Donald Glover will be an Emmy contender this year after all. With “Atlanta” on hiatus, the superstar wasn’t expected to be in the running for an award in 2019 — until Amazon grabbed the rights to “Guava Island,” the musical film he shot with Rihanna.
Because “Guava Island” will premiere on Amazon Prime Video first, that makes the film eligible for an Emmy — and insiders at the streamer say that they expect be submitting it for outstanding variety special (pre-recorded), in addition to writing, directing, and multiple below-the-line categories, all in the variety special field.
Glover’s frequent collaborator Hiro Murai directed “Guava Island” in Cuba, while Stephen Glover wrote the film (based on a story by Royalty). Murai, of course, is a co-executive producer on “Atlanta” and has directed multiple episodes (starting with the pilot), in addition to videos such as Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” while Stephen Glover is an executive producer and writer on the FX hit.
The “Guava Island” team has already paid a visit to Emmy Island as well. Donald Glover has been nominated nine times for an Emmy and has won twice: In 2017, he won for outstanding lead actor in a comedy, and for outstanding directing in a comedy. Meanwhile, last year Murai was nominated for an Emmy as director of the standout episode “Teddy Perkins,” while Stephen Glover was nominated in 2017 for the episode “Streets on Lock.”
New Regency is the studio on the film, which is produced by Donald Glover, Fam Udeorji, and Carmen Cuba. Executive producers include Stephen Glover, Murai, and Ibra Ake.
Amazon said it secured exclusive distribution rights to “Guava Island” in “a competitive bidding situation” while it was still in post-production. Besides Glover and Rihanna, the film also features Nonso Anozie and Letitia Wright.
“We are so proud to be able to amplify Donald and Hiro’s vision and share this compelling story with our Prime subscribers across the globe,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios, in announcing the acquisition this week.
“Guava Island” was set to premiere on Thursday night at the Coachella Music Festival, where Glover, as Childish Gambino, will headline on Friday. The special will screen in a specially constructed theater throughout the festival, and launches at 12:01 a.m. PT on Saturday morning on Amazon’s website, where it will stream for free until 6 p.m. After that, it will only be available to Amazon Prime Video subscribers.
Coincidentally, Glover and “Guava Island” will compete for an Emmy against another musical star whose special has a Coachella connection. Next week, Netflix is set to launch “Homecoming,” a film from Beyonce that chronicles her 2018 Coachella performance that paid tribute to historically black colleges and universities. Like “Guava Island,” “Homecoming” will compete in the outstanding variety special (pre-recorded) race, as well as other variety special categories.
Both “Guava Island” and “Homecoming” are real nomination contenders, just as Beyonce’s previous film (“Lemonade,” first seen on HBO), landed a nod in 2016. Netflix’s “Dave Chapelle: Equanimity” won the category in 2018, but music has led the category in two of the three previous years, thanks to James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke franchise. Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2017” won in 2017, while “The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special” won in 2016. Corden will compete in the variety special (pre-recorded) category this year with “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live from Liverpool,” a special from last August featuring the host’s “Carpool Karaoke” stint with Paul McCartney.
According to insiders, Amazon is still mulling which below-the-line categories “Guava Island” will compete in, including for music. The outstanding original music and lyrics category, for example, could be a possibility if original songs were created specifically for the film.
As for the performers, that’s where it gets tricky. Glover will be nominated as a producer, but it’s unclear whether Rihanna could be included. Per the TV Academy rules, “The principal host for variety series and the principal host/performer for variety specials are eligible to be entered with the program categories. Secondary performers are not eligible.” Perhaps Rihanna could be included with the program entry, since Glover is already included. But the award for Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program was retired after the 2008 ceremony.