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Abbott Elementary’s Lisa Ann Walter Says Young Actors Recognize Her Voice From ‘The Parent Trap’ (Exclusive)

Abbott Elementary's Lisa Ann Walter: Kids Know Me From 'Parent Trap'
Lisa Ann Walter as Melissa in 'Abbott Elementary' with an inset of her as Chessy in 'The Parent Trap.'ABC/Pamela Littky; Disney/YouTube (Inset)

I’d say it’s almost like you were — Chessy! It’s been more than two decades since Lisa Ann Walter starred in 1998’s The Parent Trap, but she’s still recognizable as the beloved character — just ask her young Abbott Elementary costars.

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“On set the little kids that we have are six, seven years old. They’ll hear me talk. I mean, I think I look similar, but with dark hair, and I’m not blonde anymore,” Walter, 58, exclusively told Us Weekly. “But the kids recognize my voice and then they’ll go, ‘You were the nanny! You were in The Parent Trap!’ And Quinta [Brunson] will just sit there and go, ‘That is an entire baby that just recognized you from a movie that was shot 24 years ago.’”

Walter is best known for playing Chessy in the film remake opposite Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Elaine Hendrix and the late Natasha Richardson. Following the Nancy Meyers-directed smash, she went on to star in multiple projects, including Life’s Work, Emeril, Breaking News, Bruce Almighty and Shall We Dance. She currently plays Melissa Schemmenti on Abbott Elementary.

Abbott Elementary's Lisa Ann Walter: Kids Know Me From 'Parent Trap'
Lisa Ann Walter as Chessy in ‘The Parent Trap.’ Disney/YouTube

The freshman ABC sitcom was created by Brunson, 32. Last month, it was reported that the show already surpassed the network’s strongest comedy ratings since Modern Family’s series finale in April 2020.

“I sent it to our little group thread for the whole cast. I was like, ‘Monster hit, you guys,’” Walter recalled of the news. “And when an episode airs and all sorts of love comes through social media, Quinta will be like, ‘You guys are the best cast in the world.’ And we’ll share stuff like that with each other. We’ll text each other, ‘Oh, my God, that line you had,’ because we don’t see everything. So when we see it we’re like, ‘That was awesome. It was my favorite beat in the show.’”

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Now, Walter has more to add to the text chain. On Monday, March 14, the half-hour comedy was officially picked up for season 2. “Quinta is very closemouthed about stuff,” the Maryland native told Us of a possible sophomore year before the news broke. “But I think we’re in pretty good shape!”

For Walter, it’s been a “huge blessing” to be a part of the ensemble and a network that reaches a larger audience.

Abbott Elementary's Lisa Ann Walter: Kids Know Me From 'Parent Trap'
Lisa Ann Walter, Quinta Brunson, Chris Perfetti, and Janelle James in ‘Abbott Elementary.’ ABC/Ser Baffo

“I’ve never been monetary about that stuff. It’s great to make a living, [but] being a mom of four in a very expensive place like Los Angeles and being the financially responsible person for these kids, money has always been a worry. People think just because you’re on TV, you’re a millionaire. No. There were a lot of years where I was barely middle class and I was just like the rest of America. It’s a month-to-month thing of, ‘Am I going to make my bills this month?’ And so taking this worry off of my day to day is awesome, but that’s never been my goal. It’s always been, ‘What can I do that affects people?’ It’s why I wanted to be a performer to begin with,” the actress explained to Us. “When I got on stage in high school in Fiddler on the Roof and people laughed and cried at what I was doing, I went, ‘I want to do this forever. I want to make people feel.’ So this is the perfect example of that. And you get to hear it because now we have social media. … I hope I get to do it a whole lot more.”

With a new school year around the corner, she’ll officially have that chance. In future episodes, she hopes to dig deeper into Melissa’s background and continue to showcase the “vulnerability that comes through this tough girl.”

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“I’ve said to Quinta a couple of times, ‘You got to tell me if I got kids. You got to talk to me about that.’ Because if it’s such a part of who I am than I have to know what is she working with? Did she always want to have kids and didn’t with that dumb ex-husband? Does she have kids that we haven’t met yet? I got to know,” the star revealed to Us. “Because as an actor, you have to know what’s your truth.”

Walter also hopes to eventually have a “breakthrough moment” with Principal Ava Coleman, played by Janelle James. “Right now she barely tolerates Ava. But in all relationships, you have that beat where you wind up in Atlantic City together, you’re at a convention, you’re somewhere and people have too much to drink and they share. Or they’re stuck somewhere together and the walls come down for a minute and it might go back up. But for that hour, you understand each other,” she said. “So I’d love to see that. … Some of Melissa’s family, some more anger and connections with the other people.”

In the meantime, Walter is just thrilled that she’s found what she was “looking for” in a show and cast, which also includes Sheryl Ralph, Tyler James Williams and Chris Perfetti.

“What’s great about being in the cast of a half-hour show is that it’s like a repertory company. You work with the same people. And then every once in a while, you get a great guest star. But your core group, you get to have chemistry and can connect and see each other week after week. And it builds and it just gets better,” she told Us. “And that’s what [is] the joy to me.”

Abbott Elementary airs Tuesdays on ABC at 9 p.m. ET.

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