After getting the cold shoulder from the Emmys for season one of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Ellie Kemper rebounded on the awards circuit for season two with her first nomination for Best Comedy Actress. Can this funny gal build on her momentum for an Emmy win this year?
In its debut season “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” racked up four acting nominations (supporting bids for Tituss Burgess and Jane Krakowski and guest acting noms for Jon Hamm and series creator Tina Fey) in addition to its nomination for Best Comedy Series, but leading lady Kemper didn’t make the cut. However, the following year Kemper fared better. She was nominated by the Satellite Awards and Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Comedy Actress. A coveted Emmy nomination followed, though the award ultimately went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) for the fifth straight year.
More important as a barometer for her potential Emmy success is her support from the SAG Awards. She has scored two consecutive bids for those industry kudos, which are decided by her acting peers just like the Emmys are. But unlike the Emmys, SAG holds its awards ceremony in January to follow the calendar year instead of the TV season. So not only has she had support from the guild, but her awards presence is felt throughout the year instead of just during the summer Emmy season.
Netflix has realized that timing is important in the Emmy race. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has yet to win an acting award, and despite adding Kemper as an Emmy nominee last year, Krakowski, Fey and Hamm all failed to make a return to the Emmy lineup. Perhaps that’s why Netflix is premiering season three on May 19; that’s later in the spring than season one, which dropped on March 6, 2015, and season two, which premiered on April 15, 2016. With voting commencing just three weeks later on June 12, they obviously hope the show will be at the forefront of voters’ minds. Few series are debuting at a more advantageous time.
Assuming she can land a second Emmy nomination, Kemper only needs to look to her mentor and “Kimmy Schmidt” creator Tina Fey to see that sometimes the second time’s the charm. Fey scored a Best Comedy Actress bid for “30 Rock” in 2007, but lost to America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”). The following year Fey received her second “30 Rock” nomination and prevailed over Ferrera for the win. Several years earlier Patricia Heaton also managed to win on her second nomination for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” After losing to Helen Hunt (“Mad about You”) in 1999, Heaton had to wait until the following year with Hunt out of the way to win. Heaton would go on to win again in 2001.
Of course, none of these outside factors matter without a standout performance. And Kemper’s Kimmy is the glue that holds her show together. It’s difficult for an actor to stand out when surrounded by a zany cast of characters brought to life by Emmy winner Carol Kane, and nominees Krakowski and Burgess. But Kimmy’s bubbly personality and endearing naïveté give Kemper more than enough material to hold her own opposite the showy performances of her costars. So a hysterical performance, coupled with blossoming industry support and a prime, Emmy-friendly release date could be a winning combination.
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