An ‘Abbott Elementary’ Writer Who Draws From Her Experience
Name: Brittani Nichols
Now Lives: In a two-bedroom apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles with her girlfriend and brother.
Claim to Fame: Ms. Nichols is a screenwriter, actress and community organizer who is one of the writers of the critically acclaimed mockumentary “Abbott Elementary.” “Being part of a show that is so well received feels different,” she said. “You just don’t realize how different it feels until it happens.” She often incorporates personal narratives into the show’s story lines, including her journey in Chicago’s public schools. “I tend to like scenes that have a bit of a take-home message, especially for Black people my age,” she said.
Big Break: A basketball scholarship to Yale (“I learned what the Ivy League was from watching ‘The Gilmore Girls,’” Ms. Nichols said) took an unexpected turn freshman year, when she saw a student production of “The Colored Museum,” by George C. Wolfe. “It just blew my mind,” she said. “It was the only play I had ever seen outside of some Tyler Perry play in high school.”
She gave up basketball for acting and writing, and moved to Los Angeles after graduating in 2011. The following year, she wrote and starred in her first solo project, “Words With Girls,” a low-fi, semi-autobiographical web series that got the attention of the producer Denise Davis and Issa Rae, which led to writing B.E.T. clip shows and having recurring roles on shows like “Transparent” and “A Black Lady Sketch Show.” “The thing that I took away from auditioning is that good writing is easier to memorize,” Ms. Nichols said.
Latest Project: Ms. Nichols was an editor and researcher on “A Tradition of Violence,” a 15-part investigative podcast about gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The podcast, which was reported by her girlfriend, Cerise Castle, has “further cemented my belief” that the sheriff’s department should be abolished, she said.
Next Thing: Ms. Nichols is writing the final episode of this season’s “Abbott Elementary.” She would not divulge any plot details since she “won’t start writing it for another couple of weeks,” she said. But one thing is certain: There will be tears. “Our writers’ room is pretty split on fuzzy feelings overall, but I am the writer most likely to cry each episode, which is very embarrassing,” she said.
Basketball Diaries: As a young basketball star, Ms. Nichols trained alongside Candace Parker, the future Chicago Sky player who became the third player to record multiple triple-doubles in a single career in W.N.B.A. history. “Candace was older but we all practiced together at Hoops Gym, which was down the street from Oprah’s studio,” she said. “Michael Jordan would work out there, too.”