School is back in session at ABC with Wednesday return of the Disney-backed broadcaster’s Emmy-winning comedy Abbott Elementary.
The comedy starring and co-created by newly minted Emmy winner Quinta Brunson launches its second season Wednesday at 9 p.m. with a supersized season that will expand the show beyond the walls of its central school.
Here are five things to know about season two of the comedy that Brunson originally developed as an animated show.
1. Expanding the show’s world
The freshman season focused largely on the day to day at Willard R. Abbott Elementary School, but the sophomore run will expand the show’s world. “We’re going to start to explore more of the personal lives of these characters outside of the school,” co-showrunner Patrick Schumacker told The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast. “Season one, we were not really going to leave the school — there was no reason to yet — and now we’re going to get to meet some family members … and love interests. But yeah, the world is going to expand.” At the same time, Brunson recently told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s virtual press tour that it was important that Abbott Elementary remain a workplace comedy at its center. “In order to flesh out the backstories of these characters a little bit more and give viewers something that they didn’t have the first season, we thought it would be great to, every now and then, go into their backstories, into their lives. And the home is a great place to learn more about a character. Like I said, we aren’t going to technically live there, but we think it is a really fun experience for the audience and for ourselves to learn more about where these people came from.”
2. High-profile guest stars
Abbott Elementary launched last December as part of ABC’s midseason schedule, with the entire first season filmed before its debut. With the show now certified as a breakout and awards player, it’s considerably easier for Brunson and company to recruit high-profile guest stars, and that will start with the season two premiere. “We will have some recognizable guest stars,” Schumacker told TV’s Top 5. “The season two premiere has a beloved Philadelphia celebrity that that fans nationwide and worldwide will know, and I’ll leave it at that.” While producers (and press) have been sworn to secrecy, here’s what Brunson had to say about [spoiler alert!] arriving in the season two opener, with the names and pronouns changed to protect the reveal: “[Spoiler] is just as vital to the particular Philadelphian spirit of this show as the Eagles are or cheesesteak or pretzels. So getting [spoiler] was like a dream come true. I was over the moon. I was starstruck.” In more specific terms, previously announced guest stars already booked for season two include Leslie Odom Jr., Lauren Weedman and Keyla Monterroso Mejia. Odom (Hamilton) plays Draemond, the owner of a string of charter schools in the area who visits Abbott. Weedman (Euphoria) will play Kristin Marie, a tough-talking teacher from a neighboring school who bears a striking resemblance to one of Abbott’s own, while Mejia (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is Ashley, a teacher’s aide at Abbott whose go-with-the-flow personality contributes to classroom chaos. All three will have recurring guest roles.
3. It will continue to be topical for educators
Brunson, who originally crafted the show after her mother’s experience as an educator, plots story from a comedy position first but still feels a responsibility to portray the teacher crisis in America. “What we do is start with the reality of our situations. We just go, ‘What does a school like Abbott deal with from the day-to-day?’ And naturally, things like that come into play,” she said. “So even in the first two episodes, there are semblances of that.” The newly minted Emmy winner noted topical subjects including the education crisis come naturally when the writers focus on creating tension for characters like Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) and Ava (Janelle James). “The more we focus on our characters and the four walls we have at Abbott, the more we wind up talking about these major issues,” she said.
4. Janine and Gregory: Will they or won’t they?
Brunson was tight-lipped when asked if viewers would see more of the budding romance between
Pam and Jim Janine and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) in season two. “I would say definitely watch the show,” she quipped. “I think our goal is to probably do things that you haven’t seen before. There are no guarantees. There are no exact sciences, I think, to this or — you don’t even know what is going to happen with these two people as individuals. So I definitely would say tune in because I am excited about it. And if I was at home watching this show and not making it, I would be really excited to just see what happens.”
5. Bigger is better
In the ultimate sign of the show’s success, ABC has ordered a full 22-episode season for the sophomore frame. Very few shows on television receive what used to be a given for broadcast shows. Season one, it’s worth noting, consisted of 13 episodes. With the full-season order, Abbott Elementary joins the ranks of the broadcast kings like Law & Order: SVU and Grey’s Anatomy to go the distance. It also means that Brunson and the writers will be crafting episodes with a tighter turnaround time — and in real time — as the season plays out. “More episodes have been exciting, but also, I want to make sure that we have things for people to tune into and be excited about each week,” Brunson said of the challenge. “That’s just hard to do with 22. With 13, I knew I could put something in there that would make people show up. In this ever-changing but binge-worthy climate, this is not something people would be able to binge immediately. So, I want to make sure they will be back with us every week that we are on the air.”
Abbott Elementary airs Wednesdays on ABC. To hear more about Abbott Elementary, listen to the full TV’s Top 5 podcast with co-showrunners Schumacker and Justin Halpern here, plus Brunson on the show’s development process here.