Ellie Kemper Q&A: ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’
"It is optimistic, and that is one of the underlying themes. Bad things happen to people, but you can't curl up in a ball and die. You have to keep going," reveals Ellie Kemper when we chatted recently via webcam about her new Netflix comedy "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." She plays the title character, a young woman rescued from a doomsday cult who starts a new life in New York City, sharing an apartment with a struggling actor (Tituss Burgess) and working as a nanny for a self-centered socialite (Jane Krakowski). "Here she is absent for 15 years in a situation that most people wouldn't be able to endure. Yet, she comes out of that with a smile on her face and a sense of wonderment and awe."
The series, a contender for Best Comedy at the upcoming TCA Awards, is the first major project from creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock since "30 Rock," their three-time Emmy winner for Best Comedy Series. The duo created the show with Kemper in mind for the lead character. "It is the biggest compliment I've ever received that they would be willing to come up with an idea and have me involved. I am an enormous fan of '30 Rock' and such a fan of theirs. To be working with them on any level is extraordinary, and believe me, I'm flattered."
The show had a slew of funny guest stars, including Martin Short, Richard Kind, Tim Blake Nelson, Christine Ebersole, Dean Norris, James Monroe Iglehart, Kiernan Shipka, and Amy Sedaris. But the one who stood out for Kemper was Jon Hamm, her drama teacher in Missouri for a short while when she was in ninth grade. She recalls, "For him to guest star as the reverend and to be acting in a scene with him was once-in-a-lifetime and exceptional."
Kemper has already built up quite an awards history in a relatively short time. She is a four-time nominee at the Screen Actors Guild Awards as part of the comedy ensemble of "The Office." She was also a member of the film ensemble "Bridesmaids" and part of its SAG bid.