Janelle James shares her experience as the 'evil principal' on Abbott Elementary
by Jaskiran Kaur | Wed, 19 Jan 2022 17:06:35 GMT
Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Abbott Elementary hit ABC right before Christmas, and the random pandemic scares have made it quite difficult for the series to set a regular schedule time. Still, the series did great and became a hit on ABC right after its premiere. 

Recently the actress talked with Entertainment Weekly. When asked how Janelle James feels about the series doing so good, she said she was always positive about Abbott Elementary. 

"I read the script, I was like, "Oh, this s--- is hilarious." I'm really pessimistic, I'm not an optimistic person, but I've never been more optimistic about, or sure of any other project," said the actress. "I knew it was a good show, whether I booked it or not. I wanted to be involved so much because it was so funny — one of the best pilots I have, maybe, ever read. So I'm not surprised. I'm grateful that ABC also saw it, and they seem to be behind us all the way because that's really what makes a show."

Apart from being legit a comedic masterpiece to exist on ABC right now, the series managed to bag some of the best actors in the industry. Hence, it was almost a given that the show would become a powerhouse of talent. Janelle James worked together with Sheryl Lee Ralph and Tyler James Williams on Abbott Elementary. 

"Sheryl Lee Ralph is a legend, so I was excited to work with her. And Tyler, I had never met him. I don't think I had met any of them, but on the first table read, I was like, "Oh, I could totally see the show right away. This is amazing." This is such a good mix of people," admitted James. "And the fact that they're already legendary was a plus. But regardless of their stature, I just think they're so well cast. We're all well cast for the part that we're playing. It's like magic."

The actress has a unique way of wearing the skin of the character that she plays. So, when she happened to star on the Netflix show The Standups, many fans of Abbott Elementary did not even realize that she was the evil principal from the ABC show. Talking about how her fans reacted to her being cast in The Standups and then finally realized that she was the same actress from Abbott Elementary, she said that it helped her audience realize how great she is at different mediums of comedy. 

The Standup actress revealed, "The standup special reached the fans I already had, who know me as a standup, and then maybe new Standups fans. But I feel like people who saw me on Abbott Elementary did not even put it together until maybe a couple of days ago that it's the same person."

She continued, "Now they're like, "Oh, wait, that's the principal on Abbott Elementary!" Because I'm not promoting my standup as "Watch me, the principal at Abbott Elementary, do stand up!" I'm promoting it as myself."

The actress is grateful to have gotten the chance to broaden her horizon. She added, "It's cool to watch people figure it out and see that I'm funny in different mediums. And it's broadened my fan base, so that's awesome."

But apart from being recognized for her marvelous mark, Janelle James is now following in the footsteps of majorly hit characters like Michael Scott, the character of Steve Carrell from The Office. The immense fandom has been great for her. "I felt honored," she said about being likened to The Office character. She added, "The format is like The Office, or Parks and Rec, you know, and those were huge shows. So anything that comes after in a mockumentary format is gonna be compared, and then we're also a workplace comedy."

However, the actress wants to construct a separate appreciation base for herself where she is recognized for her singular talent and how her comedy is different from the ones that came before her. She said, "I know the comparisons are gonna be there, but I'm really trying to embody a different type of character for this archetype that already exists."

While Michael Scott on The Office was an incompetent boss, James' character from Abbott Elementary happens to be a 'narcissist.' Janelle James got to play the villain in the series, and that is highly amusing to her and opposite to the plain villains, Ava is a character you would 'hate to love' as the actress shared. The actress believes that no character is completely good or bad, and Ava falls right somewhere in the middle of the good/bad spectrum. 

"She is a narcissist and self-absorbed, and we find out that she got her job through nefarious means — and she's really there for herself, you know? And so I'm the villain, and every show needs that, or it'd be boring," she said about her character. But she also added that because no one is all good or all bad," fans might one day come to like her. 

In fact, the actress went to call herself the clown, as she added that Ava is "chaotic. And she's the clown, which is what I am. She comes in, gets a laugh, and then she's outta there."

The show premieres on ABC every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.