'Abbott Elementary' Cast Teases 'Big Swings' and 'Exciting' Guest Stars for Season 3 (Exclusive)

The cast of ABC's hit comedy chats with ET about season 3's exciting guest stars and surprises, premiering Feb. 7.

The cast of Abbott Elementary is gearing up for the premiere of their show's third season, and it's going to be a big one! 

The ABC sitcom is set to return on Feb. 7 after months-long delays due to the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes, both unions of which creator and star Quinta Brunson is a member. Chatting with ET's Denny Directo, Brunson, Janelle James and Chris Perfetti admit that returning to work on the highly anticipated season was a treat after marching the picket lines during the strikes. 

"[I was] feeling relief just to be back [and] blessed to be at work," James shares, adding that the cast and crew's joy when returning to set was palpable. "Just happy to see my castmates and get back together and then figure out what I'm doing 'cause it [had] been a long break, unfortunately."

A long break that has only built up the anticipation for the series' newest offering. After an acclaimed freshmen season, Abbott Elementary was renewed for season 3 in January 2023, several months before the series aired its second season finale and a day after the hit series won big during the 2023 Golden Globe Awards.

Unsurprisingly, Brunson admits that she felt a bit of pressure going into season 2 because of the show's success. But when it comes to the show's third chapter, the creator, writer, executive producer and star had a different mindset. 

"This one was fun. I felt like we've very much established ourselves now," she tells ET. "Another change for us was, because of the strikes, [we have] 14 episodes instead of 22. Last season felt like we had a lot of time to be comfortable, do fun for nothing, for laughs, but this [season] it felt like, 'OK, we gotta come in swinging each episode 'cause we only have so many.'"

The Emmy winner says she feels like the cast and crew "earned the right to take some big swings" in the new season, adding that she went into production with the goal of wanting to ensure that "people [don't] get too comfortable."

That means a lot of changes and surprises, which the cast has previously hinted will be abundant in the new season. Especially when it comes to the guest stars making their Abbott Elementary debut. 

After season 2 featured appearances by Orlando Jones as Gregory's dad and Taraji P. Henson and The Bear's Ayo Edebiri as Janine's mother and sister, respectively, season 3 welcomes The Other Two and Scream VI star Josh SegarraHacks alum Kimia Behpoornia and Never Have I Ever's Benjamin Norris in recurring roles. Segarra will portray Manny, Behpoornia will portray Emily and Norris will play Simon -- three "good-natured" school district representatives who take pride in their jobs and strive to freshen up the old ways of schooling. 

Considering the number of requests that Brunson admits to getting from celebrities wanting to guest star on the series, the additions are a conservative number compared to what she could include.

Of the many requests to guest star, Brunson says, "I think it's so nice when people look at it as an opportunity to be in something that their kids can watch also, because a lot of actors who are part of more dramatic projects or things that are little PG-13 to rated R, Abbott is something that their kids can see them in."

Still, everyone can't join a season just because they want to! The show's main characters have a lot of growth to accomplish in the new, shortened season.

"Last season [Ava] discovered learning and realized that she can do some of the things well that she's been pretending to do," James teases when asked about the lovable, if self-centered, principal's role going into the third season. "Without giving anything away, she continues to do that in the next season... I think she's feeling more capable."

The comedian notes that while Ava has always been capable when it comes to getting what she wants, season 3 will find the principal thinking beyond her own ends. "I always felt like she is accomplishing things but she's doing it in her own way, and now she realizes the things that she's doing are not just for her, it's for other people," James adds. "That doesn't mean she's still not out for No. 1. But if it can also help the kids and help the school and all of those things, she's acknowledging that that's happening, and that's also a good thing."

Brunson adds that season 3 will see the characters being taken places outside of the school, including a "bar set." 

"I really want these characters to have a place to hang because Philadelphia is known for University City and it's where a lot of teachers go to hang out after school," she explains, adding that the writing team loved the idea of giving the Abbott teachers "a little home away from home." 

It all kicks off with the season's premiere on Wednesday, Feb. 7!


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