Caution: don't read if you haven't watched Atlanta's most recent episode, "Woods."

Atlanta's second season has been wilder, funnier and creepier than anyone could've ever predicted -- often delighting in letting viewers interpret things however they want, or vaguely connecting dots that may or may not be there at all. But Episode 8, "Woods," was different. In it, Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) is grieving on the anniversary of his mother's death and then, after a robbery that nearly kills him, lost in woods having an otherworldly experience that leads to a personal breakthrough. "Woods" is crystal clear in the ways it correlates Alfred's grief and career ambiguity to the idea of meandering through a spooky forest, but it mirrored what was happening to Henry off screen too. Just as production wrapped on Season 1, Henry's mother died in a car accident; the devastating loss came just as his career shot into the stratosphere, leaving him little time to grieve his loss. TV Guide caught up with him between performances of Lobby Hero in New York to talk about his work in "Woods," -- a stunning performance that he says brought him some measure of peace.

How'd this episode come together?
Henry: I think it came...we were all together in the first season when I went through the loss of my mother. Stefani Robinson, who wrote this episode -- she's truly one of my best friends. She was championing me to go through the experience. The parallels were the same. This season delves into backstory of who all the characters are, where they came from -- the characters as people. Alfred's family means to much to him, as you saw in the beginning of the season with his uncle. They decided to write this episode about Alfred having to confront this loss in a way -- to really deal with it. It was something I did not know was being written. I remember asking Hiro [Murai, director], "Is there an episode about my mother?" I said, 'All I ask is that you guys bear with me.' But there was so much care shown to me in filming -- from hair and makeup to the A.Ds., everyone knew what I was about to confront. It was very instrumental in my healing. At the time (of the accident) I didn't really get to grieve; (the episode) was the hardest thing I ever did. Alfred is in this place, in the woods...he can't understand how his environment shifted. That's what loss feels like. You're wandering in the woods; it seems like there isn't anyone there to help me. Stephanie challenged me to confront that. She saved my life. It was a time that I was very uncertain about a lot of things. There are times you want to give up. [This episode] was something I knew I had to do. I wanted to show the two sides of Alfred: He's vulnerable, he's scared, he's in pain. I just wanted to make sure the world knew how that felt. It was terrifying. I was exposing a part of my heart I didn't think I was ready to show.

What was it like actually filming? Did you cry?
Henry: I was silent a lot. I have to give a big thanks to the woman who played my mother. I told them, 'If I hear her in the beginning, I can't see her. I can't connect with her until we're done.' People made sure I never ran into her. I had to feel that -- feeling somebody but to never see them. That's what i feels like [losing a loved one.] Even the actor playing the homeless man didn't know what was going on. I told him afterwards, 'Just so you know Alfred's mother is dead, and so is mine.' The result is really therapeutic. (The loss) is something that looms over you. It never goes away. Mourning a person you love there's no way to get out, no escape no matter where you turn. It's always there.

Everyone can see I'm hurting, I'm scared. It's something that's constantly there, and I think the woods is the best metaphor for that. I know I'm not the only person who lost his lost mother. I was hoping that this episode shows others that they're not alone, and aid in someone's healing. I can't thank them enough for dedicating the episode to my mother. I really did this episode for my family: my sister and nephews...and there are parallels. On the outside he's going through all this fame and recognition, but dealing with something deeper. After she passed I never had a chance to mourn. The episode really allowed me to confront that and I will spend the rest of my life thanking (the team).

That homeless man in the woods. Was he real?
Henry: I can't answer that. I really can't explain the course of that day. It takes place in just a day...I just knew the situations were very much real. I just remember when I got jumped, I'm alone in the woods and I can't get out. I'm really wandering around in the dark, and all I could hear in my mind was voices...when you start to navigate (grief) like that way like you're hallucinating, hearing things, not tending to your own wounds. No one would find me -- everything he was saying was so true, 'You better stand up and make a decision,' it feels like that man, it's hard to convey in interviews. Nobody is really walking with you. There's' no understanding grief and loss -- what to do next. That's just how it be sometimes. Yet still, you have to get up and go forth and do things. I still have a play to do tonight. The healing process. For me, part of it is showing there's more to Paper Boi than what's on the outside.

At the end, Paper Boi is bloodied and bruised, yet he takes time to snap a pic with a young white fan, signaling that he's progressing instead of stagnating. What's next for this new Paper Boi?
Henry: It's not so much a about new self -- it's more so about how to recognize what should and shouldn't be there. He's really going to discover his stance on what he needs in order to prosper. Once you go through something like he went through that night, you are changed whether you want to or not. Change is inevitable -- you either change or you perish, that is what he's gonna realize.

This sounds like he's going to fire Earn as his manager. How's that going to play out?
Henry: I can't talk about that, sorry. But what happens if you change before others do? You can't just sit there. I think that's what he realizes now -- he knows you have to put up or shut up, accept what's going on or continue to deny. I don't think he has a choice anymore about the change coming his way. In the end I hope he makes it and I hope that people see that he's trying. There's a lot to lose when you gain a lot.

We have to talk about the Teddy Perkins episode. I'm assuming you were on set that day... what was your reaction to seeing Donald like that?
Henry: I wasn't there. I was have no idea who that is. I have no clue who that is. I read the script...they told me there's a dude name Teddy Perks. I really have no inkling at all. Who is this person? I was never on set with them. That was Keith's episode; I didn't want to get in the way. I have no f***ing clue.

But you've seen the episode, surely. What was your reaction to it?
Henry: I f***ing freaked out. Like, 'This is crazy.' It also says a lot. Everything Teddy is saying is real. I loved it. I thought it was a great episode. I had no idea where it was going.

Yeah. That's one of the things I love about Atlanta but also makes me kind of anxious. I literally have no idea what's about to happen once the episode starts. Are you like that too, in the creative process?
Henry: Yeah. With "Helen" I had no clue that was going to down like that. I was rooting for Van, and Alfred and Van dont really f**k with each other like that. There's a lot of twists and turns I didn't know were coming this season until we got there. But Teddy Perkins, I thought it was really great.

Have you been seeing the theories on the Internet about how everything is connected? Henry: I haven't really.

Well, there's one that's really great, which attempts to explain how Robbin' Season is connected, from a guy on Twitter Mike Taddow. He says that, everyone is robbed of something: in Episode 3 Earn and Van are robbed of their dignity by racism; in Episode 4, they rob each other of a future together and in "Barbershop" Bibby robs everyone of time, honesty, lumber and trust. Does that sound right?
Henry: Damn. That's amazing. That's really...damn. The internet is amazing. We all get robbed at one point. I won't say much more.

He had a great question too: What's the most significant thing robbed in Robbin' Season?
Henry: I can't say. There's a lot more robbin' to do.

I have another theory I wanted to run by you -- this one from my best friend Nathan Hale Williams; he theorized that Paper Boi and Darius are actually in a relationship. Darius is always wearing an apron, and serving him, and he's seemed very displeased with Paper Boi's girlfriends. And they were having a quarrel in the first episode that's still not explained -- which could've been a lovers spat. Could that be true? Are they in love with each other?
Henry: (He laughs heartily.) That's brilliant. (He laughs some more.) That is brilliant.

Will we find out why they were fighting?
Henry: I can't tell you that either.

Fine. Well, can you tell me at least what have discussions about Season 3 been like?
Henry: Yes and no. There's a little more of Season 2 left but trust and believe when it comes back it'll come back in a different way than before. Or maybe not. We're just trying to get through this season. But whatever it does, it's going to leave a mark on you. That's what I'm hoping.

Atlanta airs Thursdays at 10/9c on FX.

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