‘Abbott Elementary’s’ Quinta Brunson Takes Back the Narrative


Amanda Riha

Graphic by

Zoe Leone, Contributing Writer

Laughter echoed throughout the Microsoft Theater as Will Arnett dragged a prone Jimmy Kimmel across the stage at last Monday night’s Emmy Awards. The duo was poking fun at Kimmel’s continual losses in his category, “Outstanding Variety Talk Series,” by joking he was too drunk to stand, before going on to present the award for “Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series.”

The Emmy went to first-time winner Quinta Brunson, who started as a viral internet sensation in 2014 before rising to sitcom royalty as a writer, producer and actress on her smash hit “Abbott Elementary.” As Brunson walked to the microphone to accept her award, Arnett pushed Kimmel’s legs out of the way of her path, but the late-night host showed no signs of moving.

“Jimmy, wake up, I won,” Brunson said as she was handed her Emmy. “Jimmy? Okay, hold my phone.”

She continued with her acceptance speech, smiling brightly as her castmates cheered her on, but was played off before she could finish due to the commotion of the presenters’ bit. While it was never brought up again during the broadcast, social media quickly went ablaze with reactions to the moment.

“Quinta Brunson deserved better than giving her acceptance over Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘dead’ body,” wrote Twitter user @gpirnia

Kimmel and Brunson’s names were soon trending on Twitter as post after post was made, mostly about the disrespect many felt had been shown toward Brunson. While the comedy aspect of award shows is expected, many said they felt as if the joke had been taken too far.

As memes and viral Tweets amounted, the press asked Brunson about her feelings on Kimmel’s behavior. 

“I felt like the bit didn’t bother me that much,” she said in a press debrief after her win. “Tomorrow maybe I’ll be mad at him. I’m going to be on his show on Monday, so I might punch him in the face then.”

Among those who expressed their shock at the event were fellow “Abbott Elementary” stars Lisa Ann Walter and Sheryl Lee Ralph. During a virtual panel of the Television Critics Association’s press tour, Walter said it “played funny” in the room, but Ralph, who also won her first Emmy during the ceremony, disagreed.

“I was like, ‘I wish that man would just get up off of the ground,’” she said. “And then I realized it was Jimmy Kimmel, and I was like, ‘Ooh, the disrespect, Jimmy!’” 

The actress said she told him her feelings “to his face” and that she thought Kimmel understood what he had done.

As reactions rolled in online, some pointed out how the important matter of race and power dynamics affected things. Kimmel is a white, famed late-night talk show host, while Brunson, who is Black, is working on her very first TV show. The jarring visual of a Black woman having to forcibly step over a white man to accept an award for her accomplishments was not lost on viewers. 

“If #QuintaBrunson stepping over #JimmyKimmel who literally laid in her spotlight on the day she won an Emmy isn’t a metaphor for what it means to be a WOC in a white mans world I don’t know what is,” wrote Twitter user @hebagowayed.

 The controversy comes on the tail-end of the announcement of “Abbott Elementary’s” season two premiere date. 

The sitcom will feature guest stars such as “Hamilton’s” Leslie Odom Jr. and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” actress Keyla Monterroso Mejia. As headlines hit the news about Kimmel and his behavior, fans of the show started to call for a reclamation of the narrative that focused on Brunson and her achievements instead. 

On last Wednesday’s night “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” that’s exactly what she did. While the host was delivering his nightly monologue, Brunson emerged with her Emmy in hand and jokingly shooed Kimmel out of her way so she could finish the rest of her acceptance speech. The camera shook slightly as it was refocused on the 4-foot-11-inch tall star and blocked Kimmel out of the frame.

Her interview on the show started with Kimmel apologizing for his “dumb comedy bit,” explaining that he was sorry for taking away from her moment. Brunson let him speak before she focused back in on the night she had had before the topic turned to her show and its incredible trajectory. Her time on Kimmel’s show was uploaded to Youtube later that night, where the comments were filled with users offering their compliments to her.