Donald Glover Shares the Advice He Gave Malia Obama While Mentoring Her: 'She Will Only Get to Do This Once'

The 'Swarm' co-creator speaks to 'GQ' about his production company, wanting diversity for media and mentoring Malia Obama.

Donald Glover is stepping into a new era of his career, one where he helps foster "the freshest entertainment and art" with Gilga, his new production company/incubator/cultural library. 

In an interview for GQ's first-ever Global Creativity Awards issue, Glover explains that the company is named after Gilgamesh, the mythic Mesopotamian hero who angered the gods. "Gilga is like Erewhon for culture," the 39-year-old tells the outlet, referring to the high-end California supermarket. "I want to work with the best people in every medium. To work toward sustainable output. The culture we're getting from our phones is not high quality. It can be really good sometimes. And fun. But not necessarily high quality. Gilga is the filter for all of that." 

The filmmaker shares that one of Gilga's first projects is a short film created by Malia Obama, whom Glover has been mentoring. 

"The first thing we did was talk about the fact that she will only get to do this once," he reveals. "You're [Barack] Obama's daughter. So if you make a bad film, it will follow you around."

It isn't the first time Glover and Obama worked on a project together -- the former first daughter made her TV writing debut on Glover and Janine Nabers' Prime Video series, Swarm

After first interning on the set of Girls and then working as a production assistant on the Halle Berry series Extant, Obama was recruited by Glover to be a staff writer on Swarm, which also included Stephen Glover, Ibra Ake, Jamal Olori, Kara Brown and Karen Joseph Adcock in the writers' room. 

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The show follows a young woman named Dre (Dominique Fishback), who goes on an increasingly violent journey following an unexpected trauma involving her sister, Marissa (Chloe Bailey), as she tries to get closer to her idol, the Houston-born singer Ni'Jah. 

And Obama's episode does not disappoint, with Nabers, who serves as the series showrunner, telling ET that "['Girl, Bye'] is probably one of the wildest episodes." She adds, "I think it's going to surprise a lot of people. It's pretty dope. I'm really proud of it." 

"Girl, Bye," which features a teleplay co-written by Nabers and Obama based on a story by Nabers and Ake, comes just past the halfway point as the wildly fascinating series continues to become more and more twisted with each one of Dre's encounters with people that come across her path.   

"Some of her pitches were wild as hell, and they were just so good and so funny," Nabers said of the 24-year-old former first daughter. "She's an incredible writer. She brought a lot to the table… She's really, really dedicated to her craft."

"She's just, like, an amazingly talented person," Glover told Vanity Fair of Obama last year, adding that "she's really focused, and she's working really hard." Not only that, but he was in awe of her work. "I feel like she's just somebody who's gonna have really good things coming soon... Her writing style is great," he said. 

"It was like a family," Nabers said to ET, referring to how Obama "just folded into [the group]." The showrunner adds, "I'm really excited for everyone to get to know her work, and the work of the writers on a show." 

Obama also made an impression on Fishback and Bailey, both of whom gushed about working with her on set. "It was nice to know that she was going to be on it and that we had different voices and different generations involved in making the show," Fishback said, adding, "It was pretty cool to meet her. I think she's dope." 

For Bailey, the series marked a reunion of sorts. "It was always so fun and exciting getting to run into Malia and Sasha years prior… So, having that relationship with Mrs. Obama and getting to meet her daughters, I was always so honored and they always felt like my family in my head," the singer-actress said. 

"So, getting to see Malia now, us both growing into who we are as young women and making our own mark, her as an incredible writer and me making my mark as an entertainer and an actress, it was really fun," Bailey beamed. "I was just so excited when I actually got to see her on set. I'm just so proud of her."