Community's Donald Glover on TV Ratings and a Worrisome Arrested Development Comparison
Donald Glover may play Troy Barnes, the purely emotional (quoth co-star Danny Pudi) ex-quarterback on NBC's Community, but he's a realist when it comes to his show's appeal and fans. We caught up with the 27-year-old actor-writer-comic to discuss his own college experience, the best characters to write for on 30 Rock, and how Community may be a "stepping stone" for a better TV world.
One of my favorite things about you -- still -- is that you were a resident assistant in a dorm at NYU. Do you think about that much? Seems like a wellspring of funny material.
Yeah, I think about it. I think about because it was funny; I really loved college. It was a second high school for me. I felt like I did everything right in college and everything wrong in high school, but I think about being an RA and all the crazy sh*t I did. I was on a floor with only three boys. It was all girls. It was awesome. Girls are a lot of work because they fight over a lot of stuff in general, but I had a ton of fun.
I hear you had trouble balancing that campus job with your writing gig on 30 Rock. Did either of those jobs make the other less fun?
I only had to do that for, like, half a semester. We had beepers, pagers. I would get paged and I'd call in and they'd say, "Someone's drunk in the west wing!" And I'd have to say, "I'm at work." I felt really bad. I didn't know what to do. You weren't supposed to have another job, but I had to, you know?
Do you still watch 30 Rock?
Yeah. I love it.
Can you spot any differences now that you're off the show?
No. [Laughs.] If anything, it gets better and better. I get sad because I'll say, "I wish I'd known about that! That's such a good idea; I wish I'd done that." A lot of people are like, "It feels different without Donald!" Yeah, no it doesn't.
Which characters did you give your best lines to?
Tracy. I mean, Tracy's just fun to write for. Tracy and Tina. They both say a lot of things that are inappropriate that a lot of people think sometimes. I liked writing for them a lot.
Has there ever been talk of a Community/30 Rock crossover?
We could probably have Tina Fey in our world. But if Abed hasn't referenced 30 Rock, he's definitely seen it. It'd be weird to be in the same world as them. Seems like a show that Abed would love.
Since Community has become a critical darling, I feel like Troy's character has earned a devoted following. What do you make of Community's fan base? Do you get them?
I feel like people who love television love Community, number one. Also, these are people who love causes. I mean, it is a good cause! You watch it and you're like, "This is a good show. Why aren't more people watching it?" The truth is, a lot of people are watching it. It's a DVD show. It's like Arrested Development. Nobody watched it when it was on, but I think people were buying the DVDs when it was on. People will be like, "This show's good -- but I'm not gonna run home to see it at the scheduled time!" I mean, Glee and American Idol you have to watch because you won't watch those on DVDs. You don't want to watch those again. You want to be there for the event. Glee is a show for 14-year-old girls. They're home at 8. They're not out partying. Our audience is 25- to 40-year-olds, and they're drinking. But they will be home sick and watch DVDs. So we're just different types of shows. I don't think there's a better or worse show. I think NBC understands that. It's not an event show.
Do you feel like the era of "scheduled programming" is waning? Do you think people will look back and think it was unjust for DVD/DVR-friendly shows to compete with things like Idol?
Hopefully. I think I'll look back and say we were a stepping stone for a certain type of show. I would like to think we're a stepping stone for a type of show that's only on DVD or only on the internet where you can watch it at your own pace. We're the type of show where people might look back and think, "It's kind of crazy that they have to work this hard, because if they'd be on this other platform, they'd have blown up." I'm not worried about ratings and stuff like that because the show's so good, but if we were a pay-TV show, we'd be fine too. I'm very flattered that people give me a lot of love. I'm grateful that the love of Troy has grown with the love of the show.
Lastly, Community's theme episodes have been big hits. What's your dream theme?
Back to the Future. I'd love to do that. If Troy maybe thought he was back in time? Something where we don't really go back in time, but I know the events of something and I have the whole day to change it before it happens.
I feel like this will happen for you.
I would love that. It'd be cool.