Abbott Elementary’s Sheryl Lee Ralph Originally Wanted To Play A Different Character, But Quinta Brunson Had Another Idea

After winning her much-deserved Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy, Abbott Elementary’s Sheryl Lee Ralph has been basking in her win. Along with her historic victory, she also Ralph won the night with her powerful acceptance speech. Viewers have loved watching her play as veteran teacher Barbara Howard, and she’s clearly great in the role. But it appears the award winner had her eye on a different faculty member at first.

Before scoring gold as Mrs. Howard, the sitcom vet read Quinta Brunson’s pilot script and wanted to play the inept and smart-mouthed principal Ava Coleman. That role eventually went to co-star Janelle James, who scored her first Emmy nom in the same category that Sheryl Lee Ralph was nominated in this year. While Ralph campaigned to play the Abbott Elementary principal, Brunson saw the Hollywood icon as the no-nonsense kindergarten teacher. With that, Ralph revealed to Variety how the series’ creator persuaded her to play Barbara:

She was just short of [saying,] ‘Oh, hell no!’ She said, ‘We need a queen for Barbara Howard. And you are that queen!’ And I was just like, ‘Baby, if you put it that way, How do I say no? What else do I need to know about that? I’m going to be the queen. I love it. Yes, I’m ready.’

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