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Abbott Elementary's Quinta Brunson On Why She Doesn't View Tariq As A Villain

Tariq getting ready for his D.A.R.E. performance on Abbott Elementary
(Image credit: ABC)

Throughout Abbott Elementary’s first season, viewers watched Janine and her freeloading boyfriend Tariq’s relationship play out, much to their dismay. They watched as she slowly realized that she and the aspiring rapper might not be endgame. So her decision to break up with her longtime beau in the season finale was bittersweet as Janine decided to remain in Philadelphia, while he opted to pursue his clean-cut rap career aspirations in New York. As things progressed, there were some viewers who threw shade at Tariq every week due to his actions. However, their sentiments aren't necessarily those of the series' star and creator, Quinta Brunson, as she's revealed why she doesn’t view her character's ex as a villain.

The breakup between the fictional childhood sweethearts was definitely one of the most memorable aspects of the workplace comedy's Season 1 finale, which scored high ratings and helped solidify the show as one of TV's best comedies. Tariq's departure from the show was ultimately pretty refreshing, as it differed from many other romantic dissolutions viewers are used to seeing on television. Black male-female relationships aren’t always seen in the best light, and Quinta Brunson didn’t want to contribute to the “bad boyfriend is a bad person” narrative. The clever star said to Variety about going against the grain:

We have these Black main characters, and I saw an opportunity to make sure that they were fleshed out and dimensional. We don’t very often get to see that. Yes, there have been other Black shows, but not as many. So, I don’t think that Tariq is a villain. I think people are just growing up. Tariq is doing the best he can, and we wanted to show that too.

You have to appreciate the fact that the multi-hyphenate is conscious of Black love’s portrayal on television. Oftentimes, viewers see the messy breakup between the two parties and all the drama that ensues. (Every TV relationship doesn’t have to be like Lawrence and Issa during Insecure Seasons 1 and 2.) As the A Black Lady Sketch Show alum put it, Tariq didn’t have to turn into a heel for viewers to empathize with Janine realizing her worth. Despite his immature and selfish ways, there was no true malice in his well-intentioned heart.

While Tariq might be out of the picture in Season 2, the finale did live the door open for him to return. Quinta Brunson teased that the writers’ room is still “seeing what feels natural” when pondering ways to bring him back for future installments. Of course, regardless of what happens. I'm just glad that the ABC sitcom’s massive success earned it another season. It's a pretty major accomplishment that's put into an even greater perspective when considering that its creator nearly quit television altogether before landing the series.

Surely the rising entertainment phenom and her team have some special things planned for the next batch of episodes, which will premiere during the 2022-2023 season. And I'll be waiting to see if Janine's ex stays in New York or circles back to Philadelphia at some point.

Right now, Abbott Elementary Season 2's exact premiere date has not been announced, so keep checking out CinemaBlend's 2022 TV schedule for updates on that front. Also, before the second season drops, you can catch up on the first using a Hulu subscription.

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).