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Quinta Brunson Shares Her Inspiration For Abbott Elementary

"Abbott Elementary" is the latest success story for network sitcoms. Debuting to immediate acclaim in early 2022, the ABC mockumentary-comedy follows the staff and faculty of an underfunded and predominantly Black elementary school in Philadelphia. According to Deadline, it is ABC's highest-rated comedy telecast in three years. The show also won three Emmys, including star and creator Quinta Brunson for outstanding writing and Sheryl Lee Ralph's supporting performance as Barbara Howard (via IMDb).

"Abbott Elementary" also has a lot of goodwill surrounding it. While it is a genuinely hilarious comedy, its theme of underpaid and overworked faculty devoting their mental and emotional energy to teaching kids also shines a light on the brokenness of American public education. "Abbott Elementary" is helping real teachers in underserved communities by using some marketing money for the show to fund supplies. "We chose to put the marketing money toward supplies for teachers ... It's about being able to make those kinds of decisions that really excite me, things that can really materially help people," she told NPR Fresh Air.

On top of that, "Abbott Elementary" also has heartwarming inspiration directly from Brunson's life.

Quinta Brunson's mom, an elementary school teacher, was part of the inspiration for the show

On the podcast "WTF with Marc Maron," Quinta Brunson discussed how her mother, a Philadelphia teacher, inspired the show. "I was just with her, my mom, and I went to Philly to go visit at her school, and I got hit with this wave of like, 'F***, I forgot how much of my life took place at a school,' not just as a student but with my mom after school," she said.

She elaborated on this emotion, saying, "My relationship to school was just different; it was my second home. And I was hit with all these feelings of this world. I had been so far away from it for so long, but man, these walls, these floors ... it's something everyone knows."

Brunson also confirmed that Barbara Howard was "completely" based on her mother. Barbara, one of the teachers who has been with the school for quite some time, is often viewed by Brunson's character as a mentor.

Finally, Brunson recounted a moment that gave her further inspiration for the show — her mom excitedly talking with a pupil's mother on parent-teacher night when the mother could only make it at 8 pm. "My mom was so excited because she had wanted to talk to this woman all year. I was just watching their interaction like, 'This is who my mom is, this is who she's always been, this is who every teacher is pretty much,'" Brunson said.