Chris Perfetti first read the script for “Abbott Elementary” in March 2021. He was in Atlanta filming another project and was riding the MARTA bus from Piedmont Park to Buckhead. As a lifelong New Yorker, he is the first to get acquainted with his public transportation in a new city.
“Usually my litmus test is that if I’m vibrating with something, especially if it’s a pilot or if it’s a new play, I like to read it in a public place,” Perfetti said. “I find that if it’s enough to distract me from the world around me, and if it makes me laugh out loud in a public place, that’s a good sign.”
After reading the script, the 33-year-old actor said the idea of portraying Jacob Hill was both exciting and challenging. Jacob, also affectionately referred to as “the white boy” by his students, has become everyone’s favorite well-intentioned but white gay teacher. He looks like the ex-Teach For America type we all know and love to ragged about, which reminds us of his latest book club selection, “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.
He added that Parfetti and Jacob share a fervent and ardent curiosity for the world. He also had a sense of envy at the thought of playing someone else’s character.
“I felt like I knew who that person was, like he was already in my life, or the writing was like that I thought was very specific,” he said.
Fast forward to today — and it’s clear Perfetti’s trend was right. “Abbott Elementary” has been celebrated around the world, winning multiple Emmys to boot and a highly anticipated second season, which premieres Wednesday on ABC.
Parfetti said that when he learned that the series had been renewed for Season 2, he was in ninth place. “I left the first season feeling like I’d kill for the chance to do it again,” he said. Perfetti says that in Season 2, the “Abbott Elementary” writers room, led by Quinta Brunson, is “breaking expectations” and “steering clear of plotlines and tropes” that are predictable or repetitive.
“This season is a very specific kind of supernatural series. We’re taking a look at aspects of school life that people might not be expecting. Hopefully last year, we laid the foundation, and you’re somewhat invested in what these guys are doing. Now, we get to see why they are the way they are.”
In the season 2 premiere, “Development Day”, the gang Willard R. Abbott Public School is back for Development Week, a preparatory period before students’ first day of school. Janine Teagues (Brunson) and her scrubs-mistakes, aspiring rap star-boyfriend Tariq (Jack Fox) part ways, but after the breakup, she reassures herself that all is well and has successfully brought her problems home. left on.
That being said, Janine is at the forefront of packing up her already overwhelmed schedule with planning a faculty mixer and organizing a special celebrity surprise for the kids’ first day. However, the clever, naughty and caring Jacob is one of the first to recognize that appearances are deceiving.
“This season, surviving his second year at Abbott, Jacob is really determined and steadfast in his belief that he can change the world, as teachers have always had the ability to do,” Perfetti said. . “Jacob, like Jacob, is dialed in to 11. Given his naivety and penchant for the obviously dramatic, expect this to be a recipe for disaster and humour.”
Perfetti comes from a theater background, having spent the past 10 years performing plays on and off Broadway, such as Steppenwolf’s production of “King James.” He has mastered the art of allowing the audience to absorb every move he makes.
The ABC sitcom is intentionally intended to give the illusion that viewers are watching the devastation in real time, with cameras rotating every second from every angle. Shot in an imitation format, “Abbott Elementary” capitalizes on the classic direct stare at the camera, consenting closed eyes, and perplexing looks between the actors.
“There’s definitely some crossover there,” Perfetti said, describing the difference between TV and theater. “I think there’s a performance quality inherent in Jacob’s personality. I think Jacob is thrilled that this documentary is being made about Abbott, I think he thinks he’s the star of it sometimes, Or at least have a strong supporting character.
Similar to the way Jacob is portrayed, Perfetti said that his own mother would have described his younger self as “always interested in being the center of attention or performing in some way”. With the help of an assistant English teacher recognizing his potential and entrusting him with Tennessee Williams plays, Parfetti said he fell into acting and music in high school.
Perfetti said, “It’s the real kind of karma I have the moment to play a teacher, knowing that there are probably more teachers, whose lives I’ve made temporarily hell.” “To be perfectly clear, grad school was like a mixed bag for me. I knew there was gold to be mined from certain teachers, certain activities, and fields of study, but I also knew that it would take to reverse the facts. I’m not interested. School was a stage and runway for me and there were definitely teachers who changed the course of my life.
Like main character Janine, her extrovert-introvert giftedness to a character was in the program as a child. A gardener, perfectionist, and peak type-a teacher, Jacob is determined to change the world through teaching, ensuring that he is liked by students, and is Voted by a real life TikTok user As a staff member they will feel most comfortable coming out. However, Perfetti hasn’t seen the video; He is very intentional about how he consumes the online feedback.
“I love that someone would choose Jacob as the teacher they want to come out the most for,” Perfetti said. “What I can control is what I think is Jacob’s hopes, dreams, desires, wants, fears, and insecurities. Those are the things that are interesting to me as an actor. Quinta told Jacob from the beginning as the best friend or sibling that everyone wishes they had. I think Jacob would try to befriend someone who is cheating on him.”
He continued: “Jacob is brutally loyal and well-intentioned, often to the fault. He’s a social puppy, and an overachiever. I see him as Shakespeare’s clown. I think in this cast His role is very clear. That being said, I think our writers have done a tremendous job of not making him a single tool or two-dimensional in any way. It’s very clear to me that Jacob acts the way he does. That’s why he does it. I’m very happy to occupy that position, because I feel like I don’t get to do that much in my real life.”
The third episode of Season 2, titled “Story Samurai”, is about what happens when Jacob’s old travel storytelling troupe visits Abbott Elementary. When he decides to join them on stage, there are certainly laughs. The episode airs October 5, and Jacob wrestles with nostalgia, his frivolity, and his preoccupation with his colleagues and the students’ opinions about him.
“203 is a fantastic bit of writing,” Perfetti said. “There is some catharsis and recognition on their part and I think it will open up a whole world of possibilities for them in the future. I think the episode, on a macro level, hopefully, is what we are talking about. How to tolerate those who are different from us and how we have compassion and respect for people. I know it’s done in a subtle and hilarious way that only our show can do.”
This is one of many lessons Perfetti has learned from portraying Jacob to examining his own relationship from empathy to service. Parfetti said that, in Season 2, audiences can sympathize with characters they didn’t do in previous seasons. they hope people are laughing And on Jacob. Although the response to “Abbott Elementary” has been overwhelming, Parfetti says, he hopes the show is what people need right now.
“I have never worked in a show where I felt every department was firing on all cylinders like this,” he said. “Great to see the sheer level of talent being vomited by our crew, cast and writers.,
“Then I think there’s room for ‘Abbott’ right now too,” Perfetti continued. “I think people want a place where they can laugh. I think people want characters that they can identify with and may have never seen before. More than anything, I hope people are laughing.” .
After historic Emmy Award wins and sky-high Rotten Tomatoes ratings, one would assume the cast is under pressure. However, Perfetti said the writers were not interested in “making up any noise”. Although he believes the “Abbott Elementary” team is confident going into a second season, in many ways, Perfetti & Co. is picking up on where they left off.
“It is great to be able to bond over the way people are reacting to the show. We’re not letting our guard down in any way, I think the invitation to make more of ‘Abbott’ really does sound like a challenge. It’s like, How do you make this better?” Parfetti asked. “It’s hard to imagine what will happen next. I am so obsessed with the work that I have right now that I haven’t let myself go there. I don’t want this to be done, which I think is a rare thing. But I hope ‘Abbott’ doesn’t end anywhere.’