Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson On Her Approach To Race On Network TV And How Black-ish Helped Pave The Way For Her Show

Abbott Elementary cast in school bus
(Image credit: ABC)

Abbott Elementary has built its reputation on being a workplace comedy that appeals to viewers across different demographics. The hit sitcom came on the heels of other shows addressing social issues, including race. It has masterfully tackled certain issues without making them a major deal, which was done purposefully by Quinta Brunson. With the show currently in Season 2, Brunson delved into her approach to race on network TV and how Anthony Anderson's black-ish helped pave the way for her show.

The Abbott Elementary creator spoke about her approach to the subject during her interview with The New Yorker. The topic came up after the series premiered in the wake of race-centric ABC sitcoms like black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat. Brunson was asked if the network wanted the issue to be included in the teacher comedy. The comedic actress wasn’t phased as she had already produced two projects for Warner Bros. Television. She mentioned she knew her voice and style before Abbott even came to be. Despite race not being a dominant factor in the sitcom, Brunson revealed she was grateful to black-ish for tackling the issue, so she doesn’t have to. She said:

A show like black-ish I feel made a show like Abbott possible. They did it so I don’t have to do it. You know, everyone gets it that Black people exist, great. Now, I get to make a show about things that aren’t about being Black but are about just stories.

It appears that Anthony Anderson's family sitcom cleared the way for the ABC workplace comedy to just be funny. Abbott tackles social issues without overwhelming the viewers, but black-ish made it a mission to reflect being Black in predominantly white spaces. The former gets to present Black characters without always addressing issues of race. The Emmy winner mentioned the Alphabet Network did support her decision despite a minor bump about a specific month:

ABC was also really, really supportive. They didn’t ask me to do anything really. I don’t want to do a Black History Month episode, and there was a little bit of a push to do that, and I don’t want to. I want to make whatever Abbott’s version of that is, but our show is not a show that’s like ‘here’s the topic of the month,’ or ‘here’s what’s going on in the world.’ Like I said, they have their own world, these characters in this show and our approach will be unique to that. We want everything to be character-driven, and I think they really appreciate that.

Focusing on the school’s faculty and staff instead of social issues has been a winning formula for the series. Brunson revealed that the lack of hard-hitting issues was a conscious decision not only by her but ABC as well. An ABC executive revealed to Brunson that the TV network was shifting away from race-centric sitcoms after black-ish’s emotional series finale. It appears the network is looking to make diverse shows where race isn’t at the forefront.

Things have worked out for Brunson and the workplace comedy, scoring many awards, including two Emmys. Along with garnering critical acclaim, it has viewers talking. It has also scored major ratings for ABC, and the series creator has landed an overall deal with Warner Bros.

Abbott Elementary is currently airing its second season on ABC every Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST. If you’ve missed any new episodes, just get a Hulu subscription to catch up on Season 2 and rewatch Season 1 while you’re there. Don’t forget to check out other 2022 TV premiere dates after watching the ABC sitcom.

Adreon Patterson
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A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).