‘Abbott Elementary’ Creator Quinta Brunson Discusses ABC’s New Workplace Comedy

Abbott Elementary Cast
Tyler James Williams, Chris Perfetti, Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Lisa Ann Walter in ‘Abbott Elementary’ (ABC/Prashant Gupta)

ABC’s new workplace comedy Abbott Elementary takes viewers behind-the-scenes of a fictional Philadelphia public school in the same way The Office offered a glimpse into the lives of employees at a paper company in Scranton. Series creator and executive producer Quinta Brunson’s a huge fan of the mockumentary genre and is using the format to provide an up-close-and-personal look into the world of underpaid, overworked, and all-together awesome teachers.

During ABC’s midseason press conference, Brunson – who also stars as one of Abbott Elementary‘s central characters – revealed two of her favorite comedies are The Office and Parks and Rec. “I was so impressed with what they did. What I love the most about the format is it gives an opportunity for the audience to build a different relationship with the characters. I think teachers deserve that,” said Brunson. “I had seen other teacher shows and it’s a lens on them that often can make them seem one-dimensional, and they are the least one dimensional people there are. It’s the least one-dimensional job. And I said if these people could talk to camera and talk about their reasoning for doing this job, the reasonings for doing it how they do it, the reasonings for jumping through hoops to get these things done, I knew that would build a different relationship with the audience. I thought that was important as it pertains to educators in America.”

Brunson added, “For a mockumentary show to work, in my opinion, you have to have some type of veil. You have to [have] something to go behind. And I felt like public schools deserved to have that veil gone behind so people can see how much these people actually do.”

ABC’s official synopsis of Abbott Elementary describes the half-hour comedy as “following a group of dedicated, passionate teachers — and a slightly tone-deaf principal — as they navigate the Philadelphia public school system. Despite the odds stacked against them, they are determined to help their students succeed in life, and though these incredible public servants may be outnumbered and underfunded, they love what they do — even if they don’t love the school district’s less-than-stellar attitude toward educating children.”

Covid-19, school shootings, job burnout…teachers are on the front line dealing with incredible challenges on a daily basis. Brunson, whose mother was a teacher, understands the commitment and dedication it takes for teachers to show up to work. However, Brunson’s hoping to entertain with lighter topics and season one focuses more on human, everyday issues. “[…] These people are going to do the job. Nothing can stop them. They know all the systemic issues that are there, but at the end of the day they have to teach your kid how to read,” said Brunson. “I think that’s what was really important about this is giving people a behind-the-scenes look at what teachers really do through humor and heart, and straight-up comedy. I mean, I think we’ve made a funny show because we want people to be at Abbott with our teachers.”

Joining Quinta Brunson in front of the camera for the first season are Tyler James Williams as Gregory Eddie, Janelle James as Ava Coleman, Chris Perfetti as Jacob Hill, Lisa Ann Walter as Melissa Schemmenti, and Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara Howard. Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker of Delicious Non-Sequitur Productions executive produce along with and Randall Einhorn.

Abbott Elementary will premiere on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 at 9:30pm ET/PT. The series moves to its regular 9:00pm time slot on Tuesday, January 4, 2021.