The actor/rapper/writer multi-hyphenate, who stars in The Lazarus Effect, opens up about his journey from being a Jehovah’s Witness to achieving film, TV, and music stardom.
Donald Glover has, in his mere 31 years on this sorta-green Earth, released five rap albums and two mixtapes under the stage name Childish Gambino, served as a writer on the award-winning 30 Rock, and featured in 89 episodes as Normcore nerd Troy Barnes on the cherished sitcom Community.
Here is what Glover replied when he was asked about being raised as a JW:
"Back to the religion thing, because it does play a large role in the film, I read that you were raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. What was that experience like?"
Being a Jehovah’s Witness was interesting. I think it amplified my own alienness. I was always the odd one out, and Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas, you don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, and when you have Jewish kids in the class who don’t celebrate Christmas everyone understands, but when you say you’re a Jehovah’s Witness they say, “So… You come to my door at 9 a.m. and wake my family up? I don’t understand any of your rules.” As a kid growing up in the South, people didn’t know what it was. It gave me a very different perception of what religion is because in the South, everyone is Southern Baptist. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christian, but it felt small and almost cult-like in Atlanta.
"Did the constraints of being a Jehovah’s Witness push you to be more creative and artistic? Sometimes constraints can make you find fascinating workarounds—like movies in the ’40s and ’50s under the Hays Code."
I believe it made me see the world differently. Part of the religion is teaching you that the world is an evil place, so trying to reconcile really liking stuff in the world but also being told it’s bad makes you want to figure out, “What is this?” and “Why am I being drawn to this?” My creative outlet was definitely shaped by being a Jehovah’s Witness.