Janelle James Reveals Who Her ‘Abbott Elementary’ Character Is Based On

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Much like her “Abbott Elementary” character, comedian Janelle James is more than happy to spill the tea. Regardless of the mess.

James, who portrays the fan-favorite role of Principal Ava Coleman on the ABC hit, told Jimmy Kimmel in an interview Tuesday that if Ava seems to have a big personality, it makes sense, because she’s not modeled after just one person’s temperament.

“She’s a combination of a lot of people. Most, my aunt, who talks too much at the wrong time and says whatever she wants,” James said. She added that Ava is also based on “a previous bad boss and me, of course.”

The stand-up comedian — who performed with Chris Rock during his “Tamborine” tour — offered a little more information about the people Ava is based on while speaking to The New York Times in an interview published Monday.

She explained that during a scene in the pilot in which her character “calls the meeting to basically dress down” Quinta Brunson’s teacher character Janine Teagues, she had that “previous bad boss” in mind.

“I was specifically thinking about a previous boss that I had who would do what I call toxic positivity, where she’s saying things with a smile on her face that are horrible,” James said.

Janelle James as Ava on “Abbott Elementary.”
Janelle James as Ava on “Abbott Elementary.”

Pamela Littky via Getty Images

She also admitted that Ava isn’t based on just one of her aunts — but several.

“The thing about people like Ava is they never know when something is supposed to be them,” James said. “So it’s good. [My aunts are] like, ‘You’re not doing me.’ They would never know, you know?”

James told both Kimmel and the Times that her aunts do watch “Abbott Elementary.” But that “they never know” which one is them, she told Kimmel with a laugh.

Here’s just hoping James’ aunts aren’t too much like Ava and start posting their opinions about her portrayal of them on social media. Or rather, scratch that, because we’d follow that account in a heartbeat.

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