Marilyn Monroe inspired Quinta Brunson's character on Abbott Elementary

Quinta Brunson
Quinta Brunson

While naming Abbott Elementary one of the 30 best shows of the year, The A.V. Club’s Saloni Gajjar recently described the ABC sitcom as “[reviving] the love for network TV mockumentaries in the vein of The Office and Parks And Rec,” but a key inspiration for the series comes from a much, much earlier era of Hollywood.

“I think about Marilyn Monroe often,” creator and star Quinta Brunson says in a recent interview with Cosmopolitan. “She does not get enough credit for her comedic timing. I study her a lot for my character Janine’s subtleties. Certain ways to move the eyebrows and mouth and to be a person that’s holding in so much more than they’re giving off because they’re actually quite in control of the situation.”

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Of course, comedy acting has long been dismissed as less challenging than more dramatic roles. While Monroe was a top student at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio, which also produced icons like James Dean and Marlon Brando, her skills have frequently been overlooked, with lighter movies like Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch dominating her image after her death. The recent Netflix film Blonde, which features Monroe as its central character but is not a biopic, was criticized for failing to depict the extent of the star’s acting talent, amongst other reasons. Though Brunson doesn’t weigh in on the controversy, she speaks approvingly of one such review.

“I’m not even capable of the silly I would like to see in the world,” the Weird: The Al Yankovic Story actor continues. “I’m a little bit more serious than I let on.”

Abbott Elementary, a workplace comedy set in a Philadelphia school, is now in its second season and has quickly become one of the most beloved shows on television. Brunson recently won an Emmy for her writing on the series and was nominated for her performance.

Abbott Elementary is now airing on Wednesdays on ABC.

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