Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022
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Q&A: RTF alum on creation of show ‘Abbott Elementary’

Abbott+Elementary+showrunner+Patrick+Schumaker+and+UT+professor+Alisa+Perren+laugh+Monday+during+an+interview+panel+at+the+Moody+College+of+Communication.
Sophie Pascal
Abbott Elementary showrunner Patrick Schumaker and UT professor Alisa Perren laugh Monday during an interview panel at the Moody College of Communication.

As one of the biggest shows on television, “Abbott Elementary” has racked up endless critical acclaim and millions of fans. Following a conversation with RTF professor Dr. Alisa Perren, executive producer and showrunner Patrick Schumacker sat down with The Daily Texan about his career and experience working on “Abbott Elementary”. 

Daily Texan: How did you end up on the team that developed and pitched “Abbott Elementary?”

Patrick Schumacker: That’s a funny story. We know Quinta (Brunson, creator of “Abbott Elementary”) because we cast her in a pilot that we did for the CW back in about 2018. (When) she came in to audition, we were blown away. I didn’t know who she was at the time and our casting director was like, ‘Anyone under the age of 30 knows that’s Quinta Brunson.’ We ended up working with her and developed a working relationship and a friendship. Then a couple years later, she came to us wanting to develop what was then called “Harrity Elementary,” which is the name of her actual school in Philly. She came to us to develop it as a mockumentary but in animated format. She came in with this idea of her mom’s commitment to staying late (for a parent-teacher conference). It was a really touching story, but also funny, and we (were) like, ‘Well, that’s the story that opens the pitch.’ Right before the pandemic, I ran into her on the lot at Warner Brothers. I was like, ‘Oh, do you want to ride home?’ (On the drive) I was like, ‘What do you think about turning Harrity into a live-action show for broadcast?’ She was like, ‘I’m thinking the exact same thing.’ And two weeks later, we were pitching it to Warner Brothers. It was like serendipity that we ran into each other and I gave her a ride. Always give people rides, except dangerous people. 


DT: What makes the show so special or sets it apart from other TV shows?

PS: Well, this isn’t to diminish what else is on the air at all, but I think that we do our research and try and make the show as authentic as possible to the actual experience of public educators. We try and talk to as many educators as we can from different facets of the system. All of those conversations ended up begetting episode ideas. We also have a writing staff who has either had experience in education in the past or has been somehow touched by someone in their family. It’s the most gratifying when we hear from teachers that the show feels so real. Sometimes they’re like ‘The show gives me PTSD, and I can’t actually watch it.’ But most of the time, they’re like, ‘No, I feel seen,’ which is great. It’s super gratifying.

DT: How did the show reckon with the strikes last year?

PS: The toughest thing about navigating the strike was that we knew we weren’t going to premiere in September. One of the things that we really like in the show is that it tracks along with a real school year. So the biggest challenge then was how do we explain why we’re starting the show in February? 

DT: What advice would you have given your younger self?

PS: Trust your instincts. They’re not as bad as you think.

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