Donald Glover says the success of his Childish Gambino song This is America and his scene-stealing turn as Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story has left him with feelings of depression.
In the week before the Cannes Film Festival, Glover – under the Childish Gambino moniker – released This is America, which landed at No 1 on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart. The music video, directed by Hiro Murai, features Glover playfully dancing while gun violence, abuse and other atrocities happen behind him. It was watched more than 70 million times in three days.
Glover says the reaction was a dream come true. “You always want to be part of the culture because that means that you’re part of the conversation. Maybe it’s specific to black American life, but it allows you to speak.
“So it feels really cool to have a voice in the conversation, that’s all I ever wanted. I think that’s all you can ever ask for as an artist.”
Listen to This is America:
Yet there has been a downside to the success: "It's hard to feel and define the moment," Glover says. "The past two weeks I haven't slept. I wasn't on the internet from the Thursday night I hosted Saturday Night Live when this music video [This Is America] came out, then I had my first No 1 song, and now I'm in Star Wars at Cannes.
“At a certain point your threshold for feeling it becomes what it’s really about. In a weird way you almost start to feel depressed,” he explains.
“I’ve definitely had moments of, like, extreme loneliness because you’re touching so many people and I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
The reason for these feeling of depression, he says, is that success can be dehumanising.
“You start to represent something, and that is scary because you’re not really a person at that point. Not to get too deep into it but it’s a weird feeling.
“I’m super gracious for it because all I’ve ever wanted was to be part of the conversation and be an artist and make things for everybody. But you have these moments.”
He says the moments of being down or feeling isolated are fleeting because “you always get that energy back, when you’re on stage or in a film”.
The actor also says that like Calrissian, the Star Wars character he plays, he enjoys healthy competition and having frenemies. Drake, who he knocked from the No 1 spot on the Billboard chart is one of those people.
"There are definitely people in the industry that I admire, but I'm also like, 'I have to beat them'. It's not like a personal anger thing; it's because I want to do good, I want to be better. Like with Drake, he's so good. I think it can be healthy to be in competition."