School is back in session with tonight’s Season 2 premiere of Abbott Elementary! The workplace comedy was the darling of last year’s new series, earning seven nominations and three wins at the 74th Emmy Awards. We were elated to take part in their press day ahead of the premiere, and can finally share some highlights in our Abbott Elementary Season 2 primer.
Below is just a taste of what Quinta Brunson (Janine/Creator/Writer/EP), Tyler James Williams (Gregory), William Stanford Davis (Mr. Johnson), Janelle James (Ava) and Lisa Ann Walter (Melissa) told us about what’s in store.
Janine faces some challenges this year, and something really important happens in the premiere: admitting that it’s okay not to be okay. Can you talk about incorporating this into her arc this season?
Quinta: It’s very significant for a girl Janine’s age to have a breakup, especially after being with somebody for so long. I went through this. You want to just jettison through and be like, “Okay, I’m over it.” But the reality is that it affects you in ways that you don’t even anticipate, especially for Janine who was so gung ho about work and showing up for people and showing up for these kids. She has to acknowledge that something really big and bad has happened to show up in the way she needs to for work.
We thought that was a really good place to start this next season with this character, to set up the arc of what being okay looks like for somebody like her. While it’s not the main focus of the season, we always talk about entering the Abbott world through Janine’s eyes, and then we can go from there like we did the first season. It’s a great way to explore where we’re going with this with the second season.
Gregory is now an official member of the staff, and his perfectionist nature has him caught up in the details. There’s a valuable lesson that’s learned immediately: to not let perfection be the enemy of good. Is this something that your character continues to struggle with in Season 2?
Tyler: That’s what I was most excited to play. Janine and Jacob are newer teachers, but we’re not seeing their first year. With Gregory, we get the chance to see his first year as a full-time teacher from start to finish. I thought that was a really unique opportunity, particularly when he is the type of person that he is. Having the stakes that high for him and being able to play it is everything that I’ve ever wanted to do on TV, and it’s difficult. He has to learn that he can’t do it perfectly. That’s something that drives Gregory insane but it’s necessary for him as part of growing up.
Based on the season premiere, it seems like Mr. Johnson may be pulling more strings behind the scenes than we’re aware of. Are you able to share anything about whether he is more a powerful, man behind the curtain?
William: I can’t share much with you, but I think you’re gonna really enjoy the season. Mr. Johnson? I think he has a lot of juice that he’s not letting on to. You’ll see that as we get into the season, He’s like the Wizard of Oz in a lot of ways. And that’s all I can say.
Ava often gets called out for her flakiness, her side hustles and her self-interests. By the end of the first season, we saw that she does care about the school. Will she continue using her side hustles for the benefit of the school now that she doesn’t have the superintendent in her pocket?
Janelle: I don’t know if that’s a question I can answer because it kind of tells you the plot of the next season. I will say that it always gives me pleasure to see people try to figure out how they can still like my character. It’s okay. I can continue to not care about the school and the kids and I will still be the favourite because I’m hilarious. As far as being a better person. What’s funny in that?
We found out in the first season that [she does help the students] in her speech about the lotion for the kids. These are all important things that other people have overlooked. We all have our roles in the school, and that scene showed we all contribute to the school in different ways. Quinto’s character, on its face, is all gung ho, but she causes more problems than she solves. I like to think that Ava and Janine are opposite sides of the same coin.
In Season 1, Melissa is starting over after her divorce. She’s nervous about dating, but she finds romance with the vending machine king, Gary. Is there anything you can tease about that relationship going forward?
Lisa Ann: We may have more fun with Gary, the vending machine guy, who I love your promotion to “king.” I may call him that from now. They don’t really tell us, but Quinta knows everything that’s going to happen with our characters, at least until the end of Season 2, if not until the end of the next five seasons.
Quite honestly, she is the most insanely overprepared boss, and she’s the best boss I’ve ever had. When she was talking about Melissa’s storyline and being a divorced woman — which I am — she said her sister was going through a confidence hit that you take [after a divorce]. It’s scary to go into something new not just because you might be hurt, but because, as I once said, I don’t want to break up with my boyfriend because he’s already seen all of this naked. I don’t want to break anybody new in. There’s a bit of that fear of being vulnerable and hurt, and who you are with a new person, and Quinta incorporated that. Right now, Melissa’s in a good place with Gary the vending machine guy.
Images Courtesy of ABC