Donald Glover Talks Blacking Out Onstage and Why Salvador Dali Is His Multihyphenate Hero

Brooke Nipar
Donald Glvoer photographed on Feb. 4, 2015 in Los Angeles.

The Outsider

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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Creative High
"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."

Glover Facts
- 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.


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