[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Abbott Elementary, Season 2, Episode 17, “Mural Arts.”]
Abbott Elementary continues to deliver the laughs in its latest installment, which sees the school undergoing some artistic changes as Mural Arts visits and prompts Jacob’s (Chris Perfetti) class to develop a collaborative idea for a new mural that will adorn the halls for years to come.
The opportunity doesn’t go quite as planned for the teacher though as he can’t reconcile the fact that his students want to put the characters of a popular fictional kids’ show, known as the Silly Sock Show, front and center in the painting. Determined to come up with something a little more evergreen, Jacob takes over design duties but quickly learns that his participation isn’t part of the Mural Arts mission, which is to let kids be the creators. By the episode’s end, they come up with a sweet compromise that allows the students to feature their preferred design in the form of tiles that also allows for customization to include their aspiring future occupations.
Below, Perfetti opens up about Abbott’s big SAG Awards win this past week, Jacob’s journey in the episode, and what could lie ahead for the faculty as Season 2 continues on ABC.
(Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
First off, congratulations on your big SAG Awards win for Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series. How are you feeling, and how was that night celebrating?
Chris Perfetti: It feels completely great. I feel like my hangover has faded, and now I’m just blissed out on happy thoughts from the other night. Like many actors, I am entirely ambivalent about all things award shows. That being said, I feel like this was the one that breaks the rule for me. It’s a real honor to be recognized by your peers, people who actually know what you’re going through and what you’re after. It’s an incredible feeling, and I’ve been kind of surprised by how much it’s hitting me.
Any special plans for traveling home with the Actor statue?
I’m just gonna wrap it in a bunch of clothes and hope that they don’t need to open up my suitcase. I’m not gonna chance having it be thrown around. I’m not gonna check it or anything, but it’s extraordinarily heavy. Everybody was asking me where I was gonna put it Sunday night, and I think I’m gonna put it next to my adjustable barbell in my living because it’ll be useful in that way.
This week’s episode was special for Jacob because he welcomed Mural Arts to Abbott. Where was his mindset when they arrived? Did he think the kids would come up with something more profound than the Silly Sock Show for inspiration, or do you think he believed he’d have a larger part in the creative choices?
I think you’re exactly right. I feel like the joy, and the frustration of playing this character is kind of making peace with never really getting what you want. I think Jacob is always in his own way, and his idea about what they should have chosen as the subject for the mural is entirely wrapped up in Jacob and has nothing to do with him.
(Credit: ABC/Gilles Mingasson)
While that is probably upsetting for him, it’s a real gift as an actor, I feel like the writers have been really consistent and brilliant in the conceit of this character in the sense that his environment is kind of always at odds with his human nature. If Jacob started getting it right, I feel like we would just have infinitely less opportunities for comedy and pathos in the way that we do. And so, he definitely wishes that they had chosen something else, but a part of me also thinks that Jacob wouldn’t have been happy with whatever they chose.
Janine (Quinta Brunson) brings up remembering her own school mural, which featured SpongeBob SquarePants. Is there a particular character or show that would have been featured in your school mural?
Oh my gosh. Definitely, Hey Arnold! or Aaahh!!! Real Monsters or Rocko’s Modern Life. I’m a true nineties kid, and I feel like those shows still really hold up. I don’t watch a lot of kids programming now, but I remember as a young adult going back and watching those shows just out of pure nostalgia, and they’re really made with the idea that there will be adults in the background somewhere. The aesthetic and the creativity of those shows are not to be dismissed.
Mural Arts are the second real-life organization to be featured in the series this season next to Story Pirates. Are the performers featured in the show part of those organizations, or are actors standing in for them?
The members of those organizations are entirely played by actors. So we are using them as kind of like a jumping-off point, and I think practically, we shoot the show so quickly that to avoid spoiling what we’re doing, [the organizations] are consulted, and we ask for their permission, and we collaborate in terms of like how to accurately represent them. But it’s then entirely on us to recreate that.
This episode also introduced the petition that some Abbott parents have signed to make the school part of the Legendary Charter. Can you tease anything as we look ahead to the rest of Season 2’s episodes?
I remember that this episode is sort of the beginning of the end of our season. It’s really this moment where I feel like all of the characters are kind of squeezed to the point of popping. And it’s really kind of distilling and setting up a lot of the themes that we’ve been talking about throughout. But I think in terms of what’s to come, you’re gonna see all of the major conflicts that are brought up in this episode sort of explode. If we’ve done our job right, this episode should kind of make you squirm a bit because nobody is really getting what they want.
Abbott Elementary, Season 2, Wednesdays, 9/8c, ABC