Planning to spend the weekend on a sitcom binge? Look no further than Abbott Elementary. Set in a fictional elementary school, the ensemble show is a fresh portrayal of what it’s like working in a public school in South Philadelphia, complete with issues that we can all relate to: lack of proper funding, faulty facilities, poor leadership, and more . Yet, despite the odds, the eccentric yet dedicated staff members of Abbott Elementary are willing to go to any length to provide nothing but the best education for their students – even if their methods are somewhat questionable.
Created by Quinta Brunson, Abbott Elementary is heavily inspired by her mother, a school teacher in Philadelphia herself. Brunson mentioned that she chose Philadelphia as the main setting because their public schools have so much life. After watching the entire 13-episode show, we understand what she means. The uncanny diversity of Abbott Elementary‘s characters, from the overtly passionate Janine Teagues, the seasoned “follow-by-the-book” Barbara Howard, to the classic substitute teacher Gregory Eddie, every character is easily memorable thanks to their specific traits.
Abbott Elementary was recently confirmed for Season 2, which was announced via a “Principal’s Letter” on Twitter. However, there isn’t a fixed date yet for the upcoming season. But in the meantime, you can get to know the wonderfully talented and hilarious Abbott Elementary teachers with our quick cast and character guide.
Quinta Brunson as Janine Teagues
Quinta Brunson plays Janine Teagues (Ms. Teagues), a second-grade teacher at Abbott Elementary and the very first character we see on the show. A huge portion of the show’s plot is told from the perspective of Ms. Teagues, who’s as happy-go-lucky as she can be despite everything the school lacks.
Ms. Teagues’ blind optimism can be awkwardly enthusiastic and naive at times, especially in front of senior teachers like Ms. Schimmenti and Ms. Howard. However, she is willing to go the extra mile to do what’s right for her students, even if it means sacrificing her own time, money, and energy (she passed out at one point of the show due to exhaustion). Being a vocal critic of the school’s flaws and system, it’s no secret that Ms. Teagues cares deeply for her job and her students’ well-being. She’s the kind of teacher we wish we had when we were young, someone who would root for us despite our shortcomings, which can be incredibly difficult under an urban school leadership.
Brunson doesn’t just play Ms. Teagues in Abbott Elementary – she’s also the creator, writer, and executive producer of the show. After gaining Internet popularity thanks to her work on Buzzfeed and recently listed in Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment.” Brunson is beginning to make a name for herself in television and has even received high praises from Atlanta‘s Donald Glover.
Tyler James Williams as Gregory Eddie
Tyler James Williams plays Gregory Eddie (Mr. Eddie), the new substitute teacher at Abbott Elementary. To set the record straight, Mr. Eddie initially applied to be the school’s new principal. But when Principal Coleman’s antics get in the way, the school hires Mr. Eddie as a substitute teacher instead, replacing another Abbott teacher who was fired after kicking a student.
At first, Mr. Eddie doesn’t get himself emotionally invested in his position, especially considering the temporariness of his job. He merely views it as a stepping stone to a more administrative role. But as the show progresses, we see Mr. Eddie coming out of his rigid shell and showing more of his good heart. Mr. Eddie’s outward disinterest in his position doesn’t stop him from helping his students when they’re in crisis (even on the first day of the job) or rescuing his fellow teachers like Ms. Howard and Mr. Hill from unwanted mishaps. And what’s a sitcom without some TV romance? From the first episode, we see Mr. Eddie has a thing for Ms. Teagues but is too shy to do anything. But their on-screen chemistry is undeniable, especially with his obvious sideline glances at her.
beside Abbott Elementary, Williams is no stranger to the world of television. He’s most prominent for playing the title character in Everybody Hates Chris. He’s also played a role in the feature film Dear White Peoplewhich won a couple of awards at Sundance.
Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara Howard
Sheryl Lee Ralph plays Barbara Howard (Ms. Howard), the kindergarten teacher at Abbott Elementary. A seasoned staff member, Ms. Howard is an expert at maintaining an orderly, disciplined class without the help of others. Ms. Howard is the complete opposite of Ms. Teagues. Where Ms. Teagues shows bright positivity and sheer enthusiasm, Ms. Howard is remarkably serious and typically looks at the realistic side of situations, believing that the district will never go above and beyond to help their school. Despite their generational differences, Ms. Teagues idolizes Ms. Howard commands her for her practical and self-assured teaching ways.
Ms. Howard may be serious and uptight compared to the rest of her peers, but that doesn’t stop her from making a smart clap back or two. She’s known for her tough love and her deeper perspective of the issues faced by the school. She may not always be on the same frequency as Ms. Teagues’ blind optimism, but she shares the same compassion for her students and has their best interests in her heart.
Previously, Ralph has been on the big screen alongside some of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors, with appearances in Mistress with Robert de Niroand Sister Act II with Whoopi Goldberg.
Lisa Ann Walter as Melissa Schemmenti
Lisa Ann Walter plays Melissa Schemmenti (Ms. Schemmenti), a second-grade teacher at Abbott Elementary. Ms.Schemmenti is the embodiment of the tough, no-nonsense Italian American trope. As the person who “knows a guy who knows a guy,” Ms.Schemmenti’s resourcefulness and self-reliance help her massively as a teacher, allowing her to obtain the facilities needed for her students. Although, her methods can be a tad bit unconventional. For example, when the teachers need new storytime rugs for their students, Ms. Schemmenti bribed a friend working on the Linn construction site with a baked ziti in exchange for Eagles rugs.
Ms.Schemmenti may not have the same old-fashioned discipline as Ms. Howard, but she absolutely has no tolerance for fools. Her outward toughness is often misinterpreted as harshness, but just like the teachers at the school, she truly cares for her students and their education. However, she isn’t willing to take any attitude from her fellow staff members or students. But despite all that, she’s still likable enough to the point she can still get along with the staff.
You might have seen Walter in previous works as Chessy in The Parent Trap playing alongside Dennis Quaid as Nick Parker’s housekeeper. She’s also appeared in hits like Bruce Almighty and War of the Worlds.
Chris Perfetti as Jacob Hill
Chris Perfetti plays Jacob Hill (Mr. Hill), the second-year history teacher at Abbott Elementary. Mr. Hill joined the school together with Ms. Teagues, so in a way, they have their own bond. As a white history teacher, he has a tendency to share his clunky knowledge of civil rights, which doesn’t always come across well to his predominantly black co-workers, although he means well. Mr. Hill is one of the characters that bring in the feel-good nature of the show. He’s enthusiastic and, like Ms. Teagues, doesn’t know when to give up. He tries hard to connect with his students and ensures the well-being of his co-workers.
Perfetti has played several roles before Abbott Elementarywith previous roles in FX’s What We Do in the ShadowsNetflix’s Bondingand NBC’s Crossbones.
Janelle James as Ava Coleman
Janelle James plays Ava Coleman (Principal Coleman), the principal of Abbott Elementary. Principal Coleman is far from any ordinary headmaster. In fact, she isn’t supposed to be the principal in the first place. The reason why she’s principal is that she managed to blackmail her predecessor, who was sleeping with her church’s deaconess. Unsurprisingly, Principal Coleman is highly unqualified for the role and is more interested in satisfying her interests (eg, spending the school’s $3000 budget for a school sign with her face on it instead of buying new supplies).
However, no matter how self-centered she is, Principal Coleman brings a breath of fresh air into the school. Her crazy antics bring in a lot of humor to the staff, which is rare in principal-teacher relationships. She may not be the best for the job, and she cares more about herself than her students, but that actually stems from her selfishness instead of malicious intentions. She’s just being unapologetically herself – someone who’s unbelievably so bad at becoming a principal that she becomes the show’s running joke.
As for James herself, she’s a seasonal comedian based in New York and Los Angeles. Before the show, she has toured with Chris Rock, David Crossand Amy Schumer.
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