Donald Glvoer photographed on Feb. 4, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Hip-hop stars have long beat a path to Hollywood, from Ice Cube to Ice-T and even Vanilla Ice (what, you never saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze?). Donald Glover, however, may be the only star to make the trip in reverse. In 2009, after three years writing for 30 Rock, Glover broke out as an actor on cult-favorite sitcom Community. But off-set, he began living an unlikely double life as rapper Childish Gambino, going from mixtape curiosity to Glassnote signee with two Grammy nods for 2013’s Because the Internet — which was, fittingly, accompanied by a short film and a screenplay. “I don’t separate things,” the 31-year-old explains. “All my ideas bleed into each other.” After he quit Community in 2013, Glover’s life has been even more of a multitasking blur. This year, while working on his third LP, he’ll star in three films — The Lazarus Effect (in theaters Feb. 27), Magic Mike XXL (July 1) and Ridley Scott’s The Martian (Nov. 25) — while also executive-producing, writing and starring in Atlanta, the FX comedy named after his hometown (no release date).
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How I Work
“In my house, I have an empty room: I have my studio there, a whiteboard with the Atlanta scripts, a canvas for painting and all my albums and DJ equipment. I wake up every morning and I start grabbing things — spray-painting the walls, recording, writing. They’re all connected for me. It’s all about trying to get to the bottom of what being a human is.”
My Multihyphenate Hero
“Once for spring break I went to St. Petersburg [Fla.], which is wack, but I wanted to be around old people. (Laughs.) And there’s a Salvador Dali museum there. I wrote a postcard to myself that said, ‘Never forget Dali.’ He would paint, do sculpture, architecture, film, photography.”
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“When I really dive into an acting role, I lose myself. And onstage, I black out — I know it’s a good show when I don’t remember it. I feel like that’s the closest you can be to whatever you want to call God.”
– He has sold 800,000 LPs as Childish Gambino, according to Nielsen Music.
– He has won three Writers Guild of America awards for his work on 30 Rock.
– Marvel recently announced it would release new Spider-Man films, fueling a fan campaign to cast Glover as the lead.
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of Billboard.