abbott elementary

Abbott Elementary's Chris Perfetti

Abbott Elementary

Shea Coulée and Perfetti in Abbott's third season episode, "Mothers' Day."

Fill 1
Fill 1
June 07, 2024
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Abbott Elementary's Chris Perfetti on His Favorite Season Three Moments 

The actor also reveals why he never imagined being on a network sitcom.

"I've never had the experience of playing a character this long. It's not something I really thought would happen."

Chris Perfetti is speaking about the fan-favorite, try-hard teacher Jacob Hill from ABC's Emmy-winning sitcom Abbott Elementary. Being on a network sitcom was also the last place Perfetti thought his career would take him. Thanks to his theater background, the actor has a history of playing dark and brooding characters onstage. The social justice–driven and sometimes overbearing educator he plays on Abbott is obviously the exact opposite of that, but Perfetti finds the character and his role on the series just as satisfying — especially with Hill's season three arc.

In Abbott's third season, Hill pushes through several significant life changes, including a break-up, moving into a new living situation and adjusting to a new dynamic at work once his best friend, Janine (Abbott creator and star Quinta Brunson), takes a new job at the school district. Perfetti recently spoke with the Television Academy about his character's hilarious but relatable journey and his proudest moments from season three.

How much of yourself do you see in Jacob? 

If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said I couldn't be more different from him. That's part of what I really enjoy about playing this character. But as much as all actors want to be transformational, I trust that Quinta saw in me the qualities she needed for Jacob. I would love to believe that I'm not nearly as anxious or naive or all of the gorgeous and beautiful and terrible things about Jacob. But I think I am.

Because your background is primarily in theater, were you intimidated to be on set with so many comedians?

I felt like my time in a rehearsal room prepared me to play on set. I've been in ensembles before. I think it really comes down to the people. Quinta put together a group of people who were really excited to play. It's only while I've been working on this that I feel like I realize it's not always like that, and how rare and special it is when you do have that.

How did you feel about the season three storyline where Jacob and Melissa become roommates?

It was such a great idea. Anytime we get to leave the school, I feel like we get to fill in the underbelly of why these people are the way they are. Just being in Melissa's house and sitting on that furniture with plastic on it and watching them eat pasta, it does all of the work for us.

That's something that's so impressive about the show. There are so many jokes per minute, but at the same time, it still feels natural.

I think if we can pin that on anything, again, you have to chalk it up to Quinta. I think she knows that we can achieve a lot by shoving a message down your throat while you're laughing. In order for the show to hold the feel-good moments or the gut-wrenching moments, we have to temper it with comedy. And so it has to feel a little more real. The comedy and drama keep each other in check.

Do you have a favorite line that Jacob has said, or favorite scene? 

The only thing that's coming to mind is from last season when Jacob is bemoaning that the kids have started to call him "Huffpo-reading gay Pete Buttigieg," which does a lot of work. It's like, of course they think he reads the Huffington Post, and the redundancy of "gay Pete Buttigieg" is a sort of distillation of what Abbott is doing, which is being so silly.

What moment from season three are you most proud of?

It's hard to pick. It's like picking a favorite kid. But what we achieved in the last two episodes of this season I think are a feat of filmmaking and really just hit me in the gut when I saw them. And just to be so corny and fall back on this, it's the feeling I have with these people now. I'm so proud that we're all still here and we're still doing this thing. I feel so close to them and inspired by them. And I have been, as I said, longing to have an experience with an ensemble like this that I find in plays. They feel like my family now. And I'm celebrating that, I guess.

Abbott Elementary is streaming on Hulu.

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