Welcome back class for sophomore year of ABC’s smash hit, Abbott Elementary. The series about a public school in Philadelphia took the world by storm, garnering both critical and viewer praise. While a comedy, Abbott touches upon the very serious challenges facing the educational system, doing so through colorful characters, laugh out loud humor, and lot of heart. They seem to have figured out the right equation – Abbott not only grabbed our heart strings, it also snagged two trophies at this year’s Emmys.
Series creator, executive producer, and star, Quinta Brunson (Janine) took home the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph (Barbara) for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Their wins were easily two of the most memorable moments during the ceremony. Brunson and Ralph were recently part of a panel to discuss the second season during ABC’s 2022 TCA Summer Press Tour. They spoke about the nation’s teaching crisis, the challenges of a second season, and their reactions to the Emmy wins.
Brunson spoke to how the writers approach such a serious topic without losing the comedy, “The focus in our writers’ room is always to start with comedy first. And if it is not something that we can truly bring humor to or that has humor in it innately that is to be mined out for our show, then we try to stay away from it.”
“So we don’t really begin with feeling a responsibility to portray the teacher crisis. What we do is start with the reality of our situations. We just go ‘What does a school like Abbott deal with from the day-to-day?’ And naturally, things like that come into play,” continued Brunson. “The more we focus on our characters and the four walls we have at Abbott, the more we wind up talking about these major issues.”
After a successful first season, following it up with a longer second season (22 episodes instead of 13) presents its own unique challenges. “The first season was much easier to do because we got to film and edit and write the majority of the season before it even went to air,” explained Brunson. “We really got to be in this bubble and create this wonderful first season of television. I think the lesson we learned was to do the exact same thing again. It is harder for our cast. They are getting pulled in many directions for press and stuff like that. But the writers’ room is trying to stay focused, hone in, and continue to write the show that we know and love.”
Even though there’s work to be done the cast did not miss out an opportunity to celebrate their Emmy wins. Ralph, for one, has been taking it all in, “It has been just unbelievable,” she exclaimed. “It has been unbelievable. And it continues to be so. It is really — it’s been very special. Like nothing I have ever, ever experienced before. Ever.” When asked if it was worth the wait, her exuberant response, “Hell, yeah!”
Chris Perfetti who plays Jacob Hill on the series share her excitement. Perfetti explained what it was like going back to work on set after the wins, “Everybody showed up riding this wave of love. We were tired, but it was the greatest feeling in the world to get back,” he declared. “It was honestly the perfect way to come down after that experience. It was amazing. There is nowhere else I want to be. I was, like, dying to come back to work, even though my brain was on fire.
“We got to celebrate with the crew too. That was great,” added Tyler James Williams. “They got a chance to celebrate as well because this is just as much their win as ours.”
The bell just rang! Grab your seat, get your pencils out, class is about to begin. Abbott Elementary returns to ABC for a much anticipated season on its new night, tonight, Wednesday, September 21.
(Watch below to see stars Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams discuss their characters in season two)