(This story contains spoilers for the third season premiere of Abbott Elementary.)
An important change has come Abbott Elementary As the show’s main character, Janine Teagues, played by series creator and Emmy Award-winning actress Quinta Brunson, finds herself outside the classroom and inside the school district often alluded to at the beginning of the comedy’s third season. from ABC.
“We’re focusing a lot on the district (this season),” says co-showrunner Patrick Schumacker. The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re going to start exploring that world… and Janine is going to see what that kind of bureaucracy is as a counterpoint to the bureaucracy that she has to deal with at Abbott.”
That plot is established in the one-hour premiere of the third season of Abbott Elementary, which aired at 9 pm ET on Wednesday. The episode sees the return of series regulars Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Ann Walter, Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, Chris Perfetti and William Stanford Davis, and the introduction of guest stars Josh Segarra, Kimia Behpoornia and Benjamin Norris, as district members who attract Janine to participate in their scholarship program.
However, Janine discovers that the grass may not necessarily be greener on the other side, as her decision to temporarily join the district creates even more ambiguity between her and Gregory (Williams) after they kiss in season two. And when her suggestion to introduce a pro day at Abbott Elementary goes too well after Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts shows up, the eager educator finds she’s still learning that the best-laid plans often go awry. .
Here, series co-showrunners Justin Halpern and Schumacker speak with THR about that Hurts cameo, the guest star research, and the success of abbott elementary, which in its second season averaged 9.1 million viewers per episode. “I hope that for executives and entrepreneurs in our industry we have destroyed the fallacy that a show with a majority black cast cannot be a four-quadrant hit and cannot make a lot of money for the company that produces it. ” says Halpern.
How did you come to the decision to do a one-hour premiere this season? Was it harder or easier to make a longer episode?
JUSTIN HALPERN As for the narration, it wasn’t more difficult, because that’s how we came up with the one-hour premiere. We were breaking up the episode and Quinta said, “This seems like a two-part story to me.” And then we looked at it and thought, “Yeah, this is definitely a two-parter.” It was, logistically, in terms of broadcast scheduling and commercial breaks and stuff, a giant headache. But creativity is what drove the hour-long episode. So that wasn’t a problem.
How do you approach a third season of a series like this that has been so well received by both the public and critics?
PATRICIO SCHUMACKER We were lucky enough to finish the second season relatively early, so we had a little time to conceptually talk about the third season with the entire staff. The district focusing on that and making it a big part of season three was always in the cards. And then, of course, the strike happened and we had to rethink things as far as the schedule was concerned. That’s how we get to the time jump of all this. The fact that the second season was a fall show and had 22 episodes was a great gift, because you could make the actual calendar year for viewers coincide exactly with the school year for our teachers. That’s always wonderful, because you can do your winter break episode during the actual winter break.
So when the strike happened and delayed everything by about five months, that’s how we ended up with the story of the stolen equipment and the time jump. We wanted to see the start of the school year. I think it’s a good tradition to celebrate development day to start each season. So we were still able to have that, but also have our cake and eat it too, because suddenly, there’s a time jump. The hardest thing was breaking that. You’re talking to a room full of comedy writers who mostly understand linear storytelling. So you’re on the board with multicolored arrows pointing to other dimensions and stuff like that. And it was like, “okay, this is real rocket science.”
What do you think of the terms the WGA finally agreed to to end the strike? Has there been any notable effect on your writers’ room?
HALPERN I can definitely say that I think the new contracts make the people working on the show more secure, and I think that when people feel more financially secure, then they can spend that energy on creativity. One of the things that is a fundamental disconnect between the business side of the entertainment industry and the people who actually make the shows is that you can just lower the price, lower the price, lower the price, and they keep doing the same thing. They will continue to work harder. And I think financial insecurity involves significant emotional work. If you spend that emotional labor worrying about whether or not you can pay the rent, whether or not you can have a car and transportation, then your creative work will be worse. So I hope that through these contracts that we’ve won, we bring some financial security that frees up some creativity in people’s brains to focus on other things.
One of the big moments of the season three premiere is the cameo of Jalen Hurts and his teammates, Jason Kelce and Brandon Graham. How did you achieve that?
HALPERN Jalen Hurts’ people emailed us halfway through the second season to tell us that he was a big fan of the show and if the opportunity ever existed, he’d be interested in being involved. Sports are a big part of Philadelphia. It’s in the city’s DNA. Our characters talk about it. Quinta said before: “You can’t do a show in Philadelphia and not talk about sports.” So we’re doing this race day episode and we want a fun and exciting guest star for our premiere, but not just a famous person because they’re famous. So we thought, “Oh, it would be cool if the thing that ruins his career day was the fact that he ends up hiring someone who’s too famous in Philly terms.” So we got closer and they were getting ready for the playoffs, so we knew we couldn’t bring him here. So we said, “Let’s make it happen over Zoom and that’s how we’ll do it.” And then everything worked out. We have an amazing team and they made it happen.
Guest starring on this show has become common among actors. How many applications does she receive periodically and how do she review them?
SCHUMACKER Oh man. I think Quinta is probably contacted a thousand times more than she lets on. Justin and I only hear from a small fraction of the celebrities and very, very famous people who want to be on the show. But I think we can all agree, and this is coming from Quinta, that if it can’t make sense in the context of what we’re dealing with as a real documentary about a real school in Philadelphia, then 95 percent of the For people that they want to be on the show and play themselves, essentially like their real-life counterpart, doesn’t really make much sense. We don’t want to break that kind of precious truth that we’re trying to look for with the program. That being said, sometimes it is very difficult to resist.
HALPERN What excites me the most are sports cars. Like when we had Andre Iguodala in season two, I was like, that’s fucking cool.
Josh Segarra, Kimia Behpoornia and Benjamin Norris make their debut as guest stars in the season three premiere. How did you come to join the series?
HALPERN The district had always been part of what Quinta wanted to do in season three. The district has been the boogeyman in the first two seasons. So we really wanted to show the audience, “Hey, this is what’s going on over there,” and also, this is what’s happening across the country, which is that young progressives are trying to get into bureaucracies and improve them. , and what does that mean? seems. What are the real problems? Who is the real bogeyman? Plus, it’s going to take a lot to get Janine off Abbott, even temporarily, so we needed a group of people who were so compelling about her and so like-minded that she felt like she had to try.
Janine also finally shoots with Gregory in the premiere. He reveals that he has ruled out the possibility of a romance with her, but do you all executive produce?
HALPERN Well, I would tell you this. We first thought about the characters themselves and their arcs, and then tried to see if they would naturally be in a place where the stars would align. We wouldn’t fight that as a writing team, but we’re not going to force it if that’s not where the character is. I think you lose the audience’s trust when you start making characters behave in a way that you haven’t earned or shown them to be prepared for. So as frustrating as it may be if you’re a Gregory-Janine fan right now, I think we hope that you’re right along with these characters and that whether they get together or if they don’t, you’ll understand why.
On a broader note, with the recent Cancellation of Rap shit! and TIME Magazine cover by Issa Rae, there has been a lot of conversation about shows where the majority of black casts are not considered as valuable to networks and studios and are not given the opportunity to thrive. In the middle of that discussion, you have Abbott Elementary It is in its third season and has been well received by the industry. How do you think this show fits into that broader context?
HALPERN That’s really interesting. He and I probably aren’t the best people to talk to about this, but what I will say is that I hope that for executives and entrepreneurs in our industry we have destroyed the fallacy that a show with a majority black cast can’t be a four-star hit. quadrants and cannot generate much money for the company that produces it. This is something so pervasive that it’s been throughout our business since its inception, and I hope that’s the lesson you take away. There’s so much copycat shit in this business that’s like, “Oh, fuck.”friends It’s a great success, we have to do the next one Friends.” So I hope that the takeaway that people take away from this is that you can make a show with a majority black cast and it can be a huge hit that will make you a ton.
Abbott Elementary airs new episodes Wednesdays at 9 pm on ABC and airs the next day on Hulu.