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‘Atlanta’s’ Hiro Murai wouldn't be directing TV without Donald Glover




Donald Glover as Earnest Marks, Lakeith Stanfield as Darius and director Hiro Murai on set of
Donald Glover as Earnest Marks, Lakeith Stanfield as Darius and director Hiro Murai on set of "Atlanta" Season Two.
Guy D'Alema/FX
Donald Glover as Earnest Marks, Lakeith Stanfield as Darius and director Hiro Murai on set of
Hiro Murai and Donald Glover on set of "Atlanta" Season Two.
Guy D'Alema/FX


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The FX show “Atlanta” won a Peabody Award and two Emmys in its first season. It's returned for season two and with it, the series has expanded its audience.

The network says viewership for the first episode was up almost 10% over the first season. That’s impressive given that “Atlanta” was on hiatus for a year and a half.

In that time, Donald Glover — the creator and star of “Atlanta” — shot a Star Wars movie (he’s playing the young Lando Calrissian) and he released a new album under his hip hop persona, Childish Gambino.

“Atlanta” can be described as an existential comedy about a group of friends living in, you guessed it, Atlanta. Glover plays Earn, a college dropout who’s trying to manage his cousin’s fledgling rap career. His cousin, who raps under the name Paper Boi, lives with his sidekick Darius. The two are stoners, who offer Earn sagely insight even when seriously baked.

The tone of “Atlanta” is dreamy and full of unexpected moments. There are seeds of that sensibility and tone in Glover’s Childish Gambino music videos which, along with most “Atlanta,” are directed by Hiro Murai. 

I'm a first generation Japanese immigrant. On paper, there's really nothing that connects me to these African American kids that grew up in Atlanta. But to me, that show is about outsiders so being an immigrant in the States, you're always on the outside looking in. I think that's a pretty important perspective for the show. 

When The Frame's John Horn spoke with Murai recently, they discussed his collaborations with Donald Glover, his love of the Coen brothers and how the show set out to accurately portray life in Atlanta, Georgia.

Interview Highlights:

On going from directing music videos to television:

Honestly if it wasn't for Donald and the history of collaboration that we'd had already, I don't think it would have been a good match. I never thought of myself as a TV director. It's just that everything we'd done up until that point felt like we were field testing for something bigger. It just happened to be this TV show.

(L-R) Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Donald Glover in a scene from
(L-R) Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Donald Glover in a scene from "Atlanta."
Quantrell D. Colbert/FX

On 'Atlanta' not being plot-driven:

It's hard to say we want to make a show where nothing really happens and it's about feeling and tone and it's funny but not overtly funny. That's a really bad sell for a TV show. But we just wanted to give ourself a sandbox for being able to do those things.

On the shifting cinematic styles of 'Atlanta':

'Atlanta' changes genres a lot per episode. I think a season of 'Atlanta' bounces back between classic sitcom structure and genre movies. But films that we mention a lot are the films of the Coen brothers just because I think they have a really good knack for finding "real picture," especially in the South and building very dry deadpan comedies out of them. They also have an amazing ability to switch between comedy and violence and despair and then flip it back on comedy again. 



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