Quinta Brunson was shocked & unprepared for the success of Abbott Elementary

Now that Abbott Elementary is a certified hit, everyone wants access to Quinta Brunson. It makes sense. She seemingly came out of nowhere and showed up with this colossal success that everyone can agree on. Of course, that isn’t the case, Quinta studied at Second City, got her start in stand-up, became known as the Buzzfeed Meme Girl, wrote a book, wrote and worked on other projects and had pilots that didn’t get picked up. Vulture has a great interview with Quinta discussing her roots and the what the success of Abbott Elementary means to her. What really came across was how focused Quinta is on her goals for the show. Not necessarily plot-lines, but who got hired, how the characters are portrayed and that everything stays rooted in Philadelphia and a Black voice. Even though she knew exactly what she wanted, Quinta didn’t realize it would take off as quickly as it did.

On the show’s popularity: I’m shocked. Sitcoms in the past, you watch them slowly build up an audience, so I wasn’t prepared for this.

On working with Larry Wilmore on her first pilot, Quinta & Jermaine: I came to that project super-green. My understanding of television structure completely came from Larry. If I didn’t work with him, I wouldn’t have been able to create Abbott.

On working on A Black Lady Sketch Show: I didn’t realize how rare it would be to be on a show with that many Black women. It did something to my brain where I was like, I’ll never not work without a good amount of Black people on set again.

On making a show for all ages: It’s TV for everyone. Part of my goal was TV that could bring a 14-year-old and a 98-year-old together to watch it. I’m hearing that about moms and grandmothers and kids, and it warms my heart.

On whether she felt pressure to make a show for white audiences: I simply refuse to entertain it. That’s just not the way I make things. And if that’s what I was asked to make, I just wouldn’t have made it.

On people complaining about the principal, Ava Coleman: Janelle (James) is just doing her character so damn well that, you know, people are getting mad at her! I chuckle about it. It’s a sign of success to be so good at the role that people are like, Oh my God, I can’t stand her. It’s really cool to have a controversial character on shows right now. I’m putting her in the same category as Shiv Roy.

On insisting on certain actors: I believe it’s part of the fabric of a sitcom to introduce you to new people. What helps make a show successful is when you have people you can fall in love with, actors people have never seen before

[From Vulture]

I’d seen the criticism for Janelle James portrayal of Principal Ava online. When the show premiered, a (male) administrator tweeted that Ava was an offense to all principals because she was incompetent. I can’t find the tweet now because there are too many tweets about how amazing Principal Ava is to dig through. Again, as someone with first-hand knowledge of the public school system – there are incompetent principals. Not all are, but we’ve had enough productions about how the principal saved the school. Let Janelle have some fun. And Quinta’s right, Janelle is so good and playing that character and keeping her just shy of a caricature. People getting upset by her are telling on themselves. Speaking of Janelle, she was one of the actors Quinta insisted on casting. She’s also does stand-up and Quinta really wanted more people to know about her. As is Zack Fox who plays Quinta’s rapper boyfriend on the show. I love that when Quinta got her shot, she used it to bring others up with her.

Although I remember Quinta in the He Got Money meme, my first real exposure to her was on A Black Lady Sketch Show, which I love. Knowing that Quinta worked with people like Robin Thede and Larry Wilmore, whom the article described as having “created, produced, or consulted on nearly every major Black TV show (and The Office) over the past 30 years,” it makes sense that Abbott is so tight. She had a vision, she stayed true to what she wanted it to be, and she’s done the work. I couldn’t be happier for her success, expected or not. What’s even more impressive than Quinta’s meteoric rise is how generous she is to those around her.

Photo credit: Instagram

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18 Responses to “Quinta Brunson was shocked & unprepared for the success of Abbott Elementary”

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  1. North of Boston says:

    This is all good. So great she’s having such success and the show is a lot of fun.

    Also for all the moaning about how network/broadcast tv is dead – hey look! If the networks put out something unique, well made, entertaining, lots of people will watch it and celebrate it.

    • Lucy2 says:

      Broadcast TV has made a surprising come back for me with some very good comedies this year. Abbott is my favorite by far!

  2. Jais says:

    Yep, there are plenty of incompetent principals out there. Good ones too. But the incompetent ones…whew yeah. There are teachers out there loving that portrayal, trust.

  3. Mogul says:

    Ava is my favourite. Quinta’s outfits in the show are so ridiculous🤣

  4. sally says:

    She was one of my favourite people on Buzzfeed and I wasn’t the only one, she was very popular (remember when people shipped her with Eugene Yang? How cringe-y was that?!). So I’m not super surprised she made it on TV too, but I’m glad. She’s very talented and deserves it.

  5. Jess says:

    I love this show. And Quinta is so impressive. Janelle is hysterical and I love her character!

  6. sunny says:

    Really enjoy the show and am happy for her success. Loved her in ABLSS. I didn’t get the outrage about Ava, her character is hilarious and the show is definitely influenced by The Office and having a bad boss and no one blinked at that, Plus, as a black woman, I loved them portraying an incompetent one on screen. We are told all of the time we have to be so much more, work harder, be more qualified, be excellent, plucky, and resilient. I love seeing a messy Ava on my tv.

  7. Lucy2 says:

    I love this show so much, and almost everyone I know is watching it, which is something that hasn’t happened in ages.

    For the guy complaining that Ava makes admin look bad? I personally know of 3 terrible ones (all white men of course):
    1-incompetent, sexual harassment, age discrimination (fired)
    2- incompetent, sexual harassment, embezzlement (fired but repeats the same pattern at each school)
    3-bribery and tax evasion (spending a decade in federal prison)
    Compared to those, Ava is a dream. Plus, it’s a tv comedy, it’s not real.

  8. Indywom says:

    A friend recommended this show and now I am totally hooked. The actress who plays Ava is hilarious and as a former principal I can say that she is not that far off in her portrayal of some people I have worked for and with. This show tackles some serious issues with laughs thrown in. It is magnificently cast.

  9. Alarmjaguar says:

    I am loving this show and am so glad that it is getting critical praise! I really appreciated her line about it bringing people together – my almost 14 yo son also loves it and is totally into watching it with me. Yay for Quinta!

  10. Allyson says:

    Am I the only one happy to see Chessy from Parent Trap on TV ?!?!!?!?

    • The Voice says:

      Her face looked so familiar and I couldn’t place her so I had to resort to IMDb. Yes, Parent Trap! She’s hilarious on this show.

      I love the whole ensemble so much. They have such good chemistry and comedic timing!! Janelle James makes me belly laugh. I had to look her up bc she’s insanely funny. Thank you for introducing me to her! Congrats to Quinta on all her success!

  11. better.than.scrubs says:

    I didn’t know her from memes but she is hilarious on the latest season of Miracle Workers as Steve Buscemi’s outlaw daughter.

  12. Paisley25 says:

    I love Ava Coleman! I don’t work in education, but I’ve definitely worked with a few Ava’s over the years. They’re everywhere.

  13. HeyJude says:

    Janelle and the principal character are THE highlight of the show! She makes the entire thing pop.

    And anyone saying different and claiming “oh but real principals…” are full of it, they don’t like a the headstrong black woman as the principal.

    You didn’t hear anyone say jack about Michael Scott making office bosses look bad or incompetent!

  14. lemontwist says:

    I finally started watching this yesterday and I will probably finish all the available episodes tonight, it’s soooo good! I love Janelle’s Principal Ava too, the way she just breezes around all flippant about everything. She’s the perfect foil for the rest of the characters.

    So happy for Quinta & I can’t wait to see more of this show.

  15. TIFFANY says:

    When Ava stated how she got her job as principal, I just knew she was gonna be a mess. 😂

  16. LMEMES says:

    I love this show. And Quinta is so impressive. I love her character.