Quinta Brunson (Abbott Elementary) Schools Us on Optimism


In this intimate yet lively conversation, Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson talks Black 90s sitcoms, tackling tough issues with humor and the enduring power of optimism.

Episode Description


In this episode, comedian Joyelle Nicole Johnson interviews writer-actor-creator Quinta Brunson about her breakout ABC series, Abbott Elementary, which explores nuanced topics like charter schools and underfunded public education in the most unexpected way – through a lighthearted workplace comedy. Abbott Elementary has built an enormous audience, earned several historic Emmys, and revitalized and revolutionized the network comedy. In this intimate yet lively conversation, Joyelle and Quinta talk Black 90s sitcoms, tackling tough issues with humor, and the enduring power of optimism. Later, host Gabe Gonzalez talks to TV critic Eric Deggans about the ways Abbott Elementary is continuing the legacy of the great Black sitcoms of the 90s and why this representation is so culturally relevant.

What to Listen For


[Interview with Quinta Brunson]

  • Inspiration behind “Janine” in Abbott Elementary
  • “I think that the world just doesn’t function without optimists. I think most revolutionaries are actually huge optimists.”
  • Importance of learning about slavery, American history, and with one’s culture and heritage at the forefront in elementary school
  • How Quinta’s experience with predominately all Black educators in school in Philadelphia influenced the creative decisions of Abbott Elementary
  • Quinta shares her longtime dream about opening an afterschool center in Philadelphia
  • What Martin and other 90s Black sitcoms taught Quinta about comedy
  • Using her platform and comedy to address about contentious issues like the school-to-prison pipeline
  • Being mentored by TV veteran Larry Wilmore
  • Best advice ever received

[Interview with NPR TV critic and media analyst Eric Deggans]

  • Television’s renaissance period for Black up-and-coming talent
  • The cycle of representation in mainstream television
  • “…what TV audiences crave now is authenticity.”
  • Optimism as a brand on screen through Abbott Elementary’s character ‘Janine’

Show Resources


Watch Quinta Brunson’s Peabody acceptance speech 

Abbott Elementary – Peabody Winner profile

Back to School with Abbott Elementary – Peabody Finds Newsletter

Listen to Larry Wilmore, Quinta’s mentor, TV veteran, and creator behind the Peabody-winning sitcom The Bernie Mac Show, featured on Peabody’s archived audio series. 

Subscribe to our Peabody Finds newsletter to have the latest news and specially curated content on the stories that matter delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here!