Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter Discuss their Relatable Friendship on ‘Abbott Elementary’

Sheryl Lee Ralph, who just won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, and Lisa Ann Walter star as Barbara Howard and Melissa Schemmenti in Abbott Elementary. Season 2 premieres on Wednesday, September 21 at 9 PM ET on ABC. Additionally, you can watch new episodes on demand and on Hulu the following day.

A workplace comedy following a group of dedicated, passionate teachers — and a slightly tone-deaf principal — as they navigate the Philadelphia public school system. Despite the odds stacked against them, they are determined to help their students succeed in life, and though these incredible public servants may be outnumbered and underfunded, they love what they do — even if they don’t love the school district’s less-than-stellar attitude toward educating children.

ABC/Scott Everett White

During a roundtable discussion, I had the chance to ask the actresses about the beautiful friendship between their characters. Sheryl Lee Ralph responded by saying, “I think the friendship of it all is so wonderful, that it’s not like the good girl, bad girl kitties. We are mature women, living our life, experiencing friendship together and I’m sure we come from two very different parts of town, but when it comes to that school, we are good friends and we have a great understanding of what it takes to keep Abbott Elementary moving forward. I love that dynamic because it’s something that we don’t see a lot, you know? Lisa talks about this often, how there’s always maybe that one mature woman in a show and she has no real life, but with this, you have two women that have real lives and a real friendship, and I love the way the audience loves it.”

Lisa Ann Walter continued by adding, “I think the audience relates to it, Sophia, because clearly the lives of those characters are different, Barbara’s Howard, Melissa is getting over a divorce and trying to like figure that out, and then there’s advice going on that and everything that they love, you know? Melissa loves sports, Barbara has her church stuff, so there are different things that they enjoy, but they have a camaraderie and they bond over food, over shopping for stuff, over getting foot facials, and whatever other crazy thing they’re talking about. They know each other’s history and that person in your life that holds your history, that’s your BFF, that you see every day, that you do a check-in call with whether you see them or not, you might check in a couple of times a day by text, all of us girlfriends, all of us women have that buddy. I think guys do too, but they might bond over sports, Funko pops, or whatever it is you collect. Guys tend to bond over their hobby things, right? And women will bond over people, personalities, and relationships. So I think audiences see that in us and it feels authentic because quite frankly, it is. We love each other.”

The two then recalled their recent trip to the spa together, getting ready for the Emmys.

ABC/Gilles Mingasson

We then moved on to how big of a comfort show Abbott Elementary is and our hope that it won’t be leaving TV any time soon. “I think we’re gonna go on for a while. Everybody’s picked a number and my number is 10,” Ralph told me. “No way before that. Oh, this show is going into syndication and you will be able to watch Abbott Elementary every day, and I’m so thankful.”

“I’m here for it. I want it to be like people watch The Office and, you know, there’s a reason for that. Yes, we’re saying it like we’re gonna get lots of it and people like to laugh at it, we’d like to have the work and have a job that we look forward to, but over and above that, it’s comfort television, just in the way that people would say that The Parent Trap is a comfort movie that you could put on and at any point in it, you could just have it in the background, listen to it, and you feel like, ‘Oh, I know what’s going on. I could still clean my house, cook my dinner, or do whatever and it’s comforting,’” Walter explained. “We, in the time that we came out at the end of pandemic, were a source of comfort and joy for people, and with everything that’s going on in the world, with everything that we’re facing as a country, to be able to be that joy is the reason I got into show business. It’s the reason I wanted to become an actor, was to make people feel, to make them laugh, to make them cry. So to be that source is… I can’t tell you how amazing that feels to me personally.”