Patrick Schumacker interview: ‘Abbott Elementary’ executive producer

Few characters in recent memory have struck a chord online like Principal Ava on ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” As played by actress and comedian Janelle James in the mockumentary, Ava is “a villain to root for,” according to Bustle, and James’ scene-stealing performance has her squarely in the conversation for Best Comedy Supporting Actress at the Emmy Awards.

“Janelle, in particular, was someone I was completely unfamiliar with,” reveals executive producer Patrick Schumacker in an exclusive video interview when asked about the breakout comedy’s casting process. “She was a writer on ‘Black Monday,’ she had written on ‘Central Park’ for Apple and she just walked in and immediately kind of exuded every quality of Ava that we wanted. In the middle of shooting the season, she was like, ‘This character is just like me.’ So I think a lot of it was – as with most of these things – just kind of dumb luck.” He joined our Gold Derby “Meet the Experts” panel for showrunners.

Created by Quinta Brunson, who also stars in the series, “Abbott Elementary” is about a group of tireless public school teachers in Philadelphia who must deal with dwindling resources – and their Extremely Online principal – while trying the mold the minds of the future. The comedy, with a format and tone directly inspired by “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” is one of the best-reviewed new shows of the year – and has made stars of its cast, particularly James, who not only supplied social media users with countless memes but also showed depth as Ava’s own backstory was revealed toward the end of Season 1. But Schumacker says fans shouldn’t worry that “Abbott Elementary” will seek to turn the self-centered principal into an ally for the teachers as the show heads to Season 2.

“We’re only a few weeks into the Season 2 writers’ room. So you know, anything that we’ve done is obviously subject to change. But one of the things right off the bat is Ava did have her moment and the end of Season 1, but I think maybe she’s the type of person who would take the wrong lessons from that,” Schumacker says on our Meet the Experts: Showrunners panel, citing a twist in the penultimate episode of Season 1 when the teachers rallied around Ava as her job was threatened. “I think that’s probably the direction that we want to move into. Because it’s only Season 2, right? We want incremental movement on these characters.”

All episodes of “Abbott Elementary,” which aired on Tuesdays, are currently streaming on Hulu.

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UPLOADED Jul 12, 2022 11:00 am