10 Best ‘Abbott Elementary’ Guest Stars, Ranked


With its mockumentary-style look at life as a teacher in Philadelphia’s schools, ABC comedy Abbott Elementary has become a huge hit and one of the best comedies in recent years. The series follows second-grade teacher Janine Teagues, played by series creator Quinta Brunson, in her work in Philadelphia school Willard R. Abbott Public School. The show is currently in its third season and has been renewed for Season 4.

As Abbott Elementary‘s popularity only increases, more guest stars have been appearing, often with ties to the city of Philadelphia. The appearances have only gotten better with each season, from Philadelphia sports stars to acclaimed actors, whether appearing as themselves, the friends and family of Abbott’s staff, or even villains. The fact that they’re never distracting and fit right in is a testament to the show’s writing a judicious use of guest stars. And even more are to come in Season 3 and beyond, and hopefully, some of the most memorable so far aren’t limited to just one episode.

10 Gritty

Season 2, Episode 1, “Development Day”

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In the Season 2 premiere “Development Day,” as a surprise for the students on their first day of school, Janine worked hard to book “the only celebrity that matters” for a visit—Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty. But when she got the dates mixed up, Gritty instead arrived during development week, the week before the start of school in which the teachers prepare their classrooms for the year, forcing him to spend the day with them instead.

Plenty of Philadelphia sports stars have walked the halls of Abbott Elementary, but none were as memorable as Gritty, the mascot for the hockey team, the Flyers. The chaotic, googly-eyed fuzzy orange mascot was the funniest part of “Development Day” by just doing what he does best—being himself, including a hilarious staredown with Gregory as Gritty showed off some of his best dance moves, if they can be called that.

9 Zack Fox

Season 1, Episode 2 and 13, “Light Bulb” and “Zoo Balloon, Season 2, Episode 1, “Development Day,” Season 3, Episode 8, “Panel”

Zack Fox as Tariq in Abbott Elementary
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Comedian and rapper Zack Fox appeared on Abbott Elementary as aspiring rapper Tariq. He and Janine had been in a relationship since they were in high school, but she broke up with him at the end of Season 1. But Tariq has still reappeared a few times throughout the series. In Season 3, Tariq reappeared to drop off a boy in Barbara’s class who he at first claimed was his son but admitted was the son of his current girlfriend.

Tariq has always been a memorable character in his own right, and it’s a good thing he always finds a way back to Abbott Elementary for even a brief appearance. He’s known for being a little immature. One of his funniest moments was actually in reaction to him, as Barbara invoked the name of iconic talk-show host Maury Povich by declaring Tariq as “not the father” of the boy he claimed was his son, and the boy’s reaction to being called Tariq Jr. was just as great.

8 Vince Staples

Season 2, Episode 10, 13, 14, 17, 22, “Holiday Hookah,” “Fundraiser,” “Valentine’s Day,” “Mural Arts” and “Franklin Institute”

Vince Staples holding a pink bag in Abbott Elementary
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Rapper and actor Vince Staples guest-starred on Abbott Elementary as Maurice, Gregory’s (Tyler James WIlliams) best friend. When Gregory and Janine coincidentally made plans with their separate friend groups to spend an evening at the same hookah bar, Janine hit it off with Maurice. The two began dating, but after Janine and Gregory kissed, Janine decided to break up with Maurice. While Maurice was initially willing to forgive Janine and move on, he was bothered by the fact that she was breaking up with him in front of Gregory.

As the series explored the chemistry between Janine and Gregory, Maurice’s introduction threw another obstacle in their potential romance. He was a hilarious character, alternately tough—even to Janine’s students selling candy—and sweet towards Janine. He was fun to watch, but his split with Janine was inevitable. He also shared some brutal honesty with her regarding her approach to breaking up with him, as well as the circumstances surrounding their meeting.

7 Ayo Edebiri

Season 2, Episodes 14 and 18, “Valentine’s Day” and “Teacher’s Appreciation”

Ayo Edebiri in Abbott Elementary
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Janine’s sister, Ayesha, was played by Ayo Edebiri. Ayesha lives in Denver and moved there to get far away from their mother. She first appeared via FaceTime when Janine called to wish her a happy birthday. Later in the season, she joined in a game night at Janine’s, only for the two sisters to get into an argument that seemingly started over a game and spiraled into something bigger. Edebiri is known for her role on The Bear.

Ayesha had been mentioned on the show a few times before she finally appeared, and she and Janine had a complicated relationship, made clear from their interactions with each other. Things are often tense between the two sisters, which added not only conflict to episodes featuring Ayesha but also a more serious tone. While the source of their issues with each other remains unclear, it’s easy to assume it might have to do with their mother.

6 Tatyana Ali

Season 3, Episode 8, “Panel”

Tatyana Ali talking on a panel in Abbott Elementary
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In “Panel,” Ava (Janelle James) and Gregory were invited to speak on a panel about public schools while the other teachers had to complete CPR training, including Janine, who was forced to keep ducking out to help secure funding for her library program. Tatyana Ali played Crystal, a sorority sister and rival of Ava’s now working as the principal of another school. Ali is best known for her role as Ashley on the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

It was fun to see the fierce Ava intimidated by someone else even before the two characters interacted, but it was also understandable. Crystal, as well as the others around her, came off as pretentious and even petty at times, but her comments on the panel were well-received by the audience—even though they were simple sayings masquerading as something more profound and insightful. Ali played Crystal wonderfully, and the two principals moments together were among the episode’s best.

5 Cree Summer

Season 3, Episode 7, “Library”

Cree Summer reading a children's book in Abbott Elementary
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In Season 3 episode “Library,” Janine launched a pilot project for a librarian, Miss Rosalyn Inez, played by voiceover actor Cree Summer. Inez brought much-needed updates to the school’s library, like updating the checkout system to an electronic one versus the previous sign-out sheet written on a napkin and having classes reserve scheduled times. But her approach frustrated Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), and Janine was caught in the middle of the conflict. Summer is best known for her work on shows such as Rugrats.

Miss Inez was warm, charming, and “very cool,” according to Janine—even if her more organized and modernized system frustrated Barbara. She was one of the most memorable guest stars of the season and a fan favorite. The episode was also great for Janine, as she was forced to consider why she wanted Barbara’s approval and also accept the fact that Barbara just might not have liked a program that was good for the school.

4 Leslie Odom Jr.

Season 2, Episodes 17 and 19, “Attack Ad” and “Festival”

Leslie Odom Jr. in Abbott Elementary
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Leslie Odom Jr. played Draemond Winding, one of Barbara’s former students at Abbott who thrived after moving to a charter school. As an adult, he went on to run such a school and hoped to turn Abbott into one, too. As part of his plan, he commissioned an attack ad against the school, then agreed to take it down after Barbara asked. Odom Jr. is best known for starring in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton.

Odom made a charming villain out of Draemond and played the character wonderfully. Draemond was a serious, straightforward person who meant well with his plan, but was also deceptive in how he went about it. His character, as well as his plot, was used as a way for Abbott Elementaryto take on a political issue and explore the pros and cons of charter schools from the perspectives of both teachers and students.

3 Orlando Jones

Season 1, Episode 8, “Work Family”/Season 2, Episode 12, “Fight”

Orlando Jones and Tyler James Williams in Abbott Elementary.
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Orlando Jones has appeared in Abbott Elementary a few times as Martin Eddie, Gregory Eddie’s father. In his first appearance in Season 1, Martin and his father spoke via FaceTime, and Martin told Gregory teaching was a waste of time. He appeared in person in Season 2. Martin owns and runs the landscaping company Eddie Lawn and Care, started by his father, and was in the military. Jones and Williams worked together previously on an episode of Everybody Hates Chris.

Jones was the perfect choice for the role of Gregory’s father, given the close resemblance in appearance between him and Williams. A few Abbott Elementary teachers have complicated relationships with their parents, and Gregory is no exception. Martin’s rigid personality and military background came through strong, especially when he pressured Gregory to give up teaching and join him in the family landscaping business. Gregory inherited some of those traits which cropped up in his teaching methods.

2 Taraji P. Henson

Season 2, Episode 21, “Mom”

Taraji P. Henson in Abbott Elementary
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After previously only having been spoken about, Janine’s estranged mother, Vanetta, finally appeared in Season 2, played by Taraji P. Henson, when Vanetta interrupted Janine’s class with an unannounced visit after ignoring her calls for months. But despite Vanetta’s initial claims, it wasn’t a simple, innocent visit—she needed help with money, just before Janine was set to go on vacation by herself. Henson was known for having starred in the hit series Empire.

Vanetta was an amazing character with a bold personality, making for one of the most memorable guest appearances on Abbott Elementary. Because she had Janine at a young age, in some ways, Janine was more mature and acted as more of a parent to Vanetta than Vanetta to Janine—as demonstrated by the reason for Vanetta’s visit in the first place. But for all Vanetta’s flaws, she was still a loving, protective mother in her own way.

1 Bradley Cooper

Season 3, Episode 6, “Willard R. Abbott”

Bradley Cooper in Abbott Elementary
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In a Season 3 cold open, Pennsylvania native Bradley Cooper visited Abbott Elementary as part of a student’s show-and-tell project after he was spotted getting a hoagie across the street. He spent some time with the class and posed for a photo with the teachers—and also took a moment to call attention to the problem of underfunding in Philadelphia schools. The episode aired immediately after the 2024 Academy Awards.

One of the most entertaining things about Cooper’s cameo was the school’s reaction to him—the students were largely unimpressed, while the teachers fawned over him, each mentioning their favorite films of his. The appearance itself, and especially the students’ response, was made even funnier by the episode’s timing, as Cooper was a nominee in the Oscars ceremony for his film Maestro, although one of the teachers thought he’d been in another major Oscar contender, Oppenheimer.

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NEXT: The 10 Best ‘Abbott Elementary’ Quotes, Ranked


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