‘Abbott Elementary’: Why You Probably Recognize Melissa Schemmenti

Actor and comedian Lisa Ann Walter portrays a loyal second-grade teacher Melissa Schemmenti in ABC workplace comedy, Abbott Elementary. Walter has appeared in several television shows and movies from the mid-90s until landing the main character role in 2021. Here’s why the actor who portrays Melissa might look familiar to you.

Lisa Ann Walter as 'Abbott Elementary' teacher Melissa Schemmenti posing on a set of stairs
Lisa Ann Walter as ‘Abbott Elementary’ teacher Melissa Schemmenti | Pamela Littky/ABC/Getty Images

Lisa Ann Walter stars as Melissa Schemmenti in ‘Abbott Elementary’

Experienced second-grade teacher Melissa Schemmenti, described as “sketchy” by history teacher Jacob Hill (Chris Perfetti), is from South Philadelphia and portrayed as having questionable connections.

However, she uses her sources to help the other teachers at Abbott Elementary as she enlisted the help of Tony to steal rugs for the school for Janine.

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Additionally, she called on another to assist Jacob with teaching his class about unions. It’s unclear if she has any children outside of those in her classroom, but she has opened up about her divorce.

After a conversation with Jacob, Melissa agrees to put herself out there again. 

Lisa Ann Walter previously portrayed Chessy in ‘The Parent Trap’

In 1983, the Maryland native received a theater degree from the Catholic University of America before trying her hand at stand-up comedy. Following five years in the industry, she received her break in television with Fox’s My Wildest Dreams and ABC’s Life’s Work (1996).

Walter then began appearing in movies, debuting in comedy Eddie (1996) alongside Whoopi Goldberg. In 1998 she landed one of her most notable roles as a young Lindsay Lohan’s nanny Chessy in a remake of The Parent Trap.

She continued to appear in several projects, including Emeril (2000), Breaking News (2002), Bruce Almighty (2003), Shall We Dance (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), Drillbit Taylor (2008), and Rizzoli & Isles (2011).

The actor also developed reality competition series, Dance Your A– Off in 2009, hosted by Marissa Jaret Winokur, which lasted for two seasons. She most recently appeared in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (2019) and 9-1-1 (2021) before landing the main role of Melissa in Abbott Elementary.

Walter says she incorporates her family into Melissa’s character

In a January 2022 interview with Monsters and Critics, Walter explained that her mother, from a Silician background, worked as a school teacher in downtown Washington D.C.

For the character, the actor noted she channeled her family into Melissa by incorporating their “little Sicilian words and hand movements.” Additionally, the comedian explained she used the names of her family members when mentioning relatives in the show.

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“So I temper it with the truth, which is always the best way to create a character,” she added. The actor also spoke about her character’s “ride or die” relationship with kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard.

She believes the friendship is partly based on the bond between Quinta Brunson’s (creator, writer, and actor behind Janine Teagues) mom, a longstanding teacher who Brunson credits with inspiring the series, and a Silician teacher. However, Walter noted she and the actor behind Mrs. Howard, Sheryl Lee Ralph, also have a close relationship. Abbott Elementary airs Tuesdays on ABC.