If Brunson, James, and co. cut Principal Ava from the same cloth as Michael Scott, the archetypal bad boss of the small screen, they created an even more likable character by pedaling up her narcissism, which diminishes her tendency toward pettiness. Ava may embezzle money from the school’s budget to spend on concert tickets and pull students out of important lessons to film TikToks, but she rarely undermines or sabotages any of her underlings to the degree that you feel bad for them, or cold towards her. That is, except for Gregory.
In the words of Tyler James Williams, Ava is constantly toeing the “line between flirting and harassment” in her relationship with her new hire. Ava makes it clear from the moment she meets Gregory that she finds him attractive, and continues to make provocative asides about him, addressed as much toward him as they are the audience. The way that Gregory almost never responds, the fact that none of the other characters address Ava’s comments when they witness them, and Ava’s own shamelessness can sometimes create an uncomfortable feeling that is hard to square with the exceedingly harmless nature of most of the comments.
/Film’s Ben Pearson recently asked Brunson’s co-showrunners, Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker, what they think about this dynamic, and Halpern admitted that, “We talk about it actually a lot in the writers’ room.” He described Ava as “someone who abuses her power a bit in this relationship, in this dynamic, early on,” but characterized her behavior as “a power thing more than it’s a sexual thing. We always would say, if Gregory came onto her, she’d be like, ‘I’m not interested, get away from me.'” Yet he never does, so we never get to see that side of Ava. But that may soon change.