‘Abbott Elementary’ Lines Up a Surprise Slate of Guest Stars

Gilles Mingasson
Gilles Mingasson

Abbott Elementary is known for its superb guest stars, and Season 3 maintains that reputation. From Taraji P. Henson and Ayo Edebiri as Janine’s (Quinta Brunson) family members to Leslie Odom, Jr. playing an evil former Abbott student, the show has featured a wide array of superstars in fun new roles—but the show might’ve outdone itself in this most recent episode with four huge guest stars packed into one half-hour.

Monday’s news that Sabrina Brier—a comedian known for posting hugely popular in-character videos on TikTok—would be joining the Abbott cast rocked the world. In the fourth episode of the season, “Smoking,” we learn that Brier’s role on the show is a replacement for Janine—Jessca (not to be mistaken for “Jessica”), Ms. Teagues’ temporary substitute.

Jessca isn’t a normal substitute. She’s a kooky, silly substitute. She’s so crazzzzzzzy! Love her! Jessca calls her students besties, she changes the rules of capitalization, the kids address her as “Jessca” instead of “Ms. Whateverherlastnameis,” and Janine, who is visiting Abbott, is peeved. This is not how a classroom should be run.

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A little lecture from Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), who has seen many new generations of teachers come and go, soothes Janine’s anxieties. But there’s a bigger issue plaguing the halls of Abbott Elementary: smoking. Vaping. Weed. Alcohol. Gambling. After a video from the teachers’ lounge—in which every employee gets real about their relationship with weed, nicotine, and those little bottles of pinot grigio—goes viral, the kids want to dip their toes into adult substances.

The teachers struggle to put the kibosh on this new trend. One student sets the fire alarm off trying to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom, prompting a visit from the fire department. Here’s where our second guest star makes an appearance: Mike O’Malley! Sparks fly between known firefighter aficionado Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) and Captain Robinson (O’Malley)—because of course—so there’s a chance we’ll see him again.

There’s only one person who can put an end to the issue with substances: Tariq (Zack Fox), Janine’s ex and leader of F.A.D.E. (Friends Against Drug Exposure, a DARE knockoff). After Janine books F.A.D.E., though, she learns Tariq isn’t actually available. Instead, she’s stuck with Slim (Casey Frey) and Caroline (Aparna Nancherla), two complete failures.

Slim brings his dance moves to the stage, a brilliant role for Frey, who was a huge YouTube star back in 2019 for his chaotic dance moves and absurd, dreamlike videos. His bizarre performance is juxtaposed brilliantly with Caroline, a stone-faced moderator who fields kids’ questions like, “Which substance is the safest?” (“Cigarettes,” she shrugs.) As Caroline exits, a cloud of smoke puffs out from behind the stage, where Slim is waiting to leave the school. What a fantastic duo.

A little stop and frisk solves the smoking issue. Teachers now have to inspect the backpack, coat pockets, and any personal belongings the students bring in to ensure cigarettes/Juuls/edibles are nowhere to be found. Realistically, a showing from Tariq would’ve made everything easier—but then we would’ve missed two all-star guest appearances.

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After already featuring Jalen Hurts, Jason Kelce, and Josh Segarra thus far, Abbott Elementary’s Season 3 guest roster is off to a flying start. And seeing as Janine’s classroom is going to need a substitute teacher every week, might we be seeing a revolving door of guest stars go in and out of that role? Perhaps.

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