Emmy Breakout Ellie Kemper on Why Social Media Cruelty Might Break Kimmy Schmidt

“The show makes very specific strides not to victimize, but always empower Kimmy,” Netflix star tells TheWrap

Last Updated: June 25, 2015 @ 4:21 PM

Ellie Kemper is irresistible as the title character on Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

As a woman sprung from the underground bunker of a Doomsday cult after 15 years, Kemper’s Kimmy heads to New York to make up for lost time and find herself with the help of Titus (Tituss Burgess),  Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane  Krakowski) and Lillian (Carol Kane).

TheWrap caught up with Kemper to talk the Tina Fey-Robert Carlock series’ sisterhood, silliness and Schmidt’s spine of steel.

TheWrap: It’s not that well known that “Kimmy Schmidt” was developed by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock as a vehicle specifically for you. 
Ellie Kemper: I feel like if that had been playing in any part of my mind, “They wrote this for you,” it only would’ve been a bad thing.

Kimmy’s reintroduction to society is always funny, but never a primary point, always offhand. If it were up to you, is there a modern experience you would take away so she doesn’t have to suffer through it? 
Maybe social media. Because I’m not active on social media, not because I despise it. But I know myself and I would get too wrapped up in it. There’s a lot good things that come out of it, but a lot of mean things. I guess, in this day and age, to protect her from anonymous cruelty.

She’s tough, though. 
The show makes very specific strides not to victimize, but always empower Kimmy.

The show is empowering to all the female characters in a way. Is that something conscious? 
Well the show is very literal. It’s about young woman who emerged from this horrific tragedy not only intact, but ready to take on new challenges and face the world. And while this certainly could happen to a male as well, this story is about a woman. So I think its a feminist show in terms of looking at each story, each episode, as it highlights different women and their strengths and weaknesses.

It also has this amazing mix of really goofball, “30 Rock”-style comedy and then some really grounded moments as well. How do you balance that? 
In the show, as in “30 Rock,” there are moments of earnestness and sincerity, but then Tituss [Burgess] is dressed as a werewolf. I dont know how it balances, but in terms of Kimmy, she has these cartoonish tendencies but is a very strong human being. I try to focus on that to ground it.

I hate to use this word, but Kimmy is so plucky — that kind of winning character, is that a performance or your personality coming through?

I think that I am generally upbeat. I’ve bumbled my way through life being fairly cheerful and having an optimistic view of things. I think that’s why I’ve played characters like this, in “Bridesmaids.” I dont know that I have her tenacity. I’m flattered anyone would think so because I admire Kimmy.

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