William Stanford Davis on ‘Abbott Elementary’: ‘It’s been an amazing ride’

·4 min read

The Emmy-winning ABC mockumentary series returns Tuesday night for its second season.

“Abbott Elementary” is back! The second season of ABC’s successful sitcom premieres Tuesday night after recently winning multiple Emmys, and theGrio caught up with one of the stars — William Stanford Davis — to talk about his role, the new season and more.

As theGrio previously reported, “Abbott Elementary” is a trending topic. The mockumentary series from the mind of creator, writer and star Quinta Brunson has taken the industry by storm, breaking ratings records for ABC and earning rave reviews. Set at an elementary school in Philadelphia, the show follows the teachers and staff as they face various challenges and hurdles while educating the students.

One of the stand-out characters has been Mr. Johnson, Abbott’s wise and all-knowing janitor.

Coming off the wild success of the first season, Davis told theGrio that it has been an “amazing ride” so far. “It’s crazy how the public has really taken to the show and everyone is excited about it coming back,” he explained. “It’s just been an amazing ride and everyone is just super excited. We hope that this season tops last season; we hope that the audience and the fans take to it even more than they did last time.”

The show certainly has struck a chord with millions of viewers and its makeup (a primarily Black cast in a heartwarming network comedy) is a rarity in Hollywood. Davis was interested in the project from the beginning, revealing that he had admired Brunson’s work for some time.

“I had been a fan of Quinta’s for a while, especially when she was on ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show.’ I just knew she was a very smart writer, first of all. When I read the script — they cut so much out of the pilot that you guys didn’t get to see — it was so hilarious!”

William Stanford Davis stars as Mr. Johnson in ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” (ABC/Matt Sayles)
William Stanford Davis stars as Mr. Johnson in ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” (ABC/Matt Sayles)

As for “Abbott Elementary,” he believes that it has been an antidote. “I think the show just came right on time,” he said. “It was what the public, what the world needed after going through COVID and four years of the other insanity we went through before COVID. I just think that the show is just what everyone needed at the time.”

With such a strong ensemble surrounding the actor — including Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, Sheryl Lee Ralph and others — he feels very lucky. “Man, I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he exclaimed. “This is the most fun, amazing group of actors I’ve worked with in my whole career, and I’ve worked with some pretty decent actors. These guys, they know they’re stuff and they’re just great people.”

While Davis certainly made his mark as Mr. Johnson in Season 1, he was only a recurring character. In Season 2, he joins as a series regular, which has already been “a lot of fun,” he noted.

“I can’t tell you anything about it … but I’m gonna have a lot of fun,” he teased. “The janitors knew everything in the school … not just the gossip; they knew all the parents; they knew if this kid had a cold.”

Continued Davis, “They kept their ear to the ground and kept their eye to everything … You know, people think of janitors as lower positions, but really it’s not. This guy really wants to make this school perfect for these kids.”

The 2nd Annual HCA TV Awards: Broadcast & Cable - Press Room
(L-R) Justin Halpern, Chris Perfetti, Randall Einhorn, Lisa Ann Walter, Tyler James Williams, Quinta Brunson, William Stanford Davis, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James and Patrick Schumacker of “Abbott Elementary” pose onstage during The 2nd Annual HCA TV Awards. (Broadcast)

Likewise for Mr. Johnson of “Abbott Elementary,” Davis stressed. “He wants to make it as comfortable for them,” he said. “He wants the air conditioning to work, you know? He wants to keep lights on so these kids can have an education, so they can have a comfortable place and a loving, caring place to learn.”

The second season of “Abbott Elementary” premieres at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

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