‘Abbott Elementary’ Star Lisa Ann Walter Says Quinta Brunson Apologized for Having Melissa ‘Hoe It Up’

After a shocking breakup in the “Abbott Elementary” Season 3 premiere, Melissa Schemmenti (Lisa Ann Walter) was plunged into the world of casual dating and sex — a storyline that prompted an apology from creator and star Quinta Brunson.

“I had no conversation with Quinta, because she had been gone … [and] we worked on opposite days, so I didn’t really see her,” Walter told TheWrap. “After we shot the scene … she goes, ‘I hope you didn’t mind that we turned you into kind of a hoe,’ and I really meant when I said ‘no, that’s funny.'”

Heading into the ABC comedy’s third season — which was delayed due to the Hollywood strikes — Walter said Brunson didn’t want viewers to be too comfortable with the status quo, leading her to write in a sudden split between Melissa and her longtime boyfriend, Gary (Bruno Amato). While Walter noted Brunson toyed with the idea of Melissa having an affair, Walter said she was glad Melissa ended the relationship on her own terms.

“I was really afraid that American women would … hate Melissa for being so cavalier about throwing away a good man, especially at a certain age,” Walter said. “Women quite often don’t say ‘this is what I want — I like the fact that I see you three nights a week. I want to sleep in my own bed.’ And [Quinta] was right — people responded like, ‘good for you.’ “

Even so, Walter has a sneaking suspicion that Gary might be back, saying “I hope that we’ll have plenty of seasons to explore that, because, you never know, sometimes you change your mind.”

In the meantime, however, Melissa is busy “hoe[ing] it up” with a firefighter (played by Mike O’Malley) who returned to “Abbott Elementary” following a Season 2 cameo. The pair’s casual hookup arrangement was revealed to the teachers later in Season 3, which Walter admitted was a “little edgy” for the show.

While Melissa’s nontraditional relationship shocked Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), Melissa received resounding support from Jacob (Chris Perfetti), who recently moved into Melissa’s apartment following his Season 3 breakup. In fact, Walter imagines Jacob might have talked to Melissa about pursuing a more casual arrangement during their time living together.

Diving into a closer relationship between the characters wasn’t hard for Walter and Perfetti, who already have a tight-knit friendship off screen and frequently get ready together prior for awards shows.

“He feels like one of my kids or a nephew … I don’t know whether that inspired Quinta in the writers’ room or not, but it wasn’t hard to transition to that,” Walter said, adding their relationship has shifted away from annoyance to wanting to protect him. “That’s another benchmark of a great show is that relationships evolve [and] how you feel about people evolves.”

Wednesday’s episode of “Abbott Elementary” saw Janine (Brunson) renege her full-time offer to work at the school district to return to her classroom at Abbott. Janine ducked out of her new hire party at the district just in time to reunite with the Melissa, Jacob, Barbara and the other teachers at Ava Fest, which Walter said happened in the “perfect” way.

“They didn’t overdo it,” Walter said. “If she had gone to war, or if she had been in a hospital or if there was something really dramatic, where when she comes back, we’re all like sobbing, it would make sense. But she was taking a job where it was an improvement, it was just she wasn’t going to teach anymore.”

While Walter could have seen Janine staying at the district, she noted district employees — including Keegan-Michael Key and Josh Segarra’s characters — could show up down the line, saying “there’s always an opportunity to go back and get more story there, and listen, that’s just job security.”

There’s plenty of time to welcome new storylines and character combinations onto the show should “Abbott Elementary” keep running for the ten seasons Walter is hoping it does. (The show received an early Season 4 renewal back in February.)

As “Abbott” gears up for its Season 3 finale with its shortened 14-episode season due to last year’s work stoppage, Walter teased the penultimate episode is “fantastic” and that the finale is “different than anything we’ve ever done.”

“It is some of the most fun that I’ve had, especially in working with Sheryl,” Walter said. “It’s a little crazy. It’s a lot of fun, and I think the audience is gonna really like it.”

“Abbott Elementary” premieres Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC and streams the next day on Hulu.

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