2023 NAACP Image Awards: 5 Things to Know About Television's Favorite Janelle James

The veteran comedian is 'Abbott Elementary's' new breakout star.

Abbott Elementary’s breakout star Janelle James is the comedy world’s latest gem who rose to prominence last year thanks to her role as the Abbott Elementary School’s unruly principal, Ava Coleman.

Her performance as television’s favorite new villain earned her an “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series” nomination at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards. She is up against several amazing actresses, including Jenifer Lewis, Marsai Martin, Wanda Sykes, and Abbott costar Sheryl Lee Ralph.

So in honor of her recognition, get to know the rising star better with these five facts.  And don’t forget to turn into the biggest celebration in Black Hollywood, airing live on Saturday, February 25th, 2023, at 8:00 PM ET on BET.

  • She was never interested in becoming an actress

    Despite being one of the funniest stars on ABC’s Abbott Elementary, James revealed in an interview with the New York Times that she never intended to become an actress.

    “It was funny,” the breakout star said of the script.  “I’m a comedian, so that appeals to me, and if I were to act, I didn’t necessarily want my first role to be a dramatic crying role. So I was like, ‘Oh, comedy, I can do that.’ And it was hilarious, which is hard for a script to be,” she added.

  • She wants the success of Richard Pryor

    When asked whose careers she’d wish to emulate or who inspires her, James answered Richard Pryor. “He’s the GOAT. People forget about his whole movie career,” she shared in an interview last May. I feel like people forget about him, period, in a disrespectful way, but he’s the prototype. Excellent standup and then an equally good and hilarious film career. I really like him.

  • She made Variety’s top list of up-and-coming comedians to watch

    In 2020, James landed a spot on Variety’s list of 10 Comics to Watch. Entertainers included Franqi French, Ziwe Fumudoh, Dewayne Perkins, and many more.

    Watch the NAACP Image Awards live on Saturday, February 25, 2023, at 8:00 pm ET/PT on BET.

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