When Abbott Elementary fans think of the show, its stars often come to mind: Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Chris Perfetti, Lisa Ann Walter, Janelle James, and William Stanford Davis portray the school’s outstanding staff. But what is a school without students? The kids of Abbott Elementary may not always have lines, but they play a crucial part in making the ABC sitcom look authentic. And they’re paid generously for their work — here’s an inside look at how much the student actors of Abbott Elementary make.
Rumors circulated last year that ‘Abbott Elementary’ did not pay its ‘students’
Last March, just before Abbott Elementary took a brief hiatus, the show’s creator and star, Quinta Brunson, shared a video of her “students” saying goodbye. For some reason, the video sparked rumors that the workplace comedy didn’t pay its child actors. Brunson put the rumors to rest during an appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
“It was very confusing. I’m not sure how they jumped there, to ‘we don’t pay them,'” she said. “I just felt like ‘can we take a few steps before we get to labor issues?’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, we would never not pay the kids,’ like, why would you jump there?”
An inside look at how much the student actors of ‘Abbott Elementary’ make per day
So, how much are the student actors paid on Abbott Elementary? Ahead of season 2’s release in late September, the producers and casting directors sat down with Los Angeles Times to give an inside look at the hiring process for the young actors.
They initially offered $182 for eight-hour days — or $22.75 an hour — to the actors who portrayed the “background” students filling out the classrooms and hallways of the fictional Willard R. Abbott Elementary. The students, mostly between the ages of 5 to 14, had the chance to try out for speaking roles, which came with a pay raise. Lela Hoffmeister, for example, plays troublemaker student Courtney. Students who returned for “the new school year” in season 2 could also find new opportunities in new classrooms.
“If someone played a second-grader, then [in season 2] we’d have them playing a third-grader,” extras casting director Jessie Vanatta shared. “I said, ‘It’s a great opportunity for kids who are interested in acting because they have the opportunity to either be bumped up or seen in a possible speaking role.'”
Some of the kids think they’re simply going to school on set
For many of the young actors on Abbott Elementary, the show is like a unique classroom. Though it’s not filmed in a real school, many kids see the adult actors as their real teachers. Instead of Emmy-winning actor Quinta Brunson, she’s Miss Teagues, the friendly second-grade teacher.
“So some of the younger ones, this is their first time on a set ever. And our set also looks a lot like a real school,” Brunson revealed on The Awardist. They are aware they’re coming to the Warner Bros. lot, they’re coming into a thing. But these are kids who are in uniform. They see us with the teacher badges on … I did try a couple times to tell them my name is Quinta. They saw Miss Teagues, they saw the principal. They’re kids, but they’re just delightful. If anything, it made them more natural on this mockumentary-style show.”
Getting paid to attend school that isn’t really school? Sounds like a nice gig.
New episodes of Abbott Elementary air on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.