How Ellie Kemper’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ Was Influenced by Elizabeth Smart

“She would think about what she was grateful for that day, and she was in the depths of hell,” Kemper tells TheWrap of the real life survivor

On Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Ellie Kemper plays a woman freed from the underground bunker of a doomsday cult — a character the actress says was inspired by the real life survival story of Elizabeth Smart.

While “Kimmy Schmidt” is the sort of oddball comedy we’ve come to expect from creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Kemper attributes the title character’s optimism to the spirit of Smart — the ABC News correspondent who was kidnapped at 14 and subjected to horrific sexual assault until her rescue nine months later.

“I read Elizabeth Smart’s memoir, and every night before she would go to bed, she would think about what she was grateful for that day — and she was in the depths of hell,” Kemper said during a recent interview for upcoming issue of TheWrap’s Emmy Magazine.

“You’ve got to count your blessings. Kimmy’s been through her own hell and she’s still wanting to make a full life for herself,” said Kemper. “I can only hope that if I had been through something as horrific as that, that I would maintain my sense of wonder — which is essentially what Kimmy has.”

There are undeniable parallels between the character and Kemper, for whom Fey and Carlock specifically built the series.

“I personally am very upbeat. I’ve bumbled my way through life being cheerful and, luckily, having an optimistic view of things. And I’ve largely played characters like that,” she said of roles in “Bridesmaids” and “The Office.”

“Kimmy Schmidt” costars Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and “30 Rock” alum Jane Krakowski. Season two is currently in pre-production, with season one available to stream on Netflix.

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