What Connects ‘Severance’ to ‘Abbott Elementary’? Quinta Brunson and Adam Scott Explain It All

SCOTT: That’s right.
BRUNSON: Did that feel good?
SCOTT: I did.
You’re in “Party Down.” SCOTT: I totally thought it was.
My family and I — we go through phases of watching a show together. “Abbott” is our latest. ADAM SCOTT: “Abbott Elementary” is your show. And greatest. And we can’t watch it unless all four of us are there.
SCOTT: Sure.
BRUNSON: Yeah, where was that?
Do you not know Zach? SCOTT: Yeah. He’s the best.
Because that just got to bounce off of me and be, like, “Cool, whether it’s loved or hated, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Like, with “Severance,” that was made before it started airing. BRUNSON: Thank God, it was all shot.
That’s my favorite thing to hear about it, by the way: family appointment viewing. QUINTA BRUNSON: Yay!
BRUNSON: I have rapid-fire questions.
SCOTT: That’s a real building in New Jersey. It used to be Bell Labs back in the day.
Because also we shot the whole thing at once. We just shot all nine at the same time — we’d be shooting, like, something from Episode 1, and then after lunch, we would shoot Episode 8. We did that, and it took, like, 10 months. SCOTT: Yeah.
But yesterday, I said, I’m gonna look up this guy. And he follows me on Twitter, and I never — BRUNSON: I don’t know him.
SCOTT: Well, Lumon is generally one of those companies that’s been around for a long, long time, where you’re eating your cereal, and you’re like, “Wait, they make this? And they also make my light bulbs.” I think that it’s hinted at in some conversation early in the show.
BRUNSON: I am, and I was so excited to be there.
BRUNSON: I didn’t see it.
SCOTT: Yeah. You’re, like, at base camp, and there is a sheer face in front of you. Amy Poehler used to call starting a new show: You’re at the bottom of show mountain. Because we had all nine episodes. And you just have to chip away. When it’s a brand-new show, all of show mountain is right in front of you. And they built that main office with the green carpet with low ceilings and stuff. Once I actually stepped onto the set and saw the enormity of it, I started getting a little freaked out. I just have one quick question: When the praise started pouring in, were you still shooting, or was it all shot?
After they speak about their shows — and the fact that both of their mothers were public school teachers — it turns out that their familiar dynamic comes from an established collegial relationship: As Scott accidentally spills, on Variety's "Actors on Actors" is presented by Apple TV+, Brunson will be guest starring on the upcoming Starz revival of Scott’s brilliant-but-canceled “Party Down.” Thanks for letting us know! Quinta Brunson, the creator and star of ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” and Adam Scott, of Apple TV+’s mind-bending drama “Severance,” have a connection we can’t quite put our finger on.
BRUNSON: They can’t all gather and watch “Severance”?
We can say it — you’re guest starring on “Party Down.” SCOTT: But that was announced, right?
SCOTT: Yeah.
SCOTT: And the jokes were so terrific. Right, this is different.” And having to shift a little bit. I mean, I remember going and doing something dramatic for the first time after doing “Parks” for a while, and it was like, “Oh yeah. I didn’t want to screw any of them up; I wanted them to work.
BRUNSON: No! This is what I did in my brain last night. So I’m not gonna follow him back.” But I’ll follow him. He’ll see this and be like, “Why not just follow me at this point?”” /> I was like, “It’s gonna be so weird to follow him back now that I saw him on a show.
SCOTT: You want me to tell him to stop following you on Twitter?
I felt like a little kid, like I get to go be someone else today. BRUNSON: That’s exciting, I think, as an actor. After doing Janine for months straight on “Abbott,” I remember getting so excited to come do another thing in a way that almost felt juvenile.
BRUNSON: I don’t think that was announced.
But it’s also, like, cool enough for them. SCOTT: And they’re teenagers, now, too, so, it’s hard to find something that we all want to watch.
BRUNSON: That affection, the one you’re talking about, is one I’m sure you share. And so, naturally, I have an insight that most people don’t have. My experience was also really unique, because I went to the school where my mother taught. I also have such a respect for the profession, and a love that was formed through the love for my mother, but through her loving her colleagues. There’s an article in The Wall Street Journal, and it was talking about “Severance” and “Abbott” and exploration of the workplace. School would get out at 3, but we’d go home at about 5 or 6. She’d work even more, yet somehow still put food on the table. A question I had for you: What was it like from day to day? I was in her kindergarten class, and then I was at the school she taught at for the next five years. And, I was like, “Why are these two together?” I thought that comparison was so interesting. To be a child of a teacher is a unique experience.
It started this pattern that felt very isolated, and sort of parallel to the show. If you were going to find the soul of the show, it might be somewhere in there. We started shooting the day after the presidential election in November of 2020, and in New York, so everything was really locked down. When we were on set together, the actors, that was our time during the day to be around people and be able to connect with people. SCOTT: “Severance” was unique because we were shooting during pre-vaccine COVID. And I think the characters, too, are yearning for attention.
SCOTT: It wasn’t?
To me, that’s what makes it stand the test of time. BRUNSON: I was talking to a friend who is also a writer about a show having a soul. I feel like “Severance” has a soul.
BRUNSON: First, I didn’t know your mom was a public school teacher. You talked to me a lot about “Star Trek.”
Was that computer-generated, or was that outside of Lumon real? BRUNSON: Where was the outside?
BRUNSON: Is Zach Cherry really that funny?
“Parks,” it was so beautifully written. It was a combined effort, and I think that “Abbott” just feels like a great show for everyone to connect that narrative to. “Young Sheldon” has been pulling in massive numbers — even their reruns do. “Parks and Rec” was that for me. BRUNSON: I do think that while “Abbott” has been successful, which I’m super grateful for, people have been doing great work in the network space for a really long time. I enjoyed having this thing that I could watch with friends and family that was easy. “Parks and Rec” felt like a risk, where you almost couldn’t believe you were seeing this on network. There are the shows this season, like “Ghosts” on CBS, which is just a joyful, delightful show to watch, and “American Auto” and “Grand Crew” on NBC.
I’d been looking at photos on my phone for a long time, and so I went there and saw all the sets. Because I’d seen photos of what [director] Ben Stiller was putting together with his team and I just wanted to see it. SCOTT: It was challenging. I remember getting there in October of 2020, a month before we started shooting, and I went straight to the set from the airport.
We can, but it makes me far too nervous. We chatted a couple of months ago, and something you mentioned that I thought was really interesting was how much a fan you are of the network sitcom — and the idea of creating something that can be broadly sent out to all households. You’re being credited with reviving the network sitcom. SCOTT: No.
SCOTT: It was on a stage in Queens.
BRUNSON: That’s too big. I’ve seen that headline, and it’s too much.
Where does that come from? SCOTT: There’s something about “Abbott” that’s a great mixture of these razorsharp jokes and a little subversion. Because it’s so clear that you have an affection, and such a respect, for teachers. It’s so deeply funny, but also the kindness in the show — my mom was a public school teacher, and there’s something that kind of hits me squarely in the heart every week.
BRUNSON: We still don’t know what Lumon does, unless I missed something.

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