Michaela Coel and Donald Glover – two BOMB creatives taking over the game – had one of the realest conversations for British GQ’s November 2020 issue. Nothing was off limits. Peep the highlights inside…
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In 2020, it doesn’t get bigger than this: the two most influential black voices working in television today, on Zoom and speaking freely From ego death and mutant subcultures to lockdown Bibles and small-screen medicine, via family planning, interracial sex, the search for identity, empathy and context and much, much more. They spoke. We listened. And here, in full, is one of the most extraordinary conversations we have ever heard. #MichaelaCoel speaks to #DonaldGlover for the first of our November cover stories. LINK IN BIO to read. Photography by @benwellerstudio. Styling by @luke_jefferson_day. Hair by @am_stagrams. Make-up by @michelle.leandra.makeup. Photography Direction by @robinkeygq. Creative Direction @paulsolomonsgq. #SubscribersEdition // #GQ Editor @dylanjonesgq
A post shared by British GQ (@britishgq) on Sep 29, 2020 at 12:00am PDT
Michaela Coel and Donald Glover are two multihyphenate, influential, black stars who are creating content that foster teachable moments, but for everyone to love.
Glover has his “Atlanta” show and he wrote Guava Island (starring opposite Rihanna). He’s also credited for starring in some major films, like Spider Man: Homecoming, and he voiced Simba in the 2019 reboot of The Lion King.
Meanwhile, Michaela first made a major splash on the entertainment scene when she released her Netflix show, “Chewing Gum,” a British television sitcom created and written by her that’s based on her 2012 play “Chewing Gum Dreams.” Now, she’s back with another one. She’s the writer, producer and co-director of her new show “I May Destroy,” which explores the gray area of sexual consent – totally fitting in the times we’re currently living it where “consent” is heavily talked about.
For the November 2020 issue of British GQ, cover star Michaela and Donald hopped on a Zoom video conference call and they A LOT to talk about. Their lengthy conversation covered topics ranging from fatherhood amid a pandemic, police brutality, ego death, sexuality confusion, interracial sex, COVID-19 and much more.
At one point, the “Atlanta” star snuck in that he welcomed his third child, a son, with partner Michelle White. And he did it super lowkey. They named their new baby after Donald’s father, who died a few years ago.
DG: You know, I had [a kid] during the coronavirus. MC: Oh, during the coronavirus?
DG: Yeah, it was nuts. I was in the hospital bed. My son had just been born, like, an hour before and I was watching the George Floyd video. It was such a weird moment. It was such an intense, weird moment, because I’m watching that video and it’s like eight minutes long, so you’re sitting there and I had just had this amazing, joyful, expanding moment, plus my dad had passed away recently, so [my son] was named after my father… I don’t even know what, really, the word is to describe it. It was just expanding: the empathy and compassion and the terror and the joy of it.
MC: Oh, God. And then having the future in your hands!
DG: Having the future in your hands! And then having to explain to him – the one who was just in here [Legend] – “Why are people angry? Why are people marching?” “Well, you look like this…” It’s just heavy. Again, your show, you whittle down that kind of thing; you simplify what is happening to us. It’s really beautiful to see it, because you can’t really describe it. You can just feel it. This is a personal question: do you think about kids at all in this world?
Michaela revealed she’s not sure when/if she will become a mother, so she has decided to freeze her eggs.
MC: About kids in this world like the ones coming from my vagina or just kids in the world? DG: Let’s talk about ones coming from you first. MC: Yeah, I actually don’t. And sometimes I worry that I don’t as much as I should, which is why, just in case I ever think about this more, I’m freezing my eggs, just in case. I’ve never been too thinky about bearing my own children through my vagina. I have thought about adopting. That I’ve thought of more than vaginal children. But in case I changed my mind, because I don’t know, they say it happens… Like, you reach this point where suddenly you really want babies and all you can think about is you want a baby and the clock’s ticking. I don’t ever have that. I’ve never felt it. I’ve never even said, “I want to have a baby” ever in my life. So I’m freezing them in case that hits me later.
MC: Losing your dad may be something that you thought could destroy you. And yet you’re here to think about the destruction and the sadness, which means you have been hit by lightning and you have morphed into something else. And that’s something to look at and be enamoured by. Who is this new person? And you might discover what you thought would end you is a rebirth, right?
DG: It’s completely what I mean. I feel like we’re going through that right now. It’s a transition. You’re forced to look. I know people who died. I know people who got really sick. And you have to decide: what is really important? Naming that bar Ego Death [in I May Destroy You]? I was like, “Yo, this shit is fuckingdeep. This is a fucking deep dive, man.” It felt like you didn’t stop, which a lot of people are afraid to do, and I have deep compassion for that. Do you know what you want to do next?
Their conversation got really deep when Donald revealed he struggled to define and come to terms with his sexuality when he was younger.
DG: There is security to being identified. “I’m a straight white male” or “I’m a gay Asian dancer” – you can find community easily and safely. Instead of being like, “Man, I really don’t know…” Most of my college years were me being like, “I don’t know what I like.” I had friends who asked, “Are you gay?” And I’d be like, “I sort of feel like I am because I love this community.” You know? But maybe I’m not? And I always was trying to figure out “Am I weird for not wanting to label it?” Yet, also, I never felt completely safe in just one place.
He shared details about a racism incident he experienced with one of his best white male friends and how that contributed to him feeling unsafe.
MC: In what way did you not feel safe?
DG: One time I was really close with this guy – a white guy. I was like, “Oh, man, this guy’s my friend.” And then one day we went to the mall and some black kids ragged on his shorts. He turned to me and said, “There are black people and then there are n*****s.” My brain, my heart… It was really intense, so I go home and I tell my dad. To his credit, he sat there for a minute and just thought about it and then he said, “What do you feel? That’s the most valuable thing right now.”
MC: Do you remember what you said?
DG: I think I said, “I think I understand what he meant. And that really hurts me.” But I was in high school, so I didn’t really have the emotional tools to really be like, “Oh, I understand,” because I had no experience. We just never talked again. It was a hard lesson, to understand that separation between myself and my friend. And all credit to my father for helping me see that for myself.
The black creatives talked about the responsibility white people should take when it comes to educating themselves on racism.
MC: It’s all my white female friends, Donald! Literally. I’m running out! It’s making me worried.
DG: I’ve had friends where I’ve just been like, “No, I’m done with that” or like, “Don’t do that.” “I understand where that’s coming from” or “I just don’t want to deal with it,” which is your prerogative too, but I feel like most of the time when I see that I’m like, “This is coming from wanting to be in.” And to be quite frank – and I’m not going to say this as well as I probably should – I feel like that’s hard for a lot of white people. Because they don’t know what it really is.
DG: You’re a searcher. That’s what I’m saying. And black people tend to have to be a little more searchery, to be like, “Was that racist?” Why would a white person ever have to do that? I saw a lot of people this time around be like, “Man, fuck it. I’m not doing the research for you.” I understand that. I understand that point of view of being like, “Man, pick up the Malcolm X autobiography. Pick up these books. Here’s the list.” But we also live in a time where it’s scarier to do that. If I pick up this book, I might learn something I didn’t want to know that might be painful. I might have to look back and be like, “Oh, I was a bad person. I might fuck up again. I’m not going to be cool doing this. What do I gain out of this if I’m white?” So you’re asking them to do all this work? And I’m not saying that you can’t be angry about that. But, also, think about the position.
MC: I’m not angry. It’s just the quality of people I have in my life are of a standard. So sometimes, when that stuff comes out, I think, “Oh, should you be around me? I’m not sure.” And then literally before this interview, I was thinking, “No, Michaela, everybody, in any way, should be around you. Who are you to have exclusive rights? And then I began to crave my friends. I began to crave these white women. I missed them, because there’s so many other qualities. I can’t push you away. I shouldn’t mark a territory where I put you there. And when I realised that today, literally, I began to crave them. One friend is addicted to interracial porn. And she’s told me! And in the lockdown she couldn’t get a black guy to come and find you and come to your apartment, so she just looked up “Black dick, white pussy” and she had the time of her life! And you know what? It exists. Also she’s a great friend.
DG: That’s what I’m saying. It is OK. That’s what a lot of people don’t realise. It’s gonna be OK. Good can come from bad and bad from good. I always remember my dad saying, “It’s gonna be OK.” As much as it feels like this, life is not The Avengers. It isn’t good versus evil. It’s all together and we’re still figuring it out. One thing I wanted to say about your show, I don’t know your editor, but the editing on that show is so good.
Everyone wasn’t here for this:
donald glover said “think about how hard it is for a white person to read Malcolm X. it will make them feel bad. you can’t just put them in that position” https://t.co/mrVNWJqDD6
— ashley ray (@theashleyray) September 29, 2020
While most of the male species seemingly hated Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” track, Donald loved it and couldn’t understand why folks were making a big deal out of it.
DG: It looks good. I thought you were just doing it for fun. I thought you were like, “The ‘WAP’ video came out. I wanna do something…”
MC: I haven’t seen the “WAP” video. Is the hair like this?
DG: I’ve only seen it twice. I’m sure it is like that. Maybe I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how they switched their shit up because they saw the video.
MC: What shit? I don’t know anything about it. I just know it’s got something to do with lubrication. Could that possibly be true?
DG: The female excretion of natural lubrication. It’s not actually like, “I went to Target and bought, you know, lubrication.” MC: Yes. Yes! DG: It’s about how wet a vagina can get, which is, I guess, a new concept to a lot of people. What was really weird about it was, at first, I saw a lot of men talking shit about it, which I didn’t understand. I was like, “This isn’t even the dirtiest song I’ve ever heard!” But I also hadn’t seen it. I just saw a slew of men saying, “This is bad for children!” I’m like, “What the hell are you talking about?” It’s just kind of funny to me. MC: Let me google the lyrics. Let me just call them up, because…
Speaking of music, Donald (aka Childish Gambino) talked about the possibility of releasing new music…and a Bible:
MC: I really loved your last album, by the way. I played it a lot during the lockdown. I actually had a dance night with my friend Karan [Gill], who plays Zain in the show. We both played your album at the same time in our separate homes and had a party. So we were listening at the same time and I had tequila in my glass. It was beautiful.
DG: I still don’t feel like I’m done with that [music] project. When the coronavirus hit, I was, like – this sounds super crazy – but a woman who I go to, almost a shaman, I told her I wanted to write a Bible.
DG: Yeah, I told her I wanted to write a Bible; that was years ago. I was like, “I just keep getting this feeling.” She was like, “You have to put it out in pieces. How long do you think they’re gonna wait?” She said, “You’ll know when the time is.” And then when coronavirus hit, I was like, “Everybody’s stuck inside,” and I’ve been in The Temple listening to this and suddenly I thought, “Oh, some people will get it.” That’s why it was really funny when you were talking about your show. You’re like, “I’m a little afraid…” I’m like, “This is actually the only time some people would have to have that type of medicine, to be able to watch a show like that and really get it.” That’s why I like to release stuff on Sundays. [Donald Glover’s son Legend walks into frame.]
Interesting. Would you read it?!
You can read the transcript to their full conversation here.
Season 1 of “I May Destroy You” is available on-demand on HBO.
Photos: Featureflash Photo Agency/Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com