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Donald Glover says he struggled with imposter syndrome working on '30 Rock'

In an interview with GQ, Glover recalls being told he was hired as part of a diversity initiative and how that shook his confidence.
Donald Glover at the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Donald Glover at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 12.Amy Sussman / Getty Images

Actor, rapper, comedian and writer Donald Glover opened up about struggling with imposter syndrome early in his career in a new interview with GQ.

Glover, 39, discussed landing his first writing job in 2006 on the NBC comedy "30 Rock." Glover said Tina Fey, the show's star and creator, told him that he was a diversity hire. NBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

Fey's comments contributed to the rising star's imposter syndrome, he said. Imposter syndrome is a person's inability to believe that success has been legitimately achieved, according to Psychology Today.

“There is no animosity between us or anything like that, but [Tina Fey] said it herself. ... It was a diversity thing,” Glover said.

Glover said he and the TV writer Kenya Barris, the creator of “Blackish,” were the final two candidates for the position. Glover eventually won the spot, not realizing he had been competing against Barris.

"I didn’t know it was between me and him until later. He hit me one day and he was like, ‘I hated you for years!’" Glover recalled.

Once he was at the show, he said, he often felt out of place.

"It definitely didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there," he told GQ. "I used to have stress dreams every night where I was doing cartwheels on the top of a New York skyscraper with the other writers watching me."

The interview was not Glover's first time discussing his insecurities around being hired through a diversity initiative. In 2018, he opened up about his imposter syndrome in an interview with The New Yorker.

"I wondered, 'Am I being hired just because I’m Black?'" he said.

The New Yorker wrote that Fey, when she was asked whether Glover was indeed hired because he's Black, said that "the answer was in large part yes; she admired Glover’s talent but hired him because funds from NBC’s Diversity Initiative 'made him free.'"

Despite Glover's anxieties, Tracey Morgan, one of the stars of "30 Rock," praised his writing and comedy prowess.

"When I first read his writing during '30 Rock,' I was like, ‘He’s got it,’" Morgan told GQ. "The things he wrote for me made me very funny."

Glover has gone on to have a successful acting and writing career in the television industry, as well as an award-winning music career.

He has released four studio albums and won five Grammys under his rap alias, Childish Gambino. He also starred on the comedy series "Community" and created, wrote and starred in the hit dark comedy "Atlanta." He won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for "Atlanta."

Glover and Fey did not immediately respond to requests for comment. NBC also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.