‘Abbott Elementary’ Star Chris Perfetti Feels ‘Thrilled’ After That Big Breakup

Disney / Gilles Mingasson
Disney / Gilles Mingasson

(Warning: Spoilers for this week’s episode of Abbott Elementary, “Breakup.”)

Chris Perfetti is elated to be going through a breakup.

It’s probably because the split isn’t happening in real life. Perfetti’s Abbott Elementary character Jacob Hill endures the titular breakup in this week’s episode, “Breakup,” as he attempts (and, eventually, succeeds) to part ways with longtime boyfriend Zach (Larry Owens).

In the episode, Jacob confides in Gregory (Tyler James Williams) about the poor state of his relationship with Zach. They don’t talk—at all. Jacob wants to move on and find someone new, but he’s terrified to confront Zach with the idea of a split. So, Jacob hatches the most Jacob plan possible: He’ll resort to being passive aggressive all the time, leaving crumbs around the counter and not saying “Goodbye!” when he leaves the house. That way, Zach will be so peeved, he’ll just have to break up with Jaocb.

“My first feeling was fear,” Perfetti tells The Daily Beast’s Obsessed over Zoom about losing Owens as a scene partner. “I love Larry. I think he’s such a talented actor. I love his character. But [creator] Quinta [Brunson] allayed those fears early on.” With that in mind, even though Jacob and Zach have broken up, could we see Owens again? “There might be more in store,” Perfetti teases.

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After that was settled, Perfetti says he was “thrilled” about how this big twist could impact Jacob’s storyline. “ To keep this show fresh, we have to show all sides of these characters,” Perfetti says. “I was really excited about what a single Jacob would mean and how he would deal with that scenario.”

Below, Perfetti talks about which guest star should play Jacob’s new love interest, Jacob’s bromance with Gregory, and his read on the Gregory-Janine-Manny (Josh Segarra) love triangle.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Why do you think this is the right time in the series for Jacob to be going through a big arc like this?

At this point, hopefully, people have some sort of investment in who these characters are. Now, it’s just about subverting your expectations and turning what you think you know about these characters on its head. Any situation where we can squeeze these characters or take something from them that they love, or show them in a situation that is unflattering and challenging and hopefully comedic—I think that’s just a good idea. I don’t know if it’s necessarily something that needed to happen in Season 3, but Season 3, for us, is very much about showing you things that you aren’t expecting.

You mentioned that single Jacob has now entered the picture. What’s he like?

It’s safe to say that, single or not, Jacob is existing in his own head. I don’t think the difference will be too noticeable. Close relationships are very important to this person, so it’ll be interesting to see him flail a little bit and see what it’s like when he doesn’t have one. As you know, any breakup is disorienting. Again, the more we can show these characters in a state of disarray and unrest is where we can mine comedy.

The breakup is still fresh, but do you have anyone in mind as a future love interest for Jacob?

Well, I don’t know. I know this is a bit of a cop-out, but I feel like the guest star I’m most looking forward to is somebody I haven’t met yet. Quinta has been so ace about finding people who exist in the Abbott world who maybe aren’t a household name yet, but are just so talented and brilliant and quintessentially Philly. It’s going to be more of that. In terms of who Jacob might meet romantically, I think it would be really funny if it were something you really aren’t expecting. So I don’t know who that is!

A photo including a still from the series Abbott Elementary
Disney / Gilles Mingasson

Abbott does have the best guest stars. Is there anyone you want to see come back?

Can I pick a kid? We’ve had such brilliant young actors come and play and be a part of this world. It’s tough!

Definitely I would say Taraji [P. Henson]. She’s such a massive talent and such a kind human being, and I found [her] so captivating as Janine’s mom. I hope there is a lot more of that. I also really loved working with Ayo [Edebiri]. Ayo played Janine’s sister and just killed it.

The show has also introduced new characters in the district office this season. I want to hear from you: What is Jacob’s read on the Janine-Manny situation?

The bond between Jacob and Janine is formidable. Jacob is endlessly rooting for Janine in whatever form that takes. So I think he wishes that there was something there—that’s why he asks her right away. He can pick up on everything. In terms of wanting it to go one way or the other, he would never impose.

Tyler James Williams Tries to Make Sense of That Big ‘Abbott Elementary’ Breakup

What was your reaction to Janine leaving the classroom?

It’s such a clever way to deal with why the show has started later in our season. It’s also a good move thematically. Storytelling-wise, it’s important for us to try to subvert people’s expectations, and taking the main character out of the school is thrilling. It’s a great idea. It affords us a bunch of opportunities to explore new spaces and what that means when people are not in their normal spots. Mostly, it’s about Quinta showing people that where you think the show is going, or what you’ve come to expect, may not be what you’re going to get.

A photo including a still from the series Abbott Elementary
Disney / Gilles Mingasson

There are more locations this season on Abbott—Janine works at the district office, and you go to a local bar with Abbott friends. Have you enjoyed exploring those new spaces?

I’m really excited about those opportunities. In an effort to show these people as fully-fledged three-dimensional characters, we want to see what they’re like out in the real world. We want to see why they are the way that they are. [Hanging out] in a bar with a couple of beers definitely does that. Seeing where somebody lives and how they live definitely does that. It also keeps the audience guessing. As much as I think the classroom and school is this endless font of comedic situations that could happen, if we leave the school, we open up whole new worlds. I’m so excited that we get to do a lot of that this season.

Jacob and Gregory are hanging out more frequently following Janine’s departure. How do you think this breakup will affect their friendship?

I don’t think it’ll change it too much. It’s interesting to try and predict or speak on where things are going, because at this point, we are making the show in real time, not too far ahead of you watching it. I’m learning about Jacob as you are. I do know that the arc between Gregory and Jacob this season remains close—it’s interesting to activate both of those characters. Personally, I just love having those long two-person scenes with Tyler. He’s a phenomenal actor and a very generous collaborator. I know that’s not going anywhere, and I’m excited to see where that goes.

When I talked to Tyler, he said you often make him break character or laugh on set. Are you guilty of doing that with other co-stars?

Every day is a bit of a challenge! I am surrounded by comedic assassins. At moments, every fiber of my being wants to laugh at what’s happening. And yet, somehow, I don’t. Everybody is incredibly funny, and at the same time, they’re also incredibly professional. Nobody’s going to ruin a take by breaking character—for the most part. But it’s not easy.

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