‘Abbott Elementary’ EPs Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker: Working with Quinta Brunson Is an ‘Incredible Joy’ SuperNayr

On June 6, the 2024 IndieWire Honors ceremony will celebrate thirteen creators and stars responsible for some of the most stellar work of the TV season. Curated and selected by IndieWire’s editorial team, this event is a new edition of its IndieWire Honors event focused entirely on television. In the days leading up to the event, IndieWire is showcasing their work with new interviews and tributes from their peers.

Ahead, “Abbott Elementary” executive producers Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker tell IndieWire about the many qualities that set our Visionary Award honoree, Emmy-winning writer and actress Quinta Brunson, apart from the crowd.

UNDER THE BRIDGE - LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 15: Cast and EP’s attend the world premiere for Hulu’s “Under the Bridge” in Los Angeles, CA on April 15, 2024. (Disney/PictureGroup)
RILEY KEOUGH (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER), LILY GLADSTONE
Paula Malcomson as Anna Fletcher in episode 2, season 3 of Mayor of Kingstown streaming on Paramount+ Photo Credit: Dennis P. Mong Jr./Paramount +

“Do you guys remember that two-part episode in the ninth season of ‘Family Matters’ where Urkel goes to space?” This is a sincere question Quinta has asked us. To talk with Quinta is to talk with someone who has an encyclopedic knowledge of television comedy. She loves television in a way that someone loves a child: unconditionally and with her whole heart. She can wax poetically about the character arc that Patrick Duffy took in the third season of “Step by Step.” She can tell you the exact moment that Michael Scott went from villain to lovable protagonist in “The Office,” and what story points and moments were needed to make that happen. On a random day, you might hear her talk about why Tisha Campbell is an all-time sitcom performer in the way a docent at a museum might stress the importance of Vermeer in the Dutch Baroque Period. So if you are among those surprised that Quinta Brunson helped save network comedy, you simply have never met Quinta Brunson.

It has been an incredible joy to spend the last several years making “Abbott Elementary” with Quinta and seeing firsthand how she thinks about telling stories. They are stories whose heroes are inherently good, yet imperfect. Richly drawn characters who struggle to navigate broken systems and their own flaws because they must rise above the bullshit. They are messy, because life is messy. Theirs are stories that don’t always end in triumph. And yet… those stories make us feel good.

And it makes a lot of sense to us. Because to work with Quinta Brunson is to feel good. Not only is the lady at the top a visionary storyteller, an uproariously funny performer, and a meticulous writer. She is a meritocratic collaborator who values her cast, crew, and writers as though they were her own family. Someone who respects them as human beings with rich, meaningful lives outside of the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. Someone who, despite her youth, appreciates the opportunities life has provided and will put every fiber of her being into making the most of those opportunities. (Someone who is okay with us sometimes having to leave at 3 p.m. to take our kids to little league practice.) There is an empathy she brings to others in her life and work, and that permeates her storytelling. She has an empathy for the characters she creates and writes and for the writers, performers, and crew who bring those ideas to life.

And in turn, it makes you want to move boulders on her behalf. She just makes you want to be better. So when she sits at the head of the writer’s room table and says, “You guys should really do a re-watch of ‘Full House,’” you consider it. You don’t do it, but you consider it.

Read Quinta Brunson’s IndieWire Honors profile.

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