As the final season of the Hulu series Atlanta, came to an end, fans have been left intrigued and puzzled as to if Thomas Ronald Washington, played by actor Eric Berryman, was based on an actual person or just fictional. Karen Joseph Adcock and Francesca Sloane, the writers of the Atlanta episode in which Washington appears, created a character depicting the role of a black CEO of the Walt Disney Studios.

The final episode of the TV series was immensely creative and is currently being debated by fans as the greatest episode ever regarding the series. Some fans have even gone ahead to refer to it as one of the best things to happen to TV in recent times. Taking a peek at the episode, their argument is not far-fetched.

The real question, however, remains: is Thomas Ronald Washington a real person depicted as a TV character or just someone’s imaginative creation? The answers you seek would be detailed in this article, so stay tuned!

Who is Thomas Ronald Washington?

The fourth season of the Hulu award-winning television series, Atlanta, features the fictional character, Thomas Ronald Washington. In 1992, Thomas Washington, a young black animator, allegedly received an oversight appointment as Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, an American multinational, mass media and entertainment conglomerate.

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According to the series, The Walt Disney Company hired Washington as its new CEO following the 1992 Los Angeles riots. As a young boy, Washington was interested in animation. He attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, intending to work for Disney.

The board of directors of Disney agreed to install Tom Washington as CEO after the temporary CEO passed away during the 1992 riots. But Thomas Ronald Washington ended up being the CEO by accident because of the similarity in the names of the favoured candidate and the company’s eventual CEO.

The board was compelled to keep Washington, despite its displeasure with the choice. In addition to wondering why Mickey Mouse would keep Pluto as a pet when Goofy is also a dog, Washington emphasised other changes within the corporation.

Is Thomas Ronald Washington real?

Although there have been questions regarding the authenticity of the original narrative behind Atlanta‘s closing episode entitled: “The Goof Who Sat By the Door,” some social media users have even argued that the show may be based on Floyd Norman, one of Disney’s first black animators.

The Disney Company has never appointed a black CEO, confirming that the story is fictitious. Norman, the company’s first African-American animator, was most likely an inspiration for the writers of the series. Norman claims that he was shielded from racism as a child in Santa Barbara, California. Norman chose not to retire and is still employed as a creative at Disney at the age of 87.

Therefore, Thomas Washington is a fictional character and not an actual person.

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Story of Thomas Ronald Washington

The narrative of the final episode of Atlanta centres on Thomas Washington’s goal to create “the blackest movie of all time,” one that would address all issues relating to African-American culture. He chose A Goofy Movie as the project, even using his son, Maxwell, as the inspiration for the character “Max Goof”.

The board of The Walt Disney Company had intended to choose a white guy named Tom Washington for the position. However, owing to a miscommunication, they chose Thomas Washington. To address all facets of African-American culture, Washington set out to make “the blackest movie of all time”.

As the film’s production went on, Washington started verbally abusing his wife and kid, which led to their divorce. The Walt Disney Company began to doubt Washington’s ability to lead, especially as he began to display characteristics of Goofy, such as his chuckle. He declined the company’s offer of $75 million to end his employment. 

The original ending of A Goofy Movie, which depicted Goofy and Max facing police violence at a traffic stop for straying into the chair of civil rights activist/radical, Huey P. Newton, as a message to black audiences, was judged inappropriate and a new scene was created to replace the controversial one.

Thomas Ronald Washington

Washington disappeared in 1995 after witnessing Disney’s hierarchy alter his intended film’s conclusion. When asked if they think that Washington’s death was an accident, several employees admit that they did not. It is also revealed that there is a tape that contains the last footage that was ever recorded of Washington before he passed away. Washington bemoaned the movie’s state and his plans for finishing it in the recording. Washington departed the company after the showcase of the film because he was dissatisfied that his initial idea had been abandoned. 

In 1995, Washington’s car was located in the same lake where he had taken his kid fishing, but his corpse was never recovered. By saying that he was able to create “the blackest movie of all time,” his widow concludes the series, stating that his influence may still be felt to this day.


The story of Thomas Washington is Atlanta‘s final episode and the show’s 39th overall. It was also the final episode that Donald Glover directed. Executive producers Francesca Sloane and Karen Joseph Adcock wrote the script. It premiered on October 27, 2022, on FX in the US.

It was a documentary-style episode but delivered comically. None of the critical characters of the series is shown in this episode. The title and narrative heavily referenced Sam Greenlee’s book. The Spook Who Sat by the Door and its cinematic adaptation.

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