Ellie Kemper Interview: ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’
Don’t feel bad if you haven’t watched every single outcome of the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend” interactive special because Ellie Kemper hasn’t either, and she lived it. “I know that I have not seen all of it. I remember reading things in the script that I haven’t watched yet, so it takes time to go through every iteration,” Kemper told Gold Derby (watch above). “So, no, I actually have not seen all of it yet. It’s so lovely because there’s all these little Easter eggs. If you really work hard, you can watch every piece of it.”
Now streaming on Netflix, “Kimmy vs. the Reverend” finds Kimmy (Kemper) three days out from her wedding to Prince Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe), but she takes a detour from wedding planning to locate another group of Mole Women that Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) had kidnapped and hid in a bunker. While the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books and “Black Mirror’s” interactive special “Bandersnatch” lets viewers pick a path and stick with it, “Kimmy vs. the Reverend” differs in that it will steer you back — via “dead end” messages from the likes of Mikey (Mike Carlsen), Robert Durst (Fred Armisen) and a savage “Game of Thrones” burn from Cyndee (Sara Chase) — to make the “right” choice, or at least a better choice, if you initially choose the “wrong” one.
That “do the right thing” twist not only lends itself to more comedy, but it aligns with Kimmy’s moral, resolute and upstanding character: She always wants — and tries — to do the right thing. “I do think that Kimmy sees the world as — I shouldn’t say black and white, there’s a whole story about it — but that she does believe there is a right and a wrong way to do things, so she wants to right these wrongs that have not just happened to her but the world,” Kemper explained. “Having to go back and do the right thing is in her core, so having to make the viewer go back and do the right thing, I think, is so emblematic of what she stands for. … I think that is what his interactive special forces viewers to do, which is do the right thing.”
It all comes to a head during Kimmy’s confrontation with the Reverend, and she/viewers has/have the option to kill him. (Pro tip: Kill him all three times before you “spare him.”) The wacky comedy has always been able to deftly explore the dark themes baked into its premise, but the trifecta and gravitas of the Reverend’s deaths pushed it and Kemper a bit further.
“I was taken aback because it is so extremely dark and then when we were talking about the choices to kill him, [co-creators] Tina Fey and Robert Carlock said, ‘There is nothing funny about it. You go there. This is a very dark, intense moment,'” the two-time Emmy nominee recalled. “This was, I thought, hard and cathartic at the same time in a way that felt like Kimmy is getting her revenge even though … it’s the wrong choice to make, but it felt like justice was served. But ultimately it was not the correct justice, as we see. It’s sort of unusual to take on such a dark cue, I think. That’s what I’ve always thought was so mysterious about this show — the premise is so bleak, so completely dire and awful, but it’s a comedy. Absolutely 100 percent a comedy. It’s just magic trick of how the writers are able to pull that off, but that was actually more challenging for me because I don’t get to play that as much as obviously the comedy.”
Most roads ultimately lead to Kimmy and Frederick’s wedding (though the degree of “happy” in “happy ending” varies depending on your choices). Perhaps the only downside is that fans haven’t seen Kimmy and Frederick’s courtship since his character was created for the special. But Kemper hopes that won’t always be the case.
“I’m secretly hoping maybe they’ll write more. I hope that there can be more specials like this where we explore this. I absolutely thought the same thing, which is, ‘Oh, I’m sad we missed that period of their lives together,'” she said. “I would love [to see] Kimmy as a mom. Let’s keep it going. Kimmy as a grandma. Let’s just see. I love these people, I love these characters, I would love to continue working with them in any capacity.”