Looking across the current TV landscape, Michaela Coel and Donald Glover are two of the most prolific and exciting showrunners working right now. Donald is the Emmy, Golden Globe, and Grammy-winning multi-hyphenate who rocked the TV world with Atlanta in 2016. Four years later, we’re eagerly awaiting Seasons 3 and 4, which were both scheduled to air in 2021 but have been postponed due to COVID production pushbacks. Michaela’s latest, I May Destroy You is my favourite series of the year. Covering British GQ’s Heroes issue, it appears she’s still doing press for it — which I’m not mad about, since it means a candid one-on-one with Donald Glover.
Michaela doesn’t love gabbing about herself, so although this is billed as an interview conducted by Donald, it’s very much a free-flowing conversation that goes to many different places. At one point talk turns to children, and we learn Donald and his wife secretly welcomed a third son in May.
Donald: “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 […] It was just expanding: the empathy and compassion and the terror and the joy of it.”
Michaela: “Oh, God. And then having the future in your hands!”
When Donald asks Michaela if she ever thinks about having children, it’s a “No.” Sometimes she worries about not thinking about it, so she’s freezing her eggs just in case. Donald reveals he too has thought about freezing his stuff, and then getting a vasectomy. But Michaela’s only 32. Is that egg freezing age? I feel like these days the majority of people are just starting to have children at that age. I definitely don’t want a baby until at least 32, and it’s not so much that parenthood seems like a consuming responsibility, it’s that I myself haven’t figured out how to really thrive in this world yet. Michaela put some of my anxieties about parenthood into words:
“The older we get, it seems, we can’t keep up with things that are moving. At one point, I feel like, you had a child and you birthed them into a world you understood and would probably understand for your lifetime. Whereas now, things change drastically and rapidly. We’ve got no idea what the world will look like in ten years’ time.”
Donald’s baby announcement, four months later, is surprising but so characteristically him. He’s not on social media, at least publicly (he reveals he has anonymous accounts he uses to creep), and he doesn’t often share his personal life in interviews, other than the odd anecdote about his sons. Which is so frustrating because he seems like the coolest guy and I just want to get to know him. Can he please do a 24 Hours With Vogue video at the very least? I want a glimpse into a typical day with Don, from morning yoga to bedtime. And like Donald, Michaela’s also social media shy, but does have a publicly identifiable Twitter account — it’s just used in moderation.
“It doesn’t benefit me to read anything about myself on Twitter. […] Yet by overly avoiding it you’re almost giving it a strange weight in your life. So now I do actually check my feeds […] But two years ago I couldn’t write [I May Destroy You]. I couldn’t write it while being on Twitter, because it wasn’t giving me clarity as to how I see myself and see things around me. It was actually affecting me. And I know that because I’ve left and it’s different. I’ll go back for a week and then I’ll feel like, ‘Hmm, I feel Twittered. I need to leave.’ And then I feel more me again.”
If you’re like me, you watched Netflix’s timely new (and rightfully zeitgeisty) doc, The Social Dilemma, which makes the argument that social media companies have one goal: Make us addicted. It made me think about how I pick up the phone to view a notification, and then after that check what’s new on Twitter, then check Instagram, then check Twitter again because there must be something new by now and it’s just a vicious cycle constantly refreshing because I’m craving new posts, new info, new updates. I should try being more like Michaela. Moderation. Could I unplug for a whole week? I can’t even imagine that.
The most jarring part of this interview, for me, was when Donald was speaking about friendships when he was younger and never feeling completely safe in one place.
“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…”
Racial slurs are obviously gross, but it’s also deeply disturbing when people say, ‘You’re not like those other Blacks.’ Is that because through circumstances you’ve gotten to know me, and you’re not giving other people that chance? Donald says he and that friend never talked again. The conversation led Michaela to bring up more recent situations in which her non-Black girlfriends have turned to her and said, “I love Black men.”
“Whenever I hear it, my brain starts thinking, ‘You’ve grouped a whole people and you’ve made a decision on them. Can’t you just ‘love’ that Black guy at the bar? Why can’t you like whatever his name is? Why come with the whole group thing?’ And they’re my friends, so sometimes I don’t know how to do it. How do you stay friends with them?”
Whenever I hear of someone’s “preferences” (as people with “preferences” like to call it) I think it’s almost always fetishizing or racist. I don’t have a problem with interracial love — I wouldn’t be here without it — I just think if you only ever date outside your race, you should take a hard look at why that pattern started, and whether your motivations are healthy and in the best interests of your partner. Michaela mentions one girlfriend who’s become “addicted to interracial porn” in quarantine, but is also a great friend, so she’s trying to ignore the interracial porn fetish. To which Donald, who’s been criticized for fetishizing Asian women in his early lyrics, and who’s in an interracial marriage himself says:
"It is OK. That’s what a lot of people don’t realize. 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.”
I mean… yes, Donald. But also, let’s just not fetishize people’s ethnicity.
My favourite part of this interview was listening to Donald talk about how big a fan he is of Michaela’s show (because, same) right down to complimenting her editor. It must be such a treat to get praise from peers who are at the top of their game. I’ve only produced non-scripted TV, and sometimes it’s hard for me to fully immerse myself in a show because I know so much about how the sausage gets made. So compliments from Donald must really hit different.
"I guess the biggest compliment I can give [the show] is this: It made me feel super inspired. And [before], I was not feeling very inspired. It really broke me out of feeling that everything’s the same. Your show is such a good feeling, and flavour.”
It’s also such a joy listening to Michaela talk about her art. She has this childlike enthusiasm about her own projects, but it never veers into being boastful. She sometimes speaks of I May Destroy You as if she’s the viewer, not the storyteller — as if she’s learning new lessons from her own work.
"It’s difficult to look, but you can’t help but gaze at it. Weird. And then you can’t describe it any more and so you end the show on that feeling and you hope that it jumped out from the screen and it jumped into the mouth, through into the belly of the people watching. And then it’s shared.”
The show did not air in time to make the Emmy nominations but it is eligible for Golden Globes consideration. And it definitely should be considered. If you haven’t watched, what are you waiting for?