‘Abbott Elementary’: Sheryl Lee Ralph Thought Barbara Would Be ‘Invisible’

The success of Quinta Brunson’s sitcom, Abbott Elementary, cannot be denied. In the age of streaming, the showrunner managed to pull enormous numbers on network TV. For months, fans of the ABC mockumentary series have been championing the talented cast and crew. But this week, The Television Academy recognized the show with seven Emmy nominations. Four of which were for cast members Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James, and Tyler James Williams.

Emmy nominee and Abbott Elementary actor Sheryl Lee Ralph
‘Abbott Elementary’ actor Sheryl Lee Ralph | ABC via Getty Images

Sheryl Lee Ralph got emotional when she learned of her Emmy nomination

Naturally, the Abbott Elementary cast was thrilled about their nominations. However, the best reaction to the news came from Ralph. The acting veteran’s son shared a video of her receiving the news of her nomination and she was overcome with joy and moved to tears. Ralph has given standout performances throughout the course of her career, so many felt that this recognition was long overdue.

But Ralph isn’t worried about the time it’s taken for her to receive an Emmy nod. While speaking to The New York Times the Abbot Elementary actor made that plain. “So many people can say [of the Emmy nomination], ‘Why hasn’t this happened before?'” she shared. “You know what? Everything happens in divine timing. It was supposed to happen just this way, with this show. Every show that I’ve done has led me to this moment.”

The ‘Abbott Elementary’ actor never thought she’d play a character like Barbara Howard

Throughout Ralph’s impressive career (which spans more than five decades) she’s portrayed a multitude of characters on screen and stage. However, she never saw herself playing someone like the benevolent yet sensible kindergarten teacher. In fact, she didn’t initially think that her character would have such an impact in Abbott Elementary.

“If anybody had told me that I would be playing a character like Barbara Howard, I would have said, ‘No, no,'” Ralph shared of her Emmy-nominated role. “I honestly thought Barbara was going to be invisible in the show. I had no idea that people would really see me. I thought I was invisible. So I leave those things open to God.”

Quinta Brunson revealed that Ralph really transformed herself to play the kindergarten teacher

Considering that Ralph initially wanted to audition for James’ role of principal Ava, it certainly seemed like she didn’t have her sights set on a character like Barbara. However, once Brunson cast her in the role, she threw herself into really embodying the educator. This commitment really impressed Brunson, and the Abbott Elementary creator is hoping her castmate takes home the Emmy.

“As someone who has followed her career and knows what kind of person she is, [Abbott Elementary] was a change for her!” Brunson shared of Ralph while speaking with Variety. “It was so inspiring to watch this woman who has been doing this for years take this opportunity and be like, ‘I’m so excited to learn and become a new version of myself!’ I’m so happy she was recognized.” Clearly, Ralph did a brilliant job portraying Barbara. We’re sure Abbott Elementary fans will agree that Barb is far from invisible.

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