Taraji P. Henson Joins Season 2 of 'Abbott Elementary' as Janine's Mother
Finally putting a face to the name. Taraji P. Henson is joining season 2 of Abbott Elementary in the role of Janine’s (Quinta Brunson) estranged mother.
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“I was so exited to join Quinta and the amazing cast!” Henson, 52, said in a special video message at PaleyFest in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 1.
The panel for the hit ABC series also included cast members Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tyler James Williams, Lisa Ann Walter and William Stanford Davis. Janelle James and Chris Perfetti appeared via webcam while Brunson, 33, and the Empire alum pre-recorded their messages.
Henson will appear in an episode titled “Mom,” which is set to air on April 12. The exciting casting news comes after Ayo Edebiri made her onscreen debut as Janine’s sister, Ayesha, last month. The Bear star, 27, previously made a cameo when fans saw the sibling duo have an awkward conversation over FaceTime.
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Janine’s strained relationship with her mother and sister has been a minor story line in past episodes. Although the teacher was able to work out her issues with Ayesha, Brunson hinted that Janine would still have to face her mom.
“I think relationships with mothers are very defining, especially for someone who is then taking care of children — like Janine, who’s caring for kids,” the Golden Globe winner told Reuters in September 2022. “It connects a lot to her relationships in the school. I know a lot of women in my life who have had very complicated relationships with their moms unfortunately.”
According to Brunson, it felt important to show the aftermath of how the personal trauma affected Janine. That same month, the screenwriter teased what else fans of the critically acclaimed comedy series could expect in season 2.
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“We’ll be going home and out with them more. In the first season, I really wanted people to fall in love with Abbott the school and the staff. We wanted people to feel like they wanted to work at or went to Abbott,” she shared with Entertainment Weekly. “This season, they know us well. They know the teachers well. They know the school well. Now, we can go out to events and parties, into our characters’ houses and be outside more. But I still believe a workplace comedy should take place in the workplace. So, it’s not like we’ll be turned into a whole other show.”
Meanwhile, Ralph, 66, praised Abbott Elementary for coming up with new ways to highlight the characters outside of the classroom. “You are continuing to learn more about these characters. Who they really are [and] what their points of views are,” the Dreamgirls star exclusively told Us Weekly in February. “I just love that my character — even though you haven’t seen my husband in this particular season — we talk about him. I love the fact that that is a loving relationship.”
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Ralph recalled the moment she realized Abbott Elementary was something special.
“When we were shooting the pilot, Tyler and I had a moment where we looked at each other and he literally said, ‘You feel it, don’t you?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely, I feel it. Something is going on here. Something is happening,’” she added. “Going into the first season — the first 18 episodes — we were not shocked at all. We knew we were doing something very special.”
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With reporting by Kat Pettibone
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