‘Abbott Elementary’ Midseason Premiere: Lisa Ann Walter On Melissa’s Vulnerability During The Read-A-Thon & The ‘Romantic Moves’ In Store For Season 2

Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details for Season 2 Episode 11 Abbott Elementary But ABC,

There’s a little healthy competition between second grade teachers during the mid-season premiere of Abbott Elementary on Wednesday.

Jeannie [Quinta Brunson] and melissa [Lisa Ann Walter] are going head-to-head to see which of their classes can read the most books during their annual read-a-thon. Janine is still desperate to prove herself as a new teacher, but read-a-thon winner Melissa isn’t going down without a fight.

But Melissa faces a bump in the road when she learns that one of her students is struggling with her studies more than she’s letting on. After a discussion with her student’s parents that proves unproductive, Melissa takes matters into her own hands, deciding that she would rather foster her students’ love of learning than win a competition.

The episode ends in a heartfelt moment where Melissa admits to her student that she, too, struggled to learn to read.

“In Melissa’s case, the one thing that is true is that she feels very connected to this little girl because she also had a reading disability growing up, so she understands that and wants to protect her,” Walter said. “So it’s a beautiful place to see a different side of her.”

And, in a triumphant twist of fate, Melissa’s combined second and third grade grades come in handy, as she is able to take advantage of both class totals to win the read-a-thon once again. Walter spoke with Deadline about seeing a softer side of Melissa during this episode, her budding friendship with Janine, and what’s in store for the rest of Season 2.

Deadline: I feel like editing makes a huge difference with this show. How do you feel looking back at these episodes and seeing how they structured a scene, especially the scene between Melissa and Janine?

Lisa Ann Walter: I don’t know what they’re going to take, necessarily. For example, when [Janine] comes up and she’s totally feisty and all Melissa is in space… initially when we shot it, she was just saying something [simple] And then she leaves and I say something like that to Barbara. But one time when we were shooting it, he made fun of me and I was just like ‘What the -?’ And Barbara’s like, ‘Did she just –?’ I’m so glad they kept it. And running down the hall to him killed me. Then they went back to that shot and she kept running. It’s funny. So there are things that keep going that I don’t know what they’re going to use or I can’t remember exactly what I did. And then when I look at it, I think, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s cool. I am glad that he did so.

Deadline: So, how much are you improvising versus going straight off the script in those scenes?

Walter: Well, the funny thing is we always do what’s in the script. We always do this several times. Sometimes we get involved in something and we have an idea or they come to us to try something new. But sometimes we say something that might not be in the script, but it’s kind of a genuine reaction. If I’m standing next to Cheryl, and I turn around and [point and nod in agreement], obviously it’s not in the script, but it might be where we cut the scene, because you don’t have time for that whole back and forth dialogue and it pretty much gets the point across . So sometimes playing is not purposeful. It’s just the instinct of the actors within the scene, but they’ll love it and they’ll go with it.

Deadline: We saw a softer side of Melissa in this episode. How have you felt about uncovering both sides of her character and exploring her more vulnerable side?

Walter: First of all, I think it’s beautiful. I am very happy that Quinta is a fan of my serious work. She is a fan of my work before doing the show parent trap And bruce almighty And things where laughter turns to tears. The moments that are more nuanced, and she likes to see me do that stuff because she knows I can. So when she writes against it. Besides, with any character who is as tough as this, there’s a reason for it. Strong defense. So anytime you’re protecting something, it’s because there’s something that has to be covered, a vulnerability. So in Melissa’s case, the one thing that is true is that she feels very connected to this little girl because she also had a reading disability, so she understands that and wants to protect her. So it is a beautiful place to see a different side of him. But for me personally, I’ve never had a problem with reading. I was a fat kid in school. So I felt very vulnerable because of that, in terms of being teased by other kids and feeling like I had to make up for it somehow. In my personal case, it had to be tough and funny.

Deadline: She’s also being very soft towards both Janine and Jacob. Why do you think so?

Walter: Well, unlike Lisa, Melissa isn’t immediately accepting of someone new. Not all of them can be trusted. They are all suspects. ‘I do not know you, and therefore you are probably ready to do something. I am about to find out what it is.’ So she’s not really one to be outspoken. Me personally, I want to hug everyone, especially a young person because I want them to feel safe and happy and loved and all that. She is also very maternal. I get that Melissa is maternal with her kids, but with anyone else, she’s seen how you’re probably going. The other young teachers who came along lasted so long, and then left. So because he’s been with Barbara for so long, I think they’re both looking at all these newcomers like, ‘Yeah, we’ll see.’ But now that they’ve stayed, and now they’re committed, and they’re actually getting better, and they’re listening to the old team a little bit. I think it is the same. I think some of it is a security that comes with ‘you are now part of our team, our tribe’. So you are one of the herd and we will protect you.’

Deadline: Melissa and Barbara can often come across as cynical, but are never downright upset about the education system. What do you think is keeping Abbott so short of funds?

Walter: I honestly think that’s what you saw in this episode. It is only one student. Maybe this little girl dropped out of school altogether because she couldn’t understand what was this river of words that was pouring down the page – ‘I can’t make sense of it, I hate school’ Is. Or someone set me up and gave me the equipment, and now I can do anything.’ So maybe having a kid changes the dynamic of their whole life, maybe once every other year of school, but it keeps them going.

Deadline: I guess we’ll have to end by teasing some of what’s left for the remainder of Season 2.

Walter: Well, I mean, everyone obviously wants to know about romance. I would say that there were some interesting romantic moves before the end of the season. I’m not going to say what, but I think the audience will be really happy. Plus, they’ll be enthusiastic. Last year, when people were saying, ‘What do you want to see happen?’ And I gave a scenario… that’s going to happen and I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s coming and I loved the episode. This was a great episode. I think this might be my favorite episode of the season.

Deadline: So, is Quinta just reading your interviews?

Walter: No. First, she plans in advance. If I was going to ask her something, I really have to go, ‘Okay, so next year, do you think we’ll…?’ But she has already made plans. My joke is that when she sat down, she had a five-year plan. But not every little thing. They sit in the writers’ room and they break down stories, and they come up with different things. What’s funny is they’ll come up with stuff based on, you know, we’ll have a kid that’s amazing. We don’t know what we’ll get back, if they’re going to be a brilliant actor that everyone loves, but they are. Then the author says, ‘Oh, this kid and Mr. It’s a great dynamic between the Johnsons. Let’s bring him back in the middle of season 3. So you never know when it’s going to show up. But small talk with different child actors or small talk between teachers will come back and we don’t know when it’s going to happen. She may have read the interview, but I think the one I’m talking about was probably planned. It was kind of a no brainer. If you tell me three scenarios, I’ll tell you whether this is one of them or not.

Deadline: I’m not sure anything I can think of is going to be as good as what Quinta came up with.

Walter: I do think so. I mean, I’m a producer. I’ve written stuff, and I’ve been making stuff. So I definitely have thoughts, but I’ve learned to just let go and let Quinta go. I let Quinta handle it because she is going to come up with some great stuff. The writers and executive producers are great.