Interview: Lisa Ann Walter on Melissa’s Italian Roots and the Spirit of ‘Abbott Elementary’

Abbott Elementary is easily one of the best success stories of network television in recent history, the only broadcast series to be nominated for a top prize at the Emmys last year and now wrapping up a great second season ahead of its third round coming soon. Among its talented cast is Lisa Ann Walter, who plays the very distinctively Italian Melissa Schemmenti.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Walter about putting some of her own background into the character:

“I don’t have the accent or anything, that’s acting. But I am Sicilian, so a fun part about it is that I get to throw in little Sicilian phrases and bad words sometimes. I let them catch it whether it’s a bad word or not, they don’t always know. I think they’re onto me though. I said something, and they were like, no, I don’t think you can say that. Oh, because of the one last week? I try to slide some past them. Nobody will know. I use my cousins’ real names, my Sicilian cousins, I put them in the show all the time.”

She also expressed her enthusiasm for Melissa’s family life:

“I love the family stuff because obviously her family is all various levels of shady. That part I can’t talk about in terms of my life because there’s omerta, but I like the idea of seeing the people in her family that aren’t necessarily the connected ones, but just the big grandmas and the sketchy cousins and the other sister that we haven’t met. Maybe she’s a super-Christian, who knows? You just want to meet people from these characters’ lives and see what created these people.”

Watch the full conversation below.

The season two finale of Abbott Elementary premieres tonight on ABC and the first two seasons are available to stream on Hulu.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Written by Abe Friedtanzer

Awards Radar Podcast #133: Joey Explains His Year in Advance Predictions to Myles and Steve, Plus ‘Evil Dead Rise’ and ‘Renfield’ Chatter

Quentin Tarantino to Present “Secret Screening” at Cannes