Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Atlanta Has Way More Improvised Moments Than You Probably Realized

Since debuting in 2016, FX's "Atlanta" has made its mark as a show with an unpredictable tone. Episodes tend to center on Earn (Donald Glover) as he manages his cousin, and burgeoning rap star, Paper Boi (Bryan Tyree Henry). However, in keeping with the series' eclectic tone, the focus of an episode can pivot in any direction. One episode, for example, focused on Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) as he was trapped in a house with a creepy musician, while another didn't even focus much on the main characters at all.

The show can also swivel quickly between scenes, shifting from absurd to extremely frightening at a moment's notice. In a Complex interview, "Atlanta" co-creator Stephen Glover mused that he likes breaking the rules of television: "My mind was probably more open to, 'What can't you do?'" Yet the show remains extremely funny and playful, even when the writing shift into more experimental territory. 

It would be fair to think these scripts were tightly controlled by co-creator Donald Glover and the other writers, but as Zazie Beetz — who plays Vanessa on the show — explained, that's not the case at all.

Improvisation is all over every scene in Atlanta

The strong visual style and impressive filmmaking on "Atlanta" might make fans believe the scripts perfectly align with the finished episodes of the show. Yet in reality, the dialogue leaves a lot of room for improv.

When asked about if there were any fully unscripted scenes, co-star Zazie Beetz told Elle, "The best pieces have improvisation. It's sprinkled through the whole thing. All the plot points are scripted, but Donald and the writers aren't particularly precious about the words, which I really love." Improvisation also pops up when the lines seem fine on paper, but feel awkward when they're said out loud. As Beetz explained, "We certainly improvise to smooth out text or to make it feel right or drop in punch lines or transitions you can sort of trail off." The rest is just the natural chemistry of the show's cast.

Mixing improv and written dialogue seems to be perfect for a show as surreal and dream-like as "Atlanta." Hopefully, then, the final episodes of the series will continue that unique, haunting style.