This Is How Donald Glover Convinced FX To Let Him Say The N-Word On Atlanta


Black History Month is coming to a close this week, and yes, it was the biggest and Blackest in history. But Thursday, Mar. 1 will be an unofficial continuation because the second season of Atlanta returns. And, in my opinion, what makes the show so darn good is the fact that characters use everyday language. I’m specifically talking about the word “n-gga.” And dare I say – I don’t think the show would be as good without it.

In a profile with the New Yorker, co-star, writer and director Donald Glover said that he had to use a “White translator” to get the word “n-gga” approved in regular conversation among characters on the show.

Glover said that in real life, Black people do not talk to each other without using that word. But FX is not HBO or Netflix. As a basic cable channel, they have to justify using the word when it’s not being used to spark debate. To this, Glover argued that shows with predominately Black casts like Black-ish and The Carmichael Show talk to each other in an unrealistic way. In other words, a “n-gga” here and there, in real life, would be sprinkled in there somewhere.

“No black people talk to each other like that, or need to. It’s all for white people,” he said.

FX told Glover to avoid using the N-word in the pilot. They agreed that only two instances would be allowed – a white character who says “Really, n-gga?” and “You know how n-ggas out here are.” As a Black man making a Black show, explaining the importance of using “n-gga” to White executives got old and tired.

“I’m black, making a very black show, and they’re telling me I can’t use the N-word! Only in a world run by white people would that happen,” he exclaimed.

So, how did the 34-year-old win that battle ‘cus for those of us who saw Season 1, the word “n-gga” is like another character in the show. He brought in the industry’s well-known “White translator.”

“On the phone call that finally resolved the matter, it was a white executive producer, Paul Simms, who argued successfully for the authenticity of the show’s use of the word. Glover had brought in Simms, the elder statesman on ‘Girls’ and ‘Flight of the Conchords,’ to serve as what black creators call ‘the white translator.’ ‘You need the translator for the three-minute call after the meeting,’ Kenya Barris [creator of ‘Black-ish’] explained. ‘It’s for when the execs call the white guy to say, ‘What exactly did Kenya mean there?,’ and to be reassured.’ Since then, ‘Atlanta’ has used the N-word unself-consciously, in a profusion of ways.’”

This not only speaks to some White blindness but generational blindness as well. Glover is a millennial, and as a person in the same generation, I definitely use the word in conversation often. It’s so versatile. You can use it as a pronoun for a person, place or thing. And newsflash: The word isn’t just for men to use. HBO’s Insecure is a perfect example of that. While the ladies in that show kind of go over-board with it, the point is that “n-gga” is in our lexicon. And it ain’t going anywhere.

It’s just a shame that executives at FX failed to understand that from a young, Black millennial person, but they could from a “white translator.” What are your thoughts?