During the season two premiere of FX’s Atlanta (dubbed “Atlanta: Robbin’ Season”), Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) lays out the common thread for the new episodes as he glances across the street at a dead body covered by a white sheet. Describing the time after Christmas as “robbin’ season,” a period when crime is high in Atlanta, he casually remarks, “Everybody gotta eat.”
On Monday night, ahead of the March 1 premiere, cast members, producers, and local celebrities attended a red carpet and screening of the first two episodes of the new season at Starlight Drive-In Theatre. Attendees included creator and star Donald Glover; his brother, executive producer Stephen Glover; actor Brian Tyree Henry; producer and writer Stefani Robinson (a Marietta native); executive producer Dianne McGunigle, and more. The cable series, which debuted in November 2016, received high praise from both Atlantans and critics, earning three Emmys and the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series in 2017. (“I talked to Offset the next day,” Donald Glover said of his famous Globes acceptance speech, where he thanked Atlanta trap trio Migos. “He was like, ‘Yo we couldn’t get on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and now we can.’”)
Atlanta: Robbin’ Season picks up where season one left off, showing cousins Earn Marks (Donald Glover) and Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Henry) trying (and often failing) to navigate life. Paper Boi is still trying to pay his bills through drug dealing while working to launch his rap career, along the way encountering an entertaining side cast of characters such as social media-obsessed weed dealers, an annoying aspiring rapper, and a YouTube-er who transforms rap songs into acoustic covers. Earn is still struggling financially and looking for a place to live, and their friend Darius is still hanging around, mumbling conspiracy theories to anyone who will listen. In the season opener, he rambles about the bizarre and horrific crimes of stereotypical character “Florida Man,” an “alt-right Johnny Appleseed.”
Later in the episode, Earn visits his Uncle Willie (played by guest star Katt Williams) in an effort to deescalate a domestic dispute. Without giving too much away, the encounter involves a confrontation with police and a giant alligator. (Williams’s role in the show is elevated by what viewers likely know about his real life—in 2016, the comedian had a series of unusual arrests, several of which took placed in metro Atlanta.)
Both Donald Glover and Henry say they think Stanfield is the cast member who is most likely to have real-life moments similar to his Atlanta character. But Henry, a Morehouse alum, says that coming of age in Atlanta taught him many of the things Paper Boi represents, including, “how to hustle, how to fucking eat, and how to make sure you know who your allies are and who they aren’t.”
“Atlanta is literally where I became who I am. It’s where I discovered I wanted to be an actor,” he says. “The character that Paper Boi is based on is my best friend, and he’s been around and is from here.”
Henry said the sense of “fraternity” he feels with the Atlanta crew is similar to how he felt attending Morehouse. He compared the experience of filming Robbin’ Season to “crossing,” or being initiated into a fraternity.
“There’s something about brotherhood that really matters to me, which is a part of the reason why I went to Morehouse,” he says. “When we wrapped [season two], because this season was so hard and so dark, it felt like we were crossing. I made us these line jackets called ‘Alfred Tau Lambda’ because we made it [through the season]. We all went through it together. That fraternal bond is there forever and it’s never going to go away. And fraternal doesn’t just mean men; it means everybody.”
The show’s producers, including Stephen Glover, have continuously noted that Atlanta: Robbin’ Season takes on a darker tone than the first season. Stephen Glover says the show continues to highlight the stories of the black people who are struggling to make in the city often dubbed the “Black Mecca,” much like the often recited lyrics from the city’s famed trap stars.
“Future raps about being at the top, but he also raps about what it’s like to be at the bottom,” Stephen Glover says. “I think that’s a part of the black experience. You can’t forget where you came from and you also can’t rest easy when you get to the top.”
The first two episodes of Robbin’ Season certainly have heavy moments, but rest-assured for fans who have been eagerly waiting more than a year for the show’s return, the off-kilter humor and relatable storylines that made the first season so beloved remain.
And the culture of Atlanta is still front and center, of course. But Henry cautions that watching the show won’t make you an Atlanta expert.
“When you think you have Atlanta pegged, you [still] don’t know shit about Atlanta,” he says. “That’s the great thing [about the city]. Every corner, every nook and cranny has something different to discover. I owe a lot to this city.”