Donald Glover is not related to legendary actor Danny Glover.
“People ask me if I’m Danny Glover’s son,” said the former Atlantan who plays former high school star Troy in the new NBC sitcom “Community,” which features Joel McHale (”The Soup”) and Chevy Chase (”Vacation,” “Fletch”) “I wish he was! He could pay off my student loans! They are hefty!”
Glover got a big break writing for Emmy winning sitcom “30 Rock” for three years right out of college. He decided to leave earlier this year with no new job on the line. “I was scared I was leaving this great show,” he said. “I felt like I was stepping off the bullet train as it was leaving the station… It was a lot like camp, a camp that paid you.”
But his charmed life in entertainment led quickly to a gig on “Community.” He said he has to resist telling Chevy that he grew up with him. As for Joel McHale, “he’s like the nicest guy ever. First time I met him, I said I love his Pumas. ‘You want these?’ he said. I said, oh no. He got me Pumas the next day!”
On “Communty,” he plays a washed-out high school athlete going to community college. “I was supposed to be the next Michael Vick,” he said. He did a keg flip and ruined his shoulder, losing his scholarship. “He now has to figure out who he is.” He said he gets more back story in episodes three or four.
In the first episode, he calls McHale’s character “Seacrest,” as in Dunwoody’s own. “I improv-ed that,” he said. “I figure my character Troy watches ‘American Idol’ as a guilty pleasure. I can see Troy calling people names.”
He notes that Chevy and Joel are kindred spirits: “Both make comedy look easy and cool.”
Glover grew up in Stone Mountain, attended Rockbridge Elementary and DeKalb School of the Arts. His dad works at the postal service and mom runs a daycare. Growing up, they raised several foster kids. “My comedy point of view comes from meeting all these different kids,” he said. “I never had to worry about finding someone to play with.”
In elementary school, he did the dorkiest thing possible: in fourth grade, he’d go from class to class with this puppet and tell stories. He had this Lamb Chop puppet and bird puppet. “The teachers loved it,” he said. “The little kids loved it. Kids my age? Not so much. The cool factor was not there.”
After high school, he hankered for New York and got into NYU. “Broke my mom’s heart,” he said. He could have gotten a lot cheaper education via the HOPE scholarship and stayed in state. But instead, he took out those aforementioned hefty student loans.
While at NYU, he fell in love with writing for movies and television. He wrote “spec” scripts for “The Simpsons” and “Everybody Hates Chris.” After graduation, he chose to be a resident advisor so he could get free housing in a primo location. “I wasn’t getting paid,” he said. “Just doing odd jobs and baby sitting.” Then he got an email “out of nowhere” from David Miner, producer of “30 Rock.”
Miner had heard about Glover’s work and Glover sent over his spec scripts. He got a job as a writer for the show. “I was the youngest guy in the room,” he said. “It was extremely intimidating. A lot of these writers had worked for shows like ‘Frasier.’ ” For the first few weeks, he was still an RA and had his pager.
He didn’t think Tina Fey & Co. had him there as the token black guy and write just for Tracy Morgan. “Tina’s smarter than that. She just wanted a hodge podge of people.”
I asked him his proudest moment as a writer. He said it was when Jenna was teaching Kenneth the page (former Conyers man Jack McBrayer) how to do a backhanded compliment. His attempt (written by Glover): “It’s hard for me to watch American Idol because there’s a water bug on my channel changer.” “I remember making [executive producer] Robert [Carlock] and Tina laugh. I was on cloud nine. I wanted their approval.”
We also now know why Kenneth is from Stone Mountain. That’s where Glover is from. “The writers wanted some country sounding names in Georgia. We pitched Conyers. But they liked Stone Mountain. It sounded rural to them although we know it’s not rural at all.”
As I got a sense in late 2006 when I first interviewed McBrayer, Glover agreed that he’s a bit like his character. “He’s super sweet. He can walk around and find four-leaf clovers in New York City. He doesn’t look for them. He finds them. He’s truly happy go lucky. People meet him and often can’t blieve he can be that nice.”