'Abbott Elementary' Stars Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph And More Tease The New Lessons Learned In Season 2's School Year
Photo Credit: ABC
Interviews , Television

'Abbott Elementary' Stars Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph And More Tease The New Lessons Learned In Season 2's School Year

The cast of Abbott Elementary gave us key details about what the show is headed for in season 2, which debuts this week.

When talent meets opportunity, it catapults the journey of the unstoppable success that lies ahead. In less than a year since premiering, the show has seen an overflow of wins. 

The longwinded list includes being a workplace comedy hit, breaking records on ABC, and dominating in award season. The ultimate flex of them all is Quinta Brunson recently bringing home her first Emmy for “Writing for a Comedy Series” for the show’s pilot episode. 

The Emmy-winning series is transforming the TV industry right before our eyes, and things are only just heating up.

Announced back in August, season 2 of Abbott Elementary is in full effect. As the teachers make their grand return to their classrooms, its first episode — “Development Day” — sets the tone for how Janine, Barbara, Ava, Gregory, Melissa, and Jacob will each grow in their own right. The episode is written by Brunson and directed by Randall Einhorn.

After her breakup in the season 1 finale, Janine finds herself on a road of ups and downs during the process of both healing and adjusting. 

Brunson believes that the reality of the dysfunction that comes with balancing one’s work and personal life will be extremely relatable for the show’s audience.

“I think that teaching is such a huge job. And people used to always tell me they didn’t know where their teachers went after school was over. They just thought teachers stayed there. But I had a mother who was a teacher and I knew how much life happened to my mom outside of work,” Brunson shared with Shadow and Act during the show’s recent press day. “I think that’s something that everyone can relate to. Our lives are happening. Something is happening in our lives that we just put to the side while we’re doing our jobs. I think that Janine is dealing with that hard thing where it’s like ‘I can’t put the thing to the side. I’m trying to so hard, but it’s affecting my work day.’ And it sucks.”

She continued, “Unfortunately, I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that. Having your personal life show up in work. We’ve seen it with Janine before, but we haven’t seen it in this version. She wants to start this year off on the right foot. She wants to seem as though she has it all together. She thinks she’s done a good job of it and has it all under control. But it all comes crashing down on her in a not fun way.”

Season 2 has 22 episodes, which means it’s set to tackle even more topics for this go-round.

According to Emmy award winner Sheryl Lee Ralph (Barbara) and Lisa Ann Walter (Melissa), fans can expect the show to take on tough subject matter in its signature clever, funny way that you don’t see coming — which will open a dialogue for viewers.

“I love the fact that we are an intergenerational series — older people, younger people,” Ralph told us. “They come together to watch this show. There is an episode coming up where words can mean different things to different people. And it’s one thing when it’s on a shirt. It’s a whole ‘nother thing when it’s on your body. It’s a whole ‘nother thing when it’s in your mouth. And we end up having a come-to-sweet baby Jesus moment about the words that are written and coming out of your mouth. It’s very enlightening and who ends up learning the most, that’s the good part.”

“It’s really great about how the writers, executive producers — in particular obviously Quinta — tackle different subject matter and why I wanted to do this show is that it’s never ham-fisted,” Walter chimed in.  ‘And that’s the lesson we learned at the end of 22 minutes.’ Nothing is wrapped up in a bow. Usually, it’s multi-points to whatever it is. There is something about schools in particular that I think the audiences will absolutely love because it’s a subject matter that is a big national discussion. It’s going to be something that takes over a big part of the season.”

As the season rolls out, the new storylines will open the door for the Abbott teachers to undergo growth that wasn’t seen in the previous season.

Chris Perfetti (Jacob) says that changes in dynamics at the school can be seen in the turns that Janine and Jacob experience in their friendship. 

“I think our show thrives on disconnect and conflict,” he said. “It’s a recipe for humor. I think there will be moments where Janine and Jacob, who are usually on the same page about most things, will fall out of sync. But I think that’s actually a good thing. I think people will want to see that. I think one of the brilliant things that Quinta has done is she’s created six very different characters and so we’re going to see every side of them and we’re going to see what any combination of a relationship would look like.”

As for Ava, Janelle James implies in our interview that the audience will have to stay tuned for what character development will possibly be seen from her end.

What she’s sure of, for now, is that the principal is still unapologetically herself.

“We’ve only shot six episodes so far and I don’t know what’s happening as we go forward,” James admitted. “As far as the top six, it’s more Ava all the time being her usual fabulous self.”

Outside of the characters' development, the show has served as a career changing experience for each of the actors. With only season 1 under their belt, the sky is truly the limit for what to come in the near future.

“As an actor, I’m always looking to grow,” William Stanford Davis expressed, who is now a series regular as Mr. Johnson. “I’m looking to be better tomorrow than I was today. I’m looking to be a generous actor and working with this crew and ensemble has really enabled me. I’ve done a lot of dramas and not a lot of comedies. This is the first network comedy I’ve done but as an actor, you’re always looking for something to challenge and push you. And this crew, this cast has done that and I’m hoping that I’m doing that with them.”

“Iron sharpens iron,” Tyler James Williams (Gregory) co-signed. “You’re only as good as your scene partner. “We talk about it that everyone is so good and we’re fans of each other that I think it sets a tone when we come into work every day. That everyone is trying to be better for the person across from them because you know that that’s what they’re trying to do and you want to meet them where they are. I’m just curious what our apex is because I have yet to see that. I see us just continuing to grow and get better. And hopefully, we can all continue to challenge each other to do that.”

Season 2 of Abbott Elementary premieres on Sept. 21. 

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

© 2022 Shadow & Act. All rights reserved.