Quinta Brunson’s Trust Fall – Behind the Scenes of “Abbott Elementary” Season 3 (Plus Set Tour Photos)

“Thank you for coming to our home, we appreciate it,” Emmy-winner Quinta Brunson said as TCA members became the first outsiders to walk the halls of Abbott Elementary. The hit ABC comedy is a co-production between Warner Bros. Television and 20th Television, filmed on the Warner Bros. lot in Soundstage 16, one of the biggest in the world, which has been used for large-scale classic musicals (The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Annie) and blockbuster fantasy films (The Goonies, Batman Returns, Jurassic Park). But since 2021, it’s been the home of a fictional elementary school inspired by Quinta Brunson’s mother.



“The Step [Class] episode of the first season was directly pulled from my mom,” Quinta revealed. “She would teach dance classes after school. People really loved that episode, and I remember showing it to my mom for the first time. She turned to me, and she was like, ‘You're just gonna steal my whole life, huh?’… That was something that was really special to her. She didn’t realize how observant I had been. She didn’t know I knew the reason those after-school clubs were important. They kept girls off the streets. It gave them somewhere to go, which is why my mom gave up more of her time than already teaching to do a club. And I just love that it led to Ava and Janine's relationship getting better.”

In addition to being inspired by her mother’s commitment to children in Philadelphia, Quinta Brunson was a fan of mockumentary TV shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and the Summer Heights High spin-off Ja'mie: Private School Girl. “There's a very good reason that there's a documentary being done about an inner city, underfunded school,” Quinta shared about why this format was the right fit for Abbott Elementary. “It has a place in our world. Those characters mean something to our characters. Gregory actually refers to them, like, ‘Oh, I'm sorry, I got you guys confused with the newspeople, my bad.’ Because they're integral to the school now. They've been at the school for three years, and even with the [Season 3] premiere, it was like, ‘Oh, what's up, guys? We missed you.’ Our characters have a relationship with them now.”

It’s been a whirlwind three years for Brunson, who created Abbott Elementary and had been laser-focused on the series until last May when the WGA went on strike, forcing her to slow down. “I do not have a memory of that,” she confessed about winning multiple awards since the show started. “The strike is what allowed me to process, where the walls came crashing in, and I was like, what happened? I was in my office, and I walked out. And then I did the walk back. And I was like, what the hell is that award? I had to pull it off the shelf to see that it was a SAG Award. And I was like, when did this happen? Because we were in it. We were working, and I wasn't really processing how much had changed, which I think was good, but also bad. You should be keeping up with where you are in life.”

With time to reflect on the journey thus far, Quinta Brunson entered Season 3 with more clarity and perspective. “We build a few extra weeks into our pre-production so that Quinta can be in the writers’ room for much longer than a normal show would have.,” shared executive producer Justin Halpern about the workflow that allows Quinta to remain an integral creative part of the show while also filling the duties of a star and executive producer. “By the time we're done with pre-production, sometimes we have written seven scripts and outlined to ten. And she has been in the writers’ room every single minute of the day for everything up to there. And then what we do is we build in hiatuses every few weeks so that before we get caught up, she's back in the room.” Justin added that if the shooting schedule doesn’t allow for that, they will bring the writer’s room to the set. “She feels like a writer first. She's an amazing writer who happens to be an incredible performer.”

Quinta’s creative role also extends to post-production. “I love to be in editing,” she revealed. “I like to be there because that is the final step of writing. Whenever I'm able to step away from set, I'm usually either in the writers' room or in editing, or at the mix. I love to go to mixing the episodes. But that's not as easy to do. I will say that this season has felt good, because after two seasons, I think we're really a well-oiled machine. And I really have a lot of faith in my team and everyone to do a good job. And that's important to have trust and faith that now I can rest a little. You ever seen the end of Avengers Endgame when Tony Stark does the snap, and then they're like, you can rest? I feel like that’s this year.”

Quinta trusts her team implicitly, and she then instilled that trust in us as she set a group of journalists loose into the halls of Abbott Elementary to look through the set. Her only request was that we attempt to focus our cameras low inside the classrooms, as these sets weren’t designed for cameras to see a ceiling.

As you see on the show, a central hallway connects all of the classrooms. Unlike a lot of the multi-cam sitcom sets we’d been on during our Warner Bros. set visit, which didn’t have four walls, it would be easy to get lost in these halls. First stop, Janine Teagues’ class… or the classroom formerly led by Janine, if you’ve seen the season premiere.

Barbara Howard’s rocking chair is an iconic piece of furniture in her classroom. The painter’s tape was just to make sure nobody sat in it. We all know Mrs. Howard is particular about her chair.

Mrs. Howard’s classroom is where I found one of my favorite Easter Egg’s, a picture book adaptation of Disney’s animated classic Peter Pan.

Much of Gregory Eddie’s classroom was partitioned off for interviews, but we were able to step behind his desk.

Melissa Schemmenti’s 2nd Grade class is gearing up for some fun art projects.

My favorite room, though, was the library.

The Dewey Decimal System is in use at Abbott Elementary.

But a lot of my favorite details were actually in the hallways, like a “vintage” sign about hallway expectations.

And a display case showing off the Abbott Elementary uniform.

It was a lot of fun to roam around Abbott Elementary, and I can’t wait to return every Wednesday through new episodes on ABC, which stream the day after air on Hulu, and later on Max. Before departing the Warner Bros. lot, we enjoyed an Abbott Elementary-themed lunch out of the world’s biggest lunch box.


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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).