eaten? The choice defines who you are.”
To further illustrate how close the production is to real life, Beetz said, “There was a shooting outside my house. We stopped shooting one night because there was a shootout, and I live a block from there.”
Henry added that since everybody recognizes him and greets him as “Paper Boi,” he can no longer do things that he could when he was safely anonymous, such as ordering from Grub Hub (“everyone would know where I live now”) or going out to celebrate Halloween. “We can’t roll here right now,” he said. “At the end of the day, the world is different. Same thing with each script. This is scary what we’re having to go through. We were saying it’s hard. You want this to be hard and not do the same blasé things you’d had to do.”
“This was a hard season,” agreed Donald Glover.
“That’s literally why it’s called ‘Robbin’ Season,’” Henry said. “That fear, it’s this land that you’ve known, but now it’s different.”
Despite the many different stories this season will bring, Murai said, “We approached this season wanting to do something a little bit more cohesive [than Season 1]. But…we are still making ourselves a little uncomfortable.”
Henry noted, though, that “by being linear so much, [filming] was so weird, so deconstructed.”
Don’t expect another “B.A.N.” type of episode, though. “Everybody wants you to do the thing they liked,” said Donald Glover, who prefers to do something new and “risky.”
Executive producer Paul Simms confirmed that the show will still be bringing some more experimental things this season. “There are some great surprises this season,” he said, “stuff that people are really going to talk about.”
Although it’s still too early to reveal any musical choices on the show, Donald Glover did note that the rap community has embraced what the show is doing.
“They’ve been super supportive of this show,” he said. “They know they’re part of the culture.”
After Glover mentioned Migos on the Golden Globes, that affected how the community viewed potential avenues to success. “They said I turned the hip-hop game like this, totally flipped.” In pursuing their goals, they don’t really calculate in what some sort of endorsement would do. “They were thinking about the hustle… That’s what hip-hop is.”
“Atlanta: Robbin’ Season” premieres on Thursday, March 1 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.