The up-and-coming writer/comedian gets high marks with Abbott Elementary
How did Quinta Brunson get her start?
Growing up in West Philadelphia in the ’90s and early aughts, Quinta Brunson wasn’t discerning when it came to TV. “If you put a comedy in front of me, I loved it,” she says, citing everything from Martin to Even Stevens as favorites. She knew she wanted to be on one of those shows, but she also realized it “wasn’t a realistic pursuit. It was easier for me to keep it as a quiet thought that I pushed to the back of my mind.” After two years at Temple University, she decided to take her shot, and she headed to LA, where she picked up work as a fashion assistant for shoots and as a PA on Childish Gambino’s “Heartbeat” music video.
Which projects has she worked on?
Brunson also pursued comedy, and after she performed a killer sketch set at the legendary Comedy Store, a friend suggested she post videos of one of her characters on Instagram. Seemingly overnight, her skit about a girl who’s never been on a nice date went viral; her shocked face and catchphrase “He got money!” became a meme. “It was surreal,” she says. “It was also very encouraging, because it was nice to see that I could create great work on the internet and have that launch my career in a unique way.” The attention led to a staff job producing videos for BuzzFeed, and later to roles on A Black Lady Sketch Show and Miracle Workers.
How did she come up with the concept for Abbott Elementary?
This winter, Brunson jumps beyond meme-driven fame with the ABC comedy Abbott Elementary, a mockumentary-style series she created that follows teachers at an underfunded Philadelphia public school. “My mom was the inspiration for the show,” says Brunson, whose mother taught in Philly for 40 years. “I showed her the pilot, and she was like, ‘Oh my God, that was spot on!’” ABC teased the premiere episode in December; it earned raves, but Brunson was concerned about only one demographic: “The teacher feedback was what I was most excited about. If they didn’t like it, I was going to be like, ‘We need to scrap the whole thing,’ but it’s been overwhelmingly positive.”
Abbott Elementary’s good-hearted humor and timely subject matter make it easy to imagine the series running for years, à la Parks and Recreation and The Office. “Who wouldn’t love that?” Brunson says with a laugh. In the meantime, she’s recording the audio book for her memoir, She Memes Well, which came out last June. “It’s so hard!” she laments, noting the urge to edit as she reads because of how much has changed since she started the book in 2018. One lesson she has learned is to keep her priorities straight. “I’m trying to make sure I have balance in my home life, with my family,” Brunson says. “I believe very deeply, at the end of the day, that that is what matters most.”