X

'Abbott Elementary' Season 2 Will Also Go Home With Its Characters

The elementary school-set sitcom adds guest stars Leslie Odom Jr., Lauren Weedman, and Keyla Monterroso Mejia in Season 2.

Danielle Turchiano
164601-0335

From left to right: Sheryl Lee Ralph and Janelle James in 'Abbott Elementary'

ABC

Abbott Elementary is a workplace comedy set in an elementary school that is entering into its second season on ABC, and as any true television fans know, second seasons are usually when shows have opportunities to expand their worlds. And Abbott Elementary will do just that, both by introducing new characters crucial to both the professional and personal lives of the characters.

The sophomore season will welcome guest stars Leslie Odom Jr.Lauren Weedman, and Keyla Monterroso Mejia. Odom is playing Draemond, a man who owns a strong of charter schools, while Weedman plays Kristin Marie, a tough-talking teacher from another local school who has a lot in common with one of Abbott Elementary school's own educators, and Mejia plays Ashley, a teacher's aide who aids in classroom chaos because of her "go with the flow" attitude.

Although Season 1 already introduced loved ones for characters including Janine (Quinta Brunson), Jacob (Chris Perfetti), and Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), that was done in the school setting. In Season 2, they are going into characters' homes.

"The home is a great place to learn about the characters," Brunson said during a Television Critics Association press tour panel for the show. "It was important to make sure that it didn't overwhelm this workplace comedy, but in order to flesh out the backstory of the characters a little bit more and give the audience something new ... we thought it would be great."

This especially comes into play for Lisa Ann Walter's Melissa, and Melissa's family, the actor noted, "is very much like my family: They're loud, they fight, they love each other, they say their feelings, they over do." 

She noted that Melissa's family is what many people might expect, which makes her a little concerned her real sister might think the relationship depicted between Melissa and her on-screen sister might have "something to do with her," but it doesn't, she stressed. Melissa and her sister are "a very evenly matched duo that has some old beef with each other."

And last we left Gregory (Tyler James Williams), he was dating Barbara's daughter Taylor (Iyanna Halley), but he and Janine also had something of a flirtation during the first season. Brunson wouldn't spoil where that was going or how much Taylor might be around going forward, but she did say, "Our goal is to probably do things that you haven't seen before. There are no guarantees; there are no exact sciences to this; you don't even know what's going to happen to these two people as individuals."

As characters will be seen juggling additional complicated interpersonal dynamics in Season 2, their jobs will also be getting more complicated. Season 1 showcased the perils of working for underfunded schools, including teachers having to make wish lists to obtain essential supplies, and Season 2 will continue to portray the reality of the American public educational system by covering combined classrooms and accessibility issues.

"The focus in our writers' room is always to start with the comedy first, and if it is not something that has humor in it innately to be mined out for our show, we try to stay away from it," Brunson said. "We start with the reality of our situation ... I'm more interested in, 'What does a storyline look like that puts Melissa up against a battle for the rest of the season? What does a storyline look like that puts Janine up against a battle for the rest of the season?' That's really where we start, and the more we [do], the more we end up coming up against these major issues."

The combined classroom issue (when there are not enough resources to keep grades separate and therefore combine them in one classroom, with one teacher effectively teaching two condensed curriculums) is one Brunson shared she has been thinking about for years because her mother taught a combined class and she "didn't know how she did it." But introducing the need for a wheelchair-friendly desk in Barbara's class or the knowledge of sign language, for example, were more about the characters than the issues.

"I think about an old trick I learned, [which] is, if you put a five-dollar bill on the ground, each character should pick it up differently. So, I think about, what is the five-dollar bill?" Brunson shared about breaking stories. 

The wheelchair-friendly desk was an "interesting obstacle to see the character of Barbara deal with: not getting something very vital for a student of her," she explained, while when it came to teaching a character sign language, "I do believe in my core that sign language should be taught as a second language in American schools," she said, but it started with, "What if Jacob was so excited to go and learn another thing that he could be pretentious about?"

Abbott Elementary Season 2 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 21 on ABC. Season 1 earned the show a Metascore of 80.