‘Abbott Elementary’ ‘s Janelle James Was ‘Drunk’ When She Interrupted Sheryl Lee Ralph at Golden Globes

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Abbott Elementary won this year’s Golden Globe Award for Best TV Series: Musical or Comedy. The show features an impressive lineup of comedians and actors, many who were probably bursting with joy in their celebratory moment. So, when Quinta Brunson asked her fellow cast members if they wanted to say anything, Sheryl Lee Ralph was quick to grab the microphone. But just as she was about to thank God, Janelle James interrupted her. And now we know why. She was drunk!

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Janelle James Interrupted Sheryl Lee Ralph by Shouting Out to Her Mom

While appearing on The Jennifer Hudson Show, Hudson played the clip from the award ceremony.

“The clip of the acceptance speech is amazing. We gotta roll this clip,” Hudson says. Next we see Quinta turn around. “You guys want to say anything before I —?”

Sheryl Lee Ralph immediately starts speaking with an oratory boom while emphatically gesturing with her hand. With the background music, it’s like you’re watching Abraham Lincoln.

“We thank you all so much,” she says, emphasizing each word. “May all our lives prove,” she starts wagging her finger, “that God is g—”

“I LOVE YOU MOM!” Janelle James yells into the mic, completely cutting off Sheryl. It’s hilarious. Sheryl totally stops and stands back while Janelle is smiling from ear to ear and waving at the audience.

“You said, ‘I’m gonna have my say,’” Hudson surmised.

Janelle James Thought Sheryl Lee Ralph Was Going to Go Into Another Soliloquy During Golden Globes Acceptance Speech

“Y’all saw Sheryl was gearing up. She wasn’t gonna let me say it. You know what I mean?”

Janelle James was likely referring to Sheryl’s previous Emmy win for Best Supporting Actress. When she accepted her award last November, she was in tears. Then she burst into a soulful croon as she sang Dianne Reeves’s “Endangered Species.” It was epic and she stole the awards show.

Janelle continued. “First of all, I was drunk. That’s one thing. I mean, what else to do? Free drinks. And I had been texting with my mom the whole time, so I was like, ‘I’m gonna talk to my mom.’”

She assured Hudson that it wasn’t a form of disrespect but more of an opportunistic grab.

“Not to be disrespectful to Ms. Sheryl Lee Ralph. I just had a little ‘deek-a-deek-deek.’ Ya know?”

Janelle James Plays Principal Ava Coleman on Abbott Elementary

Abbott Elementary is Quinta Brunson’s genius creation. It’s a mockumentary about a mostly black elementary school in Philadelphia. It’s currently in its second season, which according to Janelle James they just finished shooting recently. The show and its talented cast have already received dozens of nominations and have collectively won 3 Golden Globes and 3 Emmys. James herself received nominations for a Golden Globe and Emmy for her role as Principal Ava Coleman.

Janelle James also told Jennifer Hudson that she’d never seen acting in her career path. After meeting Quinta James years earlier, she was offered an audition for the Abbott Elementary pilot. It was during the COVID lockdown, and she said it was the only thing she’d auditioned for in over a year.  

“I DM’d Quinta and I was like, ‘I read your pilot, it’s really good,’ ” said James. “ ‘And I think I’m gonna try to audition.’ And she was like, ‘I didn’t know you act!’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know if I do either, but I’m gonna try!’ ”

“I knew it was going to be good. I didn’t know it was going to be all this.”

Janelle Has Been Doing Stand-Up Comedy for Almost 15 Years

Prior to starring in Abbott Elementary, Janelle James was known as a stand-up comedian. Raised in the Virgin Islands, she moved to the US mainland at the age of 16. She began doing stand-up in 2009 and has since toured with comedians like Chris Rock and Amy Schumer. Her material generally has a dark comedy feel to it and she’s been known to talk about Nazis, Trump, being a woman over 35, having babies, and also eating babies (all in jest of course).

In Brooklyn Magazine’s feature on the 50 Funniest People, Janelle James was asked when the last time was that she laughed so hard she cried.

“This is really mean, but it was at someone’s baby pic on Facebook,” she recalled. “I laughed, felt bad for laughing, showed it to another comic and she laughed so hard it set me off again. It was just a really ugly baby.”

Although James doesn’t give herself credit as an actress prior to Abbott Elementary, she does have quite a few TV series and film credits to her name, primarily from the past decade. Those include Joyce in Black Monday and voiced the part of Martha in Central Park. But Abbott Elementary has made her a household name and certainly been her big break out role. She gets to combine acting with her knack for comedy and she’s already gaining acclaim.

On top of her Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, James was the recipient of the Black Reel Awards for Television as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series last year. She also won the Hollywood Critics Association TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. Expect to see more from this hilarious lady — both in Abbott Elementary and on the award stage!

Read More: The Rise of Quinta Brunson: The Comedian Taking the Entertainment Industry by Storm

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