Who is she within a group of friends? Like the “Champagne Papi” episode, when she’s being dragged around by a friend who is a bit more outspoken. And taking those natural clues that were already baked into her character, and bringing them to a finer and more specific point. So we just backed into thinking, “Okay, is she here maybe because she doesn’t know why she’s here, is it okay that she doesn’t know why she’s here, is it part of the sort of bigger quest for identity? And if it is, how would that play out?”
This season intentionally challenged viewers even more than usual. What went into the idea to do a full departure episode as the season finale, and another one where none of the other leads appear?
I think the honest truth is that this episode wasn’t maybe intentionally supposed to be the finale. I don’t know if we knew exactly where we would slot it, but I do feel like it is a strong finale. Because on more of an abstract level, Van’s journey is sort of what we’re interrogating the entire season, right? Like this idea of identity and who are you and who are you outside of your home, when you go to Europe? Obviously Alfred is having a bit of this conversation as well in the cookie episode, when he’s high and his mother’s voice said ‘who are you and who do you surround yourself with?’
And then on the bottle episodes, we’re also interrogating whiteness and what does it mean to be white in America. And how does racism touch us all within that identity? So I think in that way, this ending with Van, it’s her grappling with who am I? She’s asking the question at the end like, “Who am I?” I think a lot of the season does that as well.
You guys have had a lot of really fun, insane cameos this season, but I think Alexander Skarsgard might take the cake. Was that on the page or did you just slot in ”cool celebrity” and then look to see who was available?
First of all, he’s amazing. Every time I see the episode, I think he’s so funny and weird and did everything right. I’m sure he was on a short list that we had.
But we were so lucky to get him and he really dove in there and really seemed to have fun with it. I feel like he understood what we were doing, do you know what I mean? Like the ability to make fun of yourself and surrender to the surrealism or weird world that the Atlanta universe created. I think he understands that it is like a bizarro version of himself and he did such a great job.
Who decided that he should be blasting Ashanti?
Donald and I had a list of so many songs that I think would’ve worked perfectly. I think one song was written in the script that we weren’t able to get due to a rights issue. And so we just went back and forth with a bunch of songs and that was one of them and I think it’s perfect.