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Gritty makes appearance on 'Abbott Elementary' season 2 premiere

Flyers mascot boosts morale on Philadelphia-based sitcom

by Lauren Merola @laurmerola / NHL.com Staff Writer

The "Abbott Elementary" season 2 premiere got gritty.

Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, had a cameo on the hit sitcom "Abbott Elementary," which aired Wednesday night.

The mockumentary sitcom follows second-grade teacher Janine Teagues, played by actress and show creator Quinta Brunson, as she tries to better her underfunded Philadelphia school system. The show won three times at the 2022 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series, Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series and Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series.

"Abbott Elementary" executive producer Patrick Schumacker said Gritty's appearance on the show was "a long time coming." He planned to have Gritty in one of the early episodes of season 1, but scheduling conflicts delayed the cameo.

"Gritty was always, from the start, a Philadelphia institution that we wanted to incorporate into the show," Schumacker told NHL.com. "The show takes place in Philly, and we try, as much as we can, to populate the show with the insider Philly, whether that's Philly slang or actual cameos from locals of note, like Jim Gardner, who's the now-retired anchor of ABC News over in Philadelphia. We try to make it as authentically local to Philadelphia as possible. Gritty was a no-brainer, and also at the top of the list."

In the episode, Teagues tells the teachers she landed Gritty to surprise the students on the first day of school. When Teagues gets the date mixed up, Gritty arrives at the school during development week, the week before school starts when teachers set up their classrooms and prep for the year, and when Teagues' car got booted.

"Gritty becomes a source of calm for Janine after she had gotten her car booted and is out on the curb losing her mind," Schumacker said. "Gritty shows up and does one of the things he does best, which is giving hugs."

Schumacker grew up in suburban St. Louis and is a longtime St. Louis Blues fan. His favorite player of all time is Al MacInnis. Brunson, on the other hand, is a Philadelphia native and huge Flyers fan. On set, Gritty gifted Brunson a custom Flyers jersey with "Brunson" on the nameplate.

"I think it was a dream come true for her as a Philadelphian," Schumacker said.

Tweet from @GrittyNHL: Went back to school.Got a detention.Aced my fitness gram pacer test. Dropped out.All in the same day.#AbbottElementary pic.twitter.com/hscJI2EMQs

Schumacker said Gritty and Brunson are "kindred spirits" in that they both built a strong social media presence and following. Gritty has nearly 400,000 followers on Twitter and Brunson rose to fame after self-producing an Instagram series called "Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date."

"[Brunson] was birthed by the internet. Gritty's popularity and ubiquity were certainly birthed by the internet," Schumacker said.

Gritty was the producer's top choice because of his social media reach, but also because of his interactions within the community. The show aims to naturally maintain its pseudo-documentary style. Schumacker said the show received a ton of interest from A-list celebrities and sports icons, but he feels it's less likely that James Harden gets a flat tire outside Abbott Elementary than Gritty shows up to boost school morale.

Video: Hear from the cast and crew of 'Abbott Elementary'

When Gritty was on set, the teachers got to act like their students for the day.

"It was hilarious seeing these very seasoned actors, like Sheryl Ralph, just lose her mind when Gritty walked on the set," Schumacker said. "There were a lot of selfies, a lot of hugs, a lot of capitalizing on Gritty's time out in 100-degree heat. Everybody had reverted to their child-self when Gritty showed up on set."

"Abbott Elementary" streams on ABC.com.

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