Why the Stars of Abbott Elementary Welcome Comparisons to The Office

In an exclusive chat with E! News, Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams discuss their new mockumentary comedy, Abbott Elementary, which premieres Dec. 7 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.

By Alyssa Ray Dec 07, 2021 6:00 PMTags
Watch: 4 TV Moments to Get You Through Hard Times

The stars of Abbott Elementary have no problem with their show being compared to The Office or Parks and Recreation.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, ABC will premiere a new mockumentary-style comedy about a group of teachers trying to do their best while working at a Philadelphia-based public school with little funding. And while that may not sound anything like the aforementioned NBC comedies, a trailer for the show hints that Abbott Elementary is likely following the same TV formula.

For starters, the main character Janine, played by Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson, is an incredibly optimistic, hardworking character reminiscent of Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. Meanwhile, Tyler James Williams' straight man character Gregory has big Jim Halpert energy.

In fact, the Everybody Hates Chris alum is spotted doing "the Jim," a face made famous by John Krasinski on The Office, in the first look for Abbott Elementary. So, when we had the chance to sit down with Brunson and Williams to discuss Abbott Elementary, we asked point-blank if these tributes were intentional.

2022 TV Premiere Dates

Their answer? Yes and no.

Brunson was happy to confirm that she was a "huge fan" of The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family, and since the show was following a similar format, "it's hard to not compare."

Williams expressed a similar sentiment, as he called The Office "the golden standard of this style."

"It's kind of impossible not to [pay tribute]," he continued. "They did such a great job with that show, and really establishing how that works in the American comedy space."

Williams went on to note that "the greatest art is always pulling from previous art," and would take comparisons to Krasinski "any day."

Not to mention, Williams highlighted that the director for the pilot episode, Randall Einhorn, worked on both The Office and Parks and Recreation.

Though Abbott Elementary's structure may be similar to those previous mockumentaries, the real inspiration for the show is near and dear to Brunson's heart. According to the A Black Lady Sketch Show alum, she was inspired to create Abbott Elementary after one impactful visit with her mom, who was a school teacher in Philadelphia before retiring.

"I was at her school, it was a parent-teacher conference night," she recalled. "And I was a little pissed that she was staying at school till eight o'clock. I just thought, 'Come on. This is so late.'"

As Brunson detailed, the night was spent mostly chatting with other teachers, that is until one parent arrived with 10 minutes left to spare in the evening. "I'm kind of mad," she shared. "I'm like, 'How dare you wait until the last minute.' But not my mom, my mom sat down and had that conference with that woman, who [was doing] the best she could do."

It was this moment that inspired Brunson to create an honest and hilarious portrayal of the highs and lows of being a public school teacher.

"This is a comedy, I want [viewers] to come be with our teachers," she concluded. "I want them to laugh with our teachers...Now, if they look at the show and say, 'That's really messed up! They shouldn't have to do that to get their job done.' That'd be awesome. Is it my ultimate goal? Not necessarily."

Abbott Elementary premieres tonight, Dec. 7 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.

Get the drama behind the scenes. Sign up for TV Scoop!