Here's Where You Know The Cast Of Abbott Elementary From

"Abbott Elementary" is the breakout comedy of the 2021-2022 season, having quadrupled its ratings over the course of its first month on air; according to Deadline, that's a record for ABC. The show, a mockumentary in the vein of "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," takes place at an underfunded school in Philadelphia and centers around a group of teachers doing the best they can despite a lack of resources. Series creator and star Quinta Brunson told Insider that this is what sets her show apart from those other, similar workplace sitcoms, explaining, "Everyone cares about this job. Everyone is dedicated to doing a good job because if they don't, it means a child doesn't learn." (Except the principal, that is. But we'll get there.)

The show's earnest attitude toward its subject matter has made it a huge hit online; the name of the show regularly lands on twitter's Trending Topics while it airs, sometimes sticking around for a day or two after each new episode. Brunson told HuffPost that the series was inspired in part by her mother's career as a teacher, and her evident love for the subject matter and for Black teachers in general has made fans fall quickly in love with the eccentric characters who walk the hallways of the titular school.

As they watch, viewers may be wondering why certain actors look so familiar. Class is in session, so listen up: here's where you know the cast of "Abbott Elementary" from.

Sheryl Lee Ralph is a TV icon

On "Abbot Elementary," Sheryl Lee Ralph plays Barbara, a veteran teacher who takes on a begrudging mentorship role for the still-optimistic Janine. "She's the one that might have been tough on you, but it was only because she saw the possibilities in you," Ralph told Los Angeles Confidential. "She wanted you to rise to the occasion of your own life, even if you were only five or six years old and didn't know what that meant."

Ralph shot to superstardom as Deena Jones in the original Broadway cast of "Dreamgirls," though TV audiences likely first met her as the matriarch on "Moesha," the Brandy-starring UPN sitcom. She is still proud of the show's impact, telling UrbanBridgez, "I will always love 'Moesha!' I will always love 'Moesha' because 'Moesha' resonates till this day." However, she told TV One that she "knew the show was over" when her character's husband was revealed to have a secret son, because it was too dark for the tone they'd set. "It broke my heart," she said, "because I really felt that 'Moesha...' filled such a void for people when it came to great images of family, Black American family. Then you're gonna tell me that this Black man is a liar?"

Ralph has appeared on a number of other shows, including "Ray Donovan," "MacGyver," and "Instant Mom." She is also recognizable as the mother of Lauryn Hill's character in "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit."

Quinta Brunson is a multi-hyphenate

Quinta Brunson is the creator, writer, and star of "Abbott Elementary," but she's well-known for her words, too. She wrote for BuzzFeed and appeared in video content for the viral site, creating hit short comedy videos like "Me Vs. My Eyebrows." Her success got her a spot on HBO's "Black Lady Sketch Show," a series she was proud to work on; she told Nylon that she hoped the show opened doors for young women who hadn't considered comedy as an option. "My hope is that even though it's on HBO, younger women are watching who are somewhere thinking, I don't know if I can do comedy. I don't know if I fit in any of the boxes. We'd like to make it so there is no box anymore."

On "Abbott Elementary," she plays Janine Teagues, the bubbly and ever-optimistic second grade teacher who ropes her suspicious, more-jaded colleagues into various schemes, always in service of helping the kids at school. "Characters like Janine represent the best of teachers," she told The AV Club, adding that she's gotten a great response to the character from viewers. "I hoped it would be that way. It's incredible if they feel we're showing things that haven't been shown before." 

Her cast members have nothing but glowing things to say about her. "She may be tiny, but she is truly mighty as our creator. Quinta Brunson—that's a name to remember," co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph told W.

Everybody loves Tyler James Williams

Tyler James Williams plays Gregory Eddie on "Abbott Elementary," a substitute who wants to be a principal someday but gets a class to cover long-term. He and Janine become friends; even though Janine has a boyfriend, there seems to be a will-they-or-won't-they situation between the colleagues, which creator and co-star Quinta Brunson says was important because she loves classic TV tropes. "Janine and Greg's journey will be different than what we've seen before," she promised The AV Club.

Williams told IndieWire that he took the role partially because the script made him laugh out loud, but also because saw a chance to portray a different role on television. "I saw this really interesting opportunity with Gregory to show a male educator, these characters who aren't completely stable and where they are just yet. They're figuring stuff out," he reflected.

Williams is best known as the titular star of "Everybody Hates Chris," based on the childhood of comedian Chris Rock. On the 15th anniversary of the sitcom's premiere, Williams tweeted (via EW), "15 years ago this little show premiered on a network that no longer exists. It kickstarted my and several other careers of very talented people. I'm forever grateful for that." He played Noah on "The Walking Dead," Russ on "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders," and Edgar on "Whiskey Cavalier," opposite his "Walking Dead" co-star Lauren Cohan. He also appeared on several episodes of "A Black Lady Sketch Show" alongside "Abbott Elementary" creator Quinta Brunson.

Janelle James is a breakout

The whole cast pulls their weight, but if "Abbott Elementary" has a breakout star, it is Janelle James. She plays Ava Coleman, the school's actively awful, hysterically funny principal. When the show announced its second-season pickup in March 2022, they did so through a purported in-character memo from Principal Coleman posted to the show's socials.

James knows her character is hard to root for. She told the HuffPost, "Ava's absolutely a villain, not even halfway, but she's a true and total villain. She's not trying to be a good person; there's no faking it either. You take it or leave it. But that's who she is and I love that about her." She added in Variety that she's not interested in seeing her character grow. "I think she's perfect... and I hope she stays principal for a long time. It's not good for the kids, but it's good for the show," she said.

This is James' first major role on television, aside from voice work on "Central Park" and a few guest spots on "Black Monday," both shows she wrote for. James is primarily a standup comic, and her Netflix special (an episode of "The Standups") dropped right as "Abbott Elementary" was picking up steam. "I'm not promoting my standup as 'Watch me, the principal at "Abbott Elementary," do stand up!' I'm promoting it as myself," James told EW. "It's cool to watch people figure it out and, and see that I'm funny in different mediums."

Lisa Ann Walter makes millennials nostalgic

Many millennials first fell in love with Lisa Ann Walter as Chessy, the endearing housekeeper in a certain iconic remake. She and her co-star Elaine Hendrix, who played the devilish Meredith Blake in the 1998 version of "The Parent Trap," are still very close; Walter told Vanity Fair, "Elaine is family. She knows all my kids, and we don't need anybody else. We have each other. Elaine's my sister now; I adopted her." In the years since that role, Walter has kept busy. She played Debbie, the sister of Jennifer Aniston's character, in "Bruce Almighty," and she's made appearances on shows like "Glow," "9-1-1," and "Rizzoli & Isles."

On "Abbott Elementary," she plays Melissa Schemmenti, the world-wise Philly girl who seems to have a shady connection to the mob. She's enjoyed the boost to her legacy from the show, specifically how often she's gone viral on social media as fans of the sitcom realize how they know her. One Twitter user shared four photos of Walter and wrote, "Nah, Lisa Ann Walter from #AbbottElementary is a whole baddie. Consistent foot on our necks."

"Omg – I'm blown away. THANK YOU," Walter replied, adding, "Also – why was Hollywood making me feel like I was fat? Lol #SizeZeroIsStupid." Walter released a book in 2011 called "The Best Thing About My A** is That It's Behind Me," a collection of essays around body image and fame.

Chris Perfetti is a star of stage and screen

On "Abbott Elementary," Chris Perfetti plays Jacob Hill, a well-meaning but somewhat hapless teacher at the school who is eager to befriend his colleagues. "I think of him now as a social puppy," the actor explained to TV Insider. He's an overachiever and a nervous wreck and a Shakespearean clown." Jacob is also openly gay, which LGBTQ+ outlets have praised, especially as schools around the country clamp down on allowing gay students to be out without repercussion. 

Perfetti's first major role was as Tim Fletcher on NBC pirate drama "Crossbones," co-starring opposite John Malkovich. He played Richie's boyfriend Brady on the second season of "Looking," and viewers may also recognize him as one half of the gay couple who needed the titular surrogate in hit indie drama "The Surrogate." 

Perfetti is also known for his work on stage. He told Broadway World, "I've become quite accustomed to switching between [stage and screen]... there is nothing more thrilling artistically than working on a play for me. I would live in rehearsal if I could." He performed on Broadway in "Six Degrees of Separation" and has starred off-Broadway in numerous other critically-acclaimed hits. 

Zack Fox is a real-life rapper

Even though Janine and Gregory have a will-they/won't-they situation going on, Janine does have a boyfriend. She's been in a long-term relationship, in fact, with an amateur rapper named Tariq, played on the show by Zack Fox. Janine's colleagues discover that Tariq is the only man Janine has ever been in love with, leading to much teasing, but also leading her to question the relationship. Tariq talks a big game about his rap career, but he lacks the same initiative Janine has. Fox evidently agrees with the other characters' impression of his, tweeting simply, "tariq a dumba** lol."

Fox is a comedian and rapper in real life, too, having released singles like "Stick!" and "Fafo," which he discussed for Genius. He joked that a video he was sent of SZA dancing to his song is the real reason why he makes music. "It's not for the accolades, not for the Grammys," he mused. "It's for a**. Because you know, you think about critical acclaim... that s*** don't twerk."

Fox first rose to fame thanks to his viral twitter account, @bootymath, where he tweeted random, quippy thoughts to a sizable audience. "I'm just trying to make cool s*** for people to look at and make people laugh," he told Creative Loafing.

William Stanford Davis is a fan favorite

William Stanford Davis plays the eccentric custodian Mr. Johnson on "Abbott Elementary," a character who drops in for a non sequitur here and there, sometimes covering a social studies class just because, always getting a laugh from the audience and looks of concern and confusion from the teachers he works with. He discussed his career and this role on a February 2022 episode of the "Sunday Mornings with Joy Keys" podcast, sharing, "This has been the most fun show that I've ever, ever been on. ... We need to have some humor, especially after the last six years." The character is a fan-favorite, regularly appearing in viral videos circulating on twitter of his funniest moments. "this janitor has everyone (including me) in chokehold," one fan account tweeted alongside a clip of Davis in Episode 9, "Step Class." 

Davis is a character actor who can be seen on shows like "Snowpiercer" (as Mr. Riggs), "Lincoln Heights" (as Jake), Tyler Perry's "If Loving You Is Wrong" (as Mr. Kym), and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (as the floor manager). Before joining "Abbott Elementary," Davis was best known as boxing gym employee Potato Pie on Showtime crime drama "Ray Donovan." Discussing the character with AfterBuzzTV, Davis said, "He's had his ups and his downs, but he's never let any of that change him or taint him in any way."

Mitra Jouhari felt 'lucky' to guest star

"Abbott Elementary" has shown great taste in picking guest stars. In Episode 7, "Art Teacher," Janine's college bestie Sahar is hired as the school's new art teacher. Sahar is played by comedian/writer/actor Mitra Jouhari. "I admire @quintab so much and feel really honored to get to play such a fun role on her show," she wrote on Instagram, adding that she felt welcome on set. "I just feel really lucky and I can't wait to appear in a show that my grandma and I BOTH enjoy equally." 

Jouhari has appeared on "Search Party," and she was one of the aliens in Katy Perry's music video for "Not the End of the World," though she's best known for creating and starring on the Adult Swim show "Three Busy Debras." Viewers may also know her as the co-host of "Urgent Care," an Earwolf advice podcast she helms with actor/comedian Joel Kim Booster.

In 2019, Jouhari was named one of "seven young people reshaping comedy" by GQ, alongside fellow "Abbott Elementary" actor Zack Fox. When the interviewer noted that the crop of comedians were more diverse than similar showcases have been in the past, Jouhari offered an explanation. "​​There's room for more than one of us because we collectively decided that there would be room for more than one of us, so they have to make space because we're making shows, we're hosting shows, we're making things together that incorporate people of all kinds," Jouhari said.

Orlando Jones was a fitting casting coup

Another memorable guest star was Orlando Jones, appearing as Gregory's disapproving father Martin on the episode "Work Family." Jones appeared primarily via video chats with his son, pushing him to work harder so he can be principal someday, even though right now he's just a substitute teacher. When the episode aired, Jones played into a long-running joke that he looks like a certain pop star, tweeting, "#AbbottElementary that was not me !! The way y'all treat Solange Knowles is so disrespectful !! She is unique beautiful individual & artist in her own right."

Jones was a fitting bit of casting; he previously appeared on an episode of "Everybody Hates Chris," himself playing a substitute teacher to a young Tyler James Williams, the boy who would grow up to play his son on "Abbott Elementary." ​

Jones has had a long career in film and on television. He may be recognizable to viewers from his work in "Evolution," the 2002 version of "The Time Machine," or as Mr. Nancy on "American Gods." He was let go from the latter show and told Variety that he felt he was "screwed over," even though he had been responsible for writing his own character on the second season. "I don't understand. I didn't do anything. I did my job; I did nothing else, and I didn't bully my way into the writing room. You asked me," he lamented.