How to Get Cast on ‘Abbott Elementary’

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Photo Source: ABC/Temma Hankin

With its freshman season on the (year)books, “Abbott Elementary” creator-star Quinta Brunson and her crew are already hard at work on Season 2. The breakout ABC hit, which earned seven Emmy nominations this year, will be back this fall with another 22 episodes. But do you have what it takes to make the grade in the audition room?

In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore the casting process that brought this stellar ensemble together. Plus, find out what the show’s casting director wants to see in the audition room and get tips that will land you a spot in the teachers’ lounge.

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What is “Abbott Elementary” about?

Filmed in a mockumentary style in the vein of “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” “Abbott Elementary” follows Janine Teagues (Brunson) and her fellow teachers at the titular West Philly school. The group perseveres past roadblocks ranging from a tone-deaf principal to severe underfunding, making it their mission to better their students’ lives. Although the odds are stacked against them, “Abbott Elementary” isn’t afraid to shine a harsh fluorescent light on the struggles real-life teachers face every day, tackling these issues with the care (and comedy) they deserve. 

While Season 1 focuses solely on the teachers’ lives within the confines of the school walls, Brunson teased that Season 2 will take a look at “what kind of lives these people live at home and what it looks like.” (Yes, even the meanest of teachers still have a personal life!) And with Barbara Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph) contemplating retirement and Gregory Eddie (Tyler James Williams) on the road to romance, it sounds like everyone will be put to the test.

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Who is in the cast of “Abbott Elementary”?

Season 1 features:

  • Quinta Brunson as Janine Teagues
  • Tyler James Williams as Gregory Eddie
  • Janelle James as Ava Coleman
  • Lisa Ann Walter as Melissa Schemmenti
  • Chris Perfetti as Jacob Hill
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara Howard
  • William Stanford Davis as Mr. Johnson

Last month, Davis, who plays the school janitor, was promoted to series regular for Season 2.

Who is the casting director for “Abbott Elementary”?

Wendy O’Brien of Wendy O’Brien Casting serves as the primary CD for “Abbott Elementary.” Her previous credits include “Sons of Anarchy,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “Teen Wolf.”

Like most casting directors, O’Brien doesn’t want the audition process to be intimidating. Instead, when you’re in her audition room, she hopes you’ll feel comfortable and free. “I hope that [actors see] that it’s a very safe space. It’s a very safe space to try something, to explore, to be yourself. That’s our No. 1 goal of what we try and provide. I think it’s important to help them come in, be comfortable, and do the best work they can. It’s also self-serving. The better they do, the sooner we’re going to find the [person for] role.”

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How does the casting process work for “Abbott Elementary”?

When it came to casting the series, Brunson didn’t seek out big-name stars. “I believe it’s part of the fabric of a sitcom to introduce you to new people,” the creator and star explained. “What helps make a show successful is when you have people you can fall in love with—actors people have never seen before.” So she and O’Brien focused on finding performers who would bring a true Philadelphia feel to the project—“not prettified or too Hollywood,” the CD said.

Because of the show’s mockumentary style, O’Brien sought people who could handle a subtle brand of comedy. “It’s a muscle that you don’t know you have until you really try it. I think it was surprising to a lot of actors, too,” she said. “Some people didn’t end up taping because they were like, ‘I just can’t figure out those beats.’ It didn’t mean you weren’t a good actor; you just couldn’t find that piece. There was no ingredient that we knew to look for. We just had to try.”

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When does filming for “Abbott Elementary” Season 2 start?

On July 18, Brunson tweeted that filming was officially underway for Season 2. According to Variety, School will be back in session on Sept. 21 on ABC, streaming the next day on Hulu.

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Where can you find “Abbott Elementary” casting calls and auditions?

The series is currently casting for Season 2. Production is looking for a young Black actor, aged 6–8, who uses a wheelchair. Talent will be featured in a recurring background role. Filming will take place at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. Pay is $128 for eight hours of work for nonunion talent and $187 for eight hours of work for union talent, plus overtime (if applicable) and a COVID-19 testing stipend. Check out our direct notice to learn more about the role and apply. 

Those interested in a future in (fictional) education can always check out this themed roundup for active gigs. Keep in mind that for recurring and regular roles, having an agent remains the best way to stay up-to-date on the latest casting calls and production schedules. Don’t have representation? Here’s how you can find an agent who will meet your needs.

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What are the best audition tips for landing a role on “Abbott Elementary”?

Work on your craft: Both Brunson and O’Brien have emphasized that, whether you are actively working or not, you should always be honing your talents. “Pay attention to craft. There’s a lot of shit out there on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube—quick ways to the top. But a healthy knowledge of the craft you’re pursuing is so valuable, even if you’re super talented,” Brunson advised. “You can be so talented, but knowing the history of the thing—going back and studying Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin and following every avenue of comedy—is so helpful in making work that will last.”

“Just because you’re not shooting a role, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be training. And that doesn’t mean spending money to go to a class if you don’t have those means. It can be running the scenes. It’s staying in shape,” O’Brien echoed. “An athlete can’t race without doing their training. You can’t expect your body to perform. So I think it’s the same, to be ready when you do get that call for an audition and you have that day on set. That you’re actually ready and prepared, because it’s an ongoing preparation.”

Be authentic: O’Brien encourages actors to “bring their own take” on a character into your audition. “It may not be right for that role, but you get a sense of who that person is or what’s unique about them and it sets them apart from everyone else,” she says. “And not making the choice for the sake of being different, but making a choice that feels really right for who you are, not what you think we want to see. Sometimes those are the most interesting auditions. Sometimes writers completely will change a role because they’re just so inspired by a choice. That’s the best part of our job. Why does it have to be 10 40-year-old white guys? It doesn’t. Why is this written as a man? Why is this written as an able-bodied human? Does it have to be? Maybe not. And I think that’s one of the great gifts of what we do.”

Don’t overthink your audition: While nerves are sure to build, O’Brien doesn’t want actors to come into the room with any doubts. “You might not think you’re right for the role. And this has happened so many times where an agent doesn’t think they’re right,” she said. “I’m like, I get they’re not what’s written on the page, but trust me, and just have them come in. And I would say 50% of the time, they get the role. They’re my wild card. Just come in. Don’t worry about it. You’re the wild card. It doesn’t make sense to them. Trust me. And a lot of times it works out really well. Do not overthink your invitation. Usually, there’s a very good reason. It’s our job to open the door, and it’s the actor’s to want to walk through it. So just because we provide an audition, it also doesn’t mean that they have to come in or they’re obligated to come in. They can have a sense of what’s right for them.

“On one level, if it’s because they just don’t like the roles, they should never worry about that. That’s their choice,” O’Brien continued. “But if it’s because they just don’t think they’re right for it or that they’re creatively not sure, that’s where I think they need to trust. Sometimes you’re just waiting for the right role. Sometimes it takes a really long time to find that right role. But then when it happens, it’s pretty magical.”

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