Sheryl Lee Ralph, Quinta Brunson on Emmy Win for ‘Abbott Elementary’

When sheryl lee ralph First read Quinta Brunson’s pilot script »Abbott Primary“She knew exactly what character she wanted to play: Ava Coleman, the unsuitable principal who only has her own best interests at heart.

But Brunson had another idea. “She was just short [saying,] ‘Oh, hell no!'” Ralph says. “She said, ‘We need a queen for Barbara Howard. And you are that queen!’ And I was like, ‘Baby, if you put it that way, how do I say no? What else do I need to know about this? I’m going to be queen. I like this. Yes I am ready.'”

Janelle James ended up starring as Ava, and received an Emmy nomination this year for the role. But tapping Ralph to play Barbara, the no-nonsense, see-it-all veteran teacher in “Abbott Elementary,” also turned out to be the right move. On Monday night, Ralph was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

cover story: Quinta Brunson on Emmy Winning With Sheryl Lee Ralph, Why ‘Abbott Elementary’ Wasn’t Ready to Be Named Best Comedy Yet and Turning the Bets in Season 2

“I’m on another planet,” tells Ralph Diversity Tuesday morning, just hours after the victory. She is still in the same hairstyle from Emmy night, which includes glittering jewels adorning her head. The reality of TV Honor is now groping him.

“I feel like I’m on planet 999,” she says. “I feel like I’m still swimming there. Like I’m feeling out of body. I know something has happened because the glow has gone off my face. But the reaction has been crazy. Me and my husband Were at the hotel and he got up and he turned on the TV. And I opened my eyes. And first of all, there was Amy right next to the bed. But I could hear these reporters talking about me. I found myself could hear them singing as they were talking. And I was like, ‘What happened in the last 12 hours?’ Everything happened.”

Ralph’s The acceptance speech was one of the most memorable speeches of the night, opened by singing “Endangered Species” by Diane Reeves as one-time Tony nominee (“Dreamgirls”). Ralph is the second black woman to win a supporting actress in a comedy series. Jackie Harry was the first for his role in “227” in 1987.

“Jackie tweeted at me,” says Ralph. “I was like, ‘Girl, you should have called me!’ Who knew that her role in ‘227’ was what the network wanted me to be. Maybe I completely forgot all that. But she was just like, ‘No, they wanted her for this role, but I got it’ Gaya and I won an Emmy. Now she’s got hers.’ That’s right! I got mine. But I’m just feeling like, Thank you, God. Thank you.”

Ralph’s mother is from Jamaica, and she spent a lot of time there in her youth. Ralph says he heard about the celebration in the island nation shortly after his victory. “Jamaica lost its mind last night,” she says. “It felt like, for a moment, I was Usain Bolt. It was madness. The previous prime minister was calling me the arts and culture minister. I couldn’t answer his phone calls. But I got texts. I mean, It was so crazy. And now when I go back for Heroes Weekend, I’ll be ‘The Honorable Sheryl Lee Ralph of the Order of Jamaica.

Dan Doperlsky for Variety

Diversity Ralph and “Abbott Elementary” producer/star Quinta Brunson in the Commissary Executive Dining Room of the Warner Bros. lot as they were both still a little hazy and cranky the night before Emmy festivities. Not only did both the stars win the trophy, but they also took part in a photoshoot immediately this week’s issue Diversity magazine,

“Sherrill comes in and lights up our set every morning, and the people who have made her day so wonderful are just going to feel so happy that she won,” Brunson says.

However, neither of them is relaxed, as the cast and crew of “Abbott Elementary” are already back to work with a table read and production begins on a new episode later that day.

“‘Abbott’ doesn’t take tea for fever,” says Ralph. “‘Abbott’ was like, we don’t care if you won an Emmy last night, it’s work today! Get yourself here today for work! There’s no day off, no time off. Come to America Get back to work creating your new favorite TV show.”

Ralph’s Emmy win came after a busy weekend that included being recognized by the Creative Coalition at their annual Television Humanitarian Awards luncheon. In addition to “Dreamgirls” and the resulting Tony nomination, Starr’s stellar career includes an Independent Spirit Award for “Search for Tomorrow,” “It’s a Living,” “Mosha,” and the 1990 film “To Sleep with Anger.”

But now, her “Abbott Elementary” role has won her a new generation of fans — and an Emmy.

,[The character of] Barbara Howard has been an incredible gift to me,” she says. “And the interesting thing about playing the role is that I didn’t think I would be seen. I thought it would be around me. And I was going to be there to give support. And then that’s when people started seeing things. , so I was like, ‘What’s up?'”

Ralph says the best direction he found playing Barbara was to “do nothing.” It’s Barbara’s silent strength—a character who sometimes says everything with just one look—that has made her a vital part of the show’s success.

“I was like, ‘Well, I’m a very skilled actress, I can do stuff.’ the weirdest thing, [but] It was absolutely the right direction,” says Ralph. “I really try to keep that in mind every time Barbara comes into life. Just bring it down. Just deliver. And so many teachers, oh my god, the way they’re responding to the character. They They say they feel seen. They feel respected.”

The hardest part of playing Barbara? “I’ve had to embrace the sweater set, which has been quite the journey,” she laughs. “I’ve really had to let go of the hair requirement. She’s the second or third character I’ve played who’s styled short hair. And pearls. She’s a ‘pearl-catcher’ woman. I’m a fan of Barbara Howard’s gift.” enjoying myself.”

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