Congrats, Miss Teagues!
Quinta Brunson, Philly native and creator, writer and star of Abbott Elementary — the top-rated NBC sitcom in which she plays the undaunted Philadelphia public school teacher, Janine Teagues — has been named to the annual Time 100 list, which honors the most influential people of the year.
The West Philly native and one-time Apple-store technician joined figures like like Oprah Winfrey, Apple’s Tim Cook, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Zendaya on the list, which Time released Monday. Big-name guest contributors penned the tributes.
Philadelphia native Jazmine Sullivan also made the list, with a tribute written by singer and actress Amber Riley. Jimmy Fallon wrote praise for Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who earned a spot among the 100 and a byline, composing an ode to honoree Josh Wardel, the creator of the hit word game Wordle. Musician, author, and Bryn Mawr grad Michelle Zauner, who launched her band Japanese Breakfast while living in Philadelphia, was listed as well.
LeBron James honored Brunson.
“Quinta Brunson is more than a writer, producer, actor, and comedian. She’s a student and a master of her craft. A game changer in network television. Smart and funny as hell, in that order. She’s a Swiss Army knife that can — and does — do it all.
The four-time NBA champion went on:
“In Abbott Elementary...she uses comedy to shine a light on big issues in public education in a very real, relatable way— not to put down, but to give hope that we can do better. That’s the real beauty of Quinta’s brilliance. Using humor and nuance to connect people over everyday realities in order to improve them — for students, teachers, creators, and everyone who comes after her.”
Set in a fictional Philly public school, the Office-style mockumentary has been praised for its accurate portrayal of life in the woefully underfunded school system — and of the tireless travails of teachers working to help students. Earlier this year, City Council — in a resolution by Councilmember Helen Gym — praised Brunson for showing the “heart and grit of our city.”
The show brings to “primetime television a loving ode to Philadelphia educators, school children and their families as well as a call to action to fund and support our youth and our public schools,” the resolution read.
Brunson, 32, has said the inspiration for Abbott came from the real-life experiences of her mom, Norma Jean Brunson, a Philly kindergarten teacher.
“It was just a world that I knew so well, like the back of my hand, and I already had countless stories ready to go,” Brunson told Vogue in April. “It’s one thing to be a student in school, but me having this real in-depth experience with my mom being a teacher for most of my life really helped me see the world.”
Brunson, 32 — who dropped out of Temple University midway through her junior year to pursue comedy in L.A. ― plays Teagues as a hopelessly optimistic, idealistic almost to a fault, undaunted, and committed to making a difference in the lives of young people despite any challenge. Which means to say, Philly through-and-through.
The show also features actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, wife of State Sen. Vincent Hughes, as the all-knowing kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard.
“I don’t know if people can see it, but Philly is a hardy city,” Ralph told The Inquirer in May. “It is an artistic city. It really, really vibrates with the American voice, with the cultural voice of Black people. It is truly, however you look at it, it is the epicenter of America. ... There is literally human magic in Philadelphia.”
Among the other Philadelphians to make the list, Heaux Tales singer Sullivan “demonstrated an innate ability to write songs that perfectly capture the stories of so many Black women,” wrote Reilly.
And talk show host Fallon cited Questlove’s work on last summer’s groundbreaking documentary Summer of Soul. “When he was editing it, I remember him being nervous that it wasn’t going to get into Sundance, nervous that no one was going to buy the movie. Then I remember him winning Sundance — and suddenly not only Sundance, but also a Critics Choice Award, a BAFTA, an Oscar.”
He said, “not only is he a musical encyclopedia but also a comedy nerd and one of the most creative people I’ve ever met.”