Quinta Brunson Wants to Make People Happy
This Week on the Talk Easy Podcast with Sam Fragoso
Illustration by Krishna Bala Shenoi.
Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso is a weekly series of intimate conversations with artists, authors, and politicians. It’s a podcast where people sound like people. New episodes air every Sunday, distributed by Pushkin Industries.
Today, we return to our conversation with Abbott Elementary creator and star, Quinta Brunson!
On the heels of her historic Emmy wins, we discuss the guiding principles behind the series, its incomparable cast, and the show’s personal connection to Quinta’s upbringing in West Philadelphia. Then, we unpack her earliest comedic influences, performing in improv in college, and the solace she found in Second City Chicago.
On the back-half, Quinta reflects on moving to Los Angeles at twenty-three, the feelings of alienation that followed, and the Comedy Store performance that irrevocably altered her course and brought her to Abbott Elementary. To close, she shares her hopes for the years to come.
Subscribe and download the episode, wherever you get your podcasts!
From the episode:
Sam Fragoso: Going into the first season of Abbott Elementary, you’ve talked about how you wanted to provide respite from a global pandemic, a fragile democracy, and an escalating climate crisis. You said, “The world is in a crazy place. We just wanted to make a feel-good sitcom that was twenty-two minutes long, that families can watch together but wasn’t corny and could still be for everyone.”
Quinta Brunson: That’s right.
SF: Now that the world is basically fixed, and the problems I mentioned no longer exist…
SF: What’s the driving force of the new season?
QB: The driving force is I enjoy making it. As you said, the whole world is fixed… but I still want people to be happy. I think there’s something really beautiful about people enjoying something sweet and short. I think our show doesn’t require much brain power. Everyone’s going to have fun. There are a lot of television programs that require a lot of mental gymnastics. Abbott doesn’t feel that weighted— granted people think about the state of American public schools, but that wasn’t my intention. That’s just inherent to the creation of a show about a public school.
SF: You have this quote:
“If I go back home to my family in Philadelphia, and I ask my mother, cousin, uncle and niece if they’re watching Succession, they’re going to say no. Yet Succession is hip, cool. Everyone writes about it. But the hippest, coolest thing isn’t always for everyone, and that’s okay. Network TV is inherently made for the people. Abbott is in this middle space between the two.”
Going into the second season, what was your frame of mind?
QB: I think it allowed me to trust myself even more. The first season felt very intentional, but like with any art, you know you’re making something, and you can’t control how it’s received. You hope that your art is received in the way you intended it to be. Our show was, and it caused conversation. It did things that I didn’t necessarily intend for it to do, but it still added to it being, I think, a great cultural piece.
SF: What do you mean by that?
QB: Last season, there was an episode about the gifted program. When that episode aired, I remember online people had this extensive conversation about the ethics of having a gifted program at all. That wasn’t a conversation we were trying to create. It’s awesome that people are motivated to have these conversations and reach out to their local public schools and donate. All of that is more than we could have asked for. So, while making the second season, it felt like we just needed to do more of the same. We really trust ourselves.
Sam Fragoso is the host of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso, a weekly series of conversations with artists, activists, and politicians. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and NPR. After conducting seminal interviews with icons like Spike Lee, Werner Herzog, and Noam Chomsky, he independently founded Talk Easy in 2016.