On March 1, 2018, Season 2 of the hit FX series "Atlanta" premieres after a lengthy wait (the final episode of Season 1 aired in 2016!). We're not lying when we say we're thirsty to find out what happens next with our favorite characters — Earn, Paper Boi, Darius and Van. The dramatic comedy is the brainchild of Emmy, Golden Globe and Critics' Choice award-winning writer, actor, director and producer Donald Glover (left), who — as rapper Childish Gambino — also happens to be a Grammy-winning musical performer. Donald shared back in 2016 that the "thesis" of his show is to "show people what it's like to be black," a representation he claims can't be written and has to be felt. In honor of the Season 2 premiere, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the stars and storylines of this game-changing series. Keep reading for more…
"Atlanta" creator and producer Donald Glover stars as the show's main character, Earnest "Earn" Marks. Earn is a college dropout who attended elite Princeton University three years ago, although intended to take a "one-year break." Since leaving school (and we still don't know why), Earn's struggled to find a reliable source of income, but he believes his path is as a music talent manager. He's got a young daughter and a difficult relationship with his parents as well as his baby mama, Van.
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During Season 1 of "Atlanta," Donald Glover's character, Earn, has experienced some incredible highs and lows. His on-again, off-again girlfriend, Van, expects him to pay rent (which he can't afford) if he wants to stay with her and his parents are tired of being his personal ATM. But even when Earn's down to his last dollar, he shows a calm, collected strength that allows him to survive some of the most difficult situations, like when he's helping rapper cousin Paper Boi get his music on the radio or getting stuck in jail for a crime he didn't commit and even when he's searching for a missing jacket that has the key to a storage shed where he's been sleeping.
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"Community" alum Donald Glover became a major star to watch in 2017. After winning numerous awards for his work on "Atlanta" — and for third studio album "Awaken, My Love!" — Donald's been notoriously in-demand. In fact, production on Season 2 of "Atlanta" had to be pushed back because of Donald's full filming schedule, which included work on the 2018 action fantasy movie "Solo: A Star Wars Story," in which he plays a young Lando Calrissian. Donald's also playing Simba in the 2019 live-action remake of "The Lion King." In January 2018, Donald revealed that he and longtime girlfriend Michelle had welcomed their second son.
Zazie Beetz stars as Earn's baby mama and sometime girlfriend, Van, on "Atlanta." While it's clear Van loves Earn and wants him to be in her and their daughter's lives, she's also a strong woman who expects her partner to be an equal contributor. Even though Earn's trying his best to kick-start his music management career, until he's able to bring home some cash and help pay the bills, Van has no time for him. The two are in an open relationship, sometimes sharing intimate moments while Van also pursues other possible romantic relationships.
Zazie Beetz's character, Van, is a school teacher who seems to have her life together but she, like anyone, is prone to making the occasional mistake. On the Season 1 episode "Value," Van gets together with childhood friend Jayde, who proves to be more of a frenemy. As Jayde label-drops and boasts about her lavish lifestyle (courtesy of the rich men she dates), Van looks clearly annoyed. Even though she wants to go home, Van allows Jayde to convince her to go for a ride and the two smoke weed together. Unfortunately, the next morning at work, Van finds out there's a mandatory drug test — and after she fails it, she gets fired.
If Zazie Beetz looks familiar, it's likely because this Berlin-born actress (who speaks both English and German) has put in a lot of screen time over the past two years. In addition to "Atlanta," Zazie had parts in "Finding Her," "Sollers Points" and "Geostorm" in 2017 as well as on three episodes of "Easy." What makes her trajectory so impressive is that the 26-year-old actress only began landing parts in 2013. In addition to returning to "Atlanta" in 2018, Zazie has roles in several upcoming films like "Dead Pigs" and "Slice." In 2019, she'll appear alongside Ryan Reynolds in the yet-to-be-named "Deadpool" sequel.
Brian Tyree Henry stars as Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles on "Atlanta." Paper Boi is a rap hopeful whose newest song emerged as a hot new track on the Atlanta rap scene during Season 1. What's even more admirable than his music, however, is Paper Boi's unyielding belief in his own talent. In addition to dropping beats, Paper Boi is also a low-level drug dealer who enjoys smoking weed and imagining a wealthy future along with his close friend and confidant, Darius.
Brian Tyree Henry's "Atlanta" character, Paper Boi, also happens to be cousins with Earn (played by Donald Glover). In the beginning of Season 1, Earn finds out his cousin is on track to become the next big rap star, so he devises a plan to represent him as his manager. The only problem? Paper Boi wants nothing to do with his cousin, claiming Earn "disappeared" after Paper Boi's mom died. However, because Earn is determined to make his career aspirations a reality, he manages to get his cousin's music played by the local radio station (thanks to a $500 bribe), which proves his value and convinces Paper Boi to work with him.
Brian Tyree Henry has an impressively versatile career that includes film, television and theater credits. In 2011, he starred in the highly acclaimed Broadway production of "The Book of Mormon" as a part of the ensemble cast. Before landing his role as Paper Boi on "Atlanta," Brian had parts on "The Good Wife" and "Boardwalk Empire." In 2017, Brian appeared on an episode of "This is Us" (which earned him a guest-actor Emmy nod) as well as the biographical drama "Crown Heights" alongside his "Atlanta" co-star Lakeith Stanfield. In 2018, Brian has several new projects in the works including the movies "White Boy Rick" and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."
Lakeith Stanfield stars as the philosophically minded Darius on "Atlanta." Darius is a close friend and associate of Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry), an up-and-coming rapper in the Atlanta music scene. In addition to being by his side through thick and thin, Darius also provides comic relief with his marijuana-fueled observations of the world and his complete inability to stay on-subject. While Darius may seem like he's far out in left field, he's also one of the most woke characters on the show who regularly comments on social injustices faced by black Americans. Fun fact: He's also a believer in the supernatural, once telling Earn (played by Donald Glover) that pictures "steal your soul."
During the first season of "Atlanta," Darius (Lakeith Stanfield, right) dropped some of the most incredible one-liners (like when he asked Earn's dad if he could measure his tree and questioned shooters at a gun range about why human outlines are used for target practice). As the eccentric of the group, Darius comes across as a unique, arresting character who doesn't let the problems of the world bother him (especially because Darius believes everything's "made up" anyway). As Paper Boi's (played by Brian Tyree Henry, left) confidant, he's proven himself a loyal friend, standing by his side during an ill-fated drug deal (while hilariously wearing a turtleneck and a blazer) and while getting arrested in connection with a shooting. Darius is truly a ride-or-die kind of guy.
Lakeith Stanfield might play a toked-out philosopher on "Atlanta," but he's one of the most versatile actors around. You might recognize Lakeith as one of the co-stars of the Oscar-nominated film "Get Out" (he played kidnap victim Andrew "Logan" King). He also starred as Snoop Dogg in the 2015 biopic "Straight Outta Compton" and appeared in the 2014 historical drama "Selma." In 2018, along with reprising his role as Darius on Season 2 of "Atlanta," Lakeith has parts in three upcoming films including the sci-fi comedy "Sorry to Bother You" and the crime thriller "The Girl in the Spider's Web." In 2017, Lakeith and partner Xosha Roquemore (from "The Mindy Project") welcomed their first child together.
Throughout the first season of "Atlanta," the outdoor couch has been an important meeting space for the three main characters, Earn (Donald Glover, left), Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry, center) and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield, right). The worn-down and battered furniture is emblematic of the type of broken luxury these men have limited access to as they work to change their current socio-economic status. The fact that it's outside juxtaposes the beauty of nature with their harsher environments as street hustlers in the poorer neighborhoods of Atlanta, highlighting the seemingly insurmountable odds they face in their journey to fame and fortune. Some have wondered if perhaps the couch is even an homage to classic sitcom "Friends," whose famous opening sequence involved an outdoor couch — a place where everyone is equal and safe from the world and all its problems.
One of the most interesting aspects of "Atlanta" is how willing the show is to disrupt reality without explanation. Case in point? The fifth episode of Season 1, "Nobody Beats the Biebs," which featured Austin Crute (seen here) as Justin Bieber, who arrives at a charity basketball game and later gets into a fight with one of the show's stars, Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry). The fact that Austin's black wasn't an issue, because in the alternative universe of "Atlanta," Justin Bieber is black. It's not discussed but it does leave the audience with a fresh perspective (and a few questions). Would the world love a black Justin Bieber the same? Is it as easy for black Justin to escape criticism and consequence as it is for his white real-life counterpart? The complexity is deep, but handled in such a way that viewers are able to laugh while recognizing the powerful subliminal message at work. In the final scene, Paper Boi attempts to copy Justin's innocent demeanor to win the favor of a reporter, who turns and tells him, "Listen, I want to give you some advice. Play your part. People don't want Justin to be the a–hole. They want you to be the a–hole. You're a rapper. That's your job," highlighting the negative stereotype black rappers continue to face.
Griffin Freeman appeared on one episode of "Atlanta" during Season 1 and is set to reprise his role as Dave, the casually racist radio DJ and acquaintance of Earn (played by Donald Glover) who refuses to help him get his cousin's music on the radio unless Earn gives him $500. Dave's behavior is an important illumination of how some white people can exploit their relationships with black Americans and feel entitled to say things like the "N" word when it's clearly out of line and inappropriate.
On the third episode of Season 1 of "Atlanta," Migos rappers Quavo (seen here), Takeoff and Offset guest-starred as murderous thugs who call themselves (wait for it) Migos. The cameo was considered one of the greatest in the series and just so happened to be Quavo's acting debut.
Donald Glover is excited about where "Atlanta" is headed in Season 2. Titled "Atlanta Robbin' Season," the story takes place during December, before Christmas, when crimes of theft are on the rise in neighborhoods like where the characters exist. While the writers, including Donald and his brother, Stephen Glover, have said Season 2 has a more cohesive storyline, they've also hinted that the inspiration for the structure came from "Tiny Toons," a favorite childhood cartoon that "split an idea into parts" and guided them when it came to telling this new phase of their story. Donald shared that one of the main themes this season is the idea, "Are you gonna eat, or are you gonna be eaten?" adding, "Black people have to make a choice. The choice defines who you are."