‘Abbott Elementary’ may take place at a fictional school, but the hit television show’s creators are making a very real difference.
ABC’s Emmy Award winning show focuses on Abbott Elementary, a fictional, predominantly Black school in West Philadelphia. Writer, actor and show-runner Quinta Brunson’s character, Janine Teagues, acts a second-grade teacher in a story based on her mother’s real life experience teaching in the city’s woefully underfunded public school system.
Last week Brunson took home the coveted Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, who plays Barbara Howard, won Outstanding Supporting Actress.
On Wednesday Sept. 21, ‘Abbott Elementary’ returns for its highly anticipated second season, a season that Brunson told Variety in a post-Emmy Awards interview won’t reinvent the wheel.
“The wheel works,” said Brunson. “I’d just like to give it some spinning rims… It feels like I’m adding another layer to these rich characters that I love so much. But I don’t want to be out of the school that much. I want to stay in these hallways, so people feel at home when they come watch.”
Brunson’s Philly-based school series is happily sticking to its warmth, emotionalism and its laughs in its second season.
“This is just a workplace comedy, and that’s it,” Brunson continued. “And I know we do a lot, and we have moments that make people teary-eyed, but the intention is to just make a comedy. The show is inherently political because it’s about a public school in West Philadelphia with predominantly Black children and predominantly Black teachers. But we’ll keep figuring out our place in that world. And as far as people building ownership over the show, I think that’s just what is going to happen when people love something a lot. There’s nothing I can do about it. And that’s OK.”
The crew and creatives of ‘Abbott Elementary’ have been thinking beyond the big screen, and continue to invest in the Philly community they have grown to love. Along with its producers, Warner Bros. TV and ABC, a portion of the show’s Emmy campaign funds were used to purchase much-needed supplies for schools in need, predominantly those serving children of color.
“We chose to put the marketing money toward supplies for teachers,” Brunson told NPR’s “Fresh Air” radio program back in March. “It’s about being able to make those kinds of decisions that really excite me, things that can really materially help people.”
Adding to how advocacy and outreach is yet another face of ‘Abbott Elementary’, Brunson told Variety that, like what she heard from her mother, such activism “all comes from us just trying to drive our characters, trying to bring the realism of the situation into [their stories],” stated Brunson. “So it’s amazing that in doing that, we get to highlight what teachers go through, what their issues are. Sometimes I don’t see the impact until I hear it.”
As for Season 2 of the award-winning comedy, look for Abbott Elementary to figure out how to best use the great luck given to their school at the end of Season 1, while discovering how better funded charter schools in their area deal. It’s not often pretty, but it is always hilarious and warm.
“It was so exciting that the first season was so well received by fans, and critically acclaimed,” said Brunson. “But I want us to be able to keep growing.”