"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" Stars Tina Fey, Ellie Kemper, and Jane Krakowski Talk Season 2 and More
It's strange, it's quirky, but where would our pop-culture lives be without "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"? (Not as funny, that's for sure.) Ellie Kemper, Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski, and a whole lot of other genius people gathered at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood to toast a hugely successful first season, reveal what happened behind the scenes, and share what's to come in season two. (Spoiler alert: Do not read this if you haven't watched all 13 episodes!)
That Totally Addictive Theme Song: Raise your hand if you go to bed at night at night humming, "Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! It's a miracle!" Well, you're in luck, because the theme song is not going anywhere come season two (likely premiering March 2016). According to Co-Creator and Executive Producer Robert Carlock, "We all sort of collaborated on it with the Gregory Brothers as well, but [composer] Jeff Richmond (Tina Fey's husband) really is the person to blame."
Season One Cliffhangers: Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) is headed back to South Dakota for a bit, Titus (Tituss Burgess) is married to a woman, and Dong got hitched. Will everything be resolved in the season premiere? "Hopefully," says Carlock. "Season two will pick up where season one left off. Those threads will be tied up nicely or continue to boil." In other words, he's not telling us anything. What Carlock will say is that he wants the character of Dong around as much as possible. "Ki Hong [Lee] is so great, so we want to get him away from the 'Maze Runner' world and back with us," he joked.
Home Sweet Home: It's safe to say that "UBK" — which originally was scheduled to be on NBC — is right at home on Netflix. "It's hard not to agree with that," admits Carlock. "The great thing was when we started to have those conversations with NBC, they totally agreed. Every show is different, and it never quite became a broadcast show as we were writing it and putting it together. I think binging it is great, and NBC is so supportive of that. Netflix is the perfect home."
"I Pity the Fool!": You guys remember that picture of Kimmy and Mr. T half-way through the series run? Well, it's indeed Ellie Kemper in that photo, but it was superimposed to feature Mr. T in it as well. "It looks very real, doesn’t it?" says Kemper. "It looks like a happy coincidence that I would happen to have that photo in my personal stock, but no. But that is me in the opening credits," Kemper admits. "My mom is the one that found it, and I happened to be flying home to St. Louis anyway, so it was a lot of sifting through photos. I submitted a lot of photos from when you’re 3, 4, and 5, but they’re like, "No, we need some from when you’re a little bit older like 9, 10, and 11, which I think are just bad years." They’re not adorable! So those were the photos that were submitted." For the record, how Kemper couldn't be adorable at any age is beyond us.
Marcia Clark in the House!: "I never did hear from Ryan Murphy," a disappointed Tina Fey tells us of her "unofficial audition [on UBK] for the [upcoming O.J. Simpson] miniseries." No offense to actress Sarah Paulson, who did nab the role. "I see I didn't book it," deadpans Fey. But let's get real for a minute: What was it like to do those scenes—and how on earth did Fey and the rest of the cast get through it? "We probably broke [character] a little bit," admits Fey of her scenes with Jerry Minor and Jon Hamm. "Everyone was in a great mood because were were finishing up those 13 episodes, so it was a festive time. It was fun taking the reverend to jail!"
Tina Time: Can we expect to see more of Fey in season two? If you're hopping to see Marcia, it's not likely. But getting Fey looks to be a stronger bet. "I don’t know," reveals Fey, "Probably not as that character. There are parts I’ve been thinking of in the back of my mind that I’d love to play, but I don’t know if I’ll come back as a different character or not. I may not be versatile enough!" Riiiiiiiight.
The Method to Her Madness: "It's a joy to play such great material," admits Jane Krakowski of the obvious fun that comes with creating a character like Jacqueline Voorhees. "Every day I feel it’s a challenge because I want to do the best job I can with the material I’ve been given, so it’s more like I hope my brain works and the comedy comes and it all falls into place and I don’t get in the way of the material!"
Jon Hamm in the House!: If you've followed Kemper's career closely, you know that she once took acting classes in her hometown of St. Louis and Jon Hamm was her teacher. So what was it like actually sharing scenes with him? "As you know, he couldn’t be a lovelier person, [but] I was so intimidated and nervous!" Kemper shares. "Once somebody is your teacher, they are sort of always your teacher! I knew I wasn’t being graded, but somehow I felt like I was going to be given a grade at the end of this, especially the scene where he’s threatening me. That was actually very easy for me because I was so scared," she laughs. "Of course, he couldn’t have been lovelier, but that student/teacher dynamic remains."
Favorite Episodes: Jane Krakowski loves them all, but there's a special place in her heart for the finale. "I loved my storyline with [Carol Kane] because I never thought we’d meet," Krakowski admits. "It was great to see these characters from absolutely different worlds go on a road trip together. I [also] loved the earlier episodes where we see flashbacks of my old life with my parents. Only Tina Fey would let me play myself at 14," she laughs. "It was so great."
Panel Time: Notes from the "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" Q&A
*Tina Fey got plenty of laughs when she acknowledged that NBCUniversal (the studio behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) knows to "expect [a show] that will be somewhat weird from us. It's gonna be weird."
*"UBK" had already filmed "a good chunk of the show" by the time the Netflix deal was made, reveals Carlock. So did they change anything knowing that it wasn't going to be a broadcast show anymore? "Things were working [such as] the characters and the actors, and we liked it. We felt like we had a wheel, and we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel," he says.
*When Ellie Kemper originally heard about the premise of the show (a woman is rescued from a cult where she's been held captive for 15 years, only to start her life anew in New York City), "I thought they were pranking me! It is a dark premise!"
*Jane Krakowski didn't have to audition for the role of Jacqueline Voorhees, which was good since Krakowski didn't even ask any questions about the character before agreeing to do it. "I got an email from Tina asking if I wanted to be on the show, and I didn’t even know what it was about or who the character was and I just said, 'Yes.'" Smart lady, that Krakowski.
*Although most likely every socialite in New York would love to have Tina Fey at their house for a dinner party, the "lifestyle [of wealthy New York women] panics me," revealed Fey of characters like Krakowski's Voorhees. "That you have to look like that and live a lifestyle like that everyday...it seems worse than prison," she deadpanned. "So we try to write a lot of empathy for Jacqueline."
*When Fey and Carlock were originally trying to sell the series, "we originally pitched this as 'Elf' meets 'Silence of the Lambs,'" Carlock joked.
*The role of Titus was named after and written for actor Tituss Burgess, but he still had to audition for it! Crazy, right? According to Fey, "Tituss had done a small part on "30 Rock," and we didn’t know he had all this deeper theater background. Of course, we should not have written a character in a pilot with one letter different [from Tituss' name], but mistakes were made," admits Fey. "I had a similar process with Jack McBrayer. But we weren’t the ultimate bosses, so he had to come in and test."
*As for Carol Kane, "they offered me the role without having to audition," says the well-known actress. "I just had to go in and meet with them."
*Carlock got one of the biggest laughs when he admitted that the writers and producers looked at Kimmy Schmidt as a sort of Disney princess, but remember "messed up stuff happens to Disney princesses. They give up their voices for legs and stuff (in a nod to 'The Little Mermaid')." Now that he mentions it, he is right. So maybe Kimmy's unbreakable spirit isn't so odd after all?
*Still, the show does have a heavy premise, and it's one that Fey and Carlock had to navigate carefully. "The first few weeks in the writer's room was very heavy," admits Fey. "We see the other side of this story on shows like 'Law & Order,' but [we wanted to explore whether] it is possible to champion the survivor instead of showing the mind of a criminal."
*Per Fey, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" will start shooting season two in August and be available on Netflix "next March or April ."
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