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Interview: Showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker on the Journey to ‘Abbott Elementary’ and Their Past Non-Hits

(ABC/Prashant Gupta)

Abbott Elementary is easily one of the best success stories of this past season, the only broadcast network series to be nominated for a top prize at the Emmys, with four of its actors along for the ride as part of its seven-nominated haul. Among those bids are executive producers and co-showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker, who have a history of working together. 

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Halpern and Schumacker about collaborating with creator and star Quinta Brunson, as well as a number of past shows they worked on which didn’t end up living all that long, like Powerless and How to be a Gentleman. On meeting Quinta Brunson, Halpern recounted a humorous misconception:

“We’d done a pilot for the CW in 2018, and we cast Quinta Brunson in that pilot. She came in, she auditioned, and she was amazing. Then we were like, oh my god, we discovered this amazing actor, and then everyone who was under thirty was like, no, she’s got a really big following. You didn’t discover anyone. But we loved her, and the pilot turned out shitty, but Quinta was amazing in it. It wasn’t her fault or any of the performers. So then, after the pilot was done and didn’t get picked up, we were like, hey, we’d love to do something with you. We know you’re a writer and a performer. If you ever want to do something that we’d executive produce and guide you through the process, let us know.”

Schumacker highlighted the significance of seeking out a broadcast network:

“From the beginning, Quinta was like, it’s really important to me to do this as a broadcast show. Because of the reach, because it’s free. And this is also something that I think, I speaking for Quinta, this is something for all ages, essentially. There are no limitations in terms of the audience, the concept, it’s kind of for everybody. It made a lot of sense to go to ABC, among other places.”

Listen to the full conversation below!

Season one of Abbott Elementary is available to stream on Hulu. Season two premieres September 21st on ABC.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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