'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Bosses Reveal Their Favorite Zingers

Courtesy of Eric Liebowitz/Netlix
Ellie Kemper in a scene from "Kimmy Bites an Onion!" in which her titular character becomes a crossing guard.

Showrunners Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, whose Netflix comedy is Emmy-nominated this year, spill on their best lines and toughest obstacles in the third season of their absurd (but always optimistic) series.

In season three of Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt, the Netflix comedy went out of its way to up its absurdity quotient. That included an elaborate parody of Beyonce's Lemonade, a brutal critique of the NFL and the Washington Redskins, and — perhaps most left field — a flashback-fueled subplot that incorporated a cruise ship, cannibalism and Dionne Warwick. Beneath all that ridiculousness, the show earnestly tackled gentrification, racism and — as it has from the start — the psychological and social aftermath of forced captivity. It's enough to attract top-tier talent. Jon Hamm, Laura Dern, Daveed Diggs, Amy Sedaris and Fey herself were among the season's guest stars, joining mainstays Kemper, Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski and supporting actor nominee Tituss Burgess.

The line of dialogue I'm most proud of this season is …

TINA FEY Titus saying, "It's just one of the many ways in which I'm stronger than Beyonce." His delusion knows no bounds.

ROBERT CARLOCK Maybe Ray Liotta talking about retirement and then looking at a picture of a sailboat and saying, "Someday … I'm gonna see a real sailboat."

The most challenging scene to write this season was …

FEY The scene where Kimmy meets the reverend's [Hamm] fiancee, because it was a tricky tone line to walk and also because we wanted it to be good enough for Laura Dern.

CARLOCK It's always important to knock Kimmy down from time to time; she can't just march through the world like Pippi Longstocking. The world is still mean, after all. But those scenes are always tricky, and this season especially, her failures with college and crossing guarding, etc., really piled up in the final episode. We knew she'd get her nose up by the end, but the road there was a challenge.

I still can't believe we got away with …

CARLOCK I'm just glad Beyonce's lawyers have such a great collective sense of humor.

The biggest misconception about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is …

CARLOCK That you have to "Netflix and chill." You can just "Netflix." It's fine.

The person on UKS who has the most difficult job is …

FEY Possibly [executive producer and Fey's husband] Jeff Richmond. We keep putting more music in the show with literally no music budget. Also, our line producer, Jerry Kupfer, because we ask a lot. And in 10 years now [he also worked on 30 Rock] he's never told us "no."

If I could switch gigs with any other nominee for a day, it would be …

CARLOCK Probably my pal Donald Glover. Then I could read the new Star Wars script and finally get some respect for my rhymes, not to mention my beats.

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ODDS ARE ...

Will third time be the charm for Kimmy Schmidt? The comedy has been lavished with 16 noms since its 2015 premiere, but it remains empty-handed. There should be no underestimating Tina Fey and Robert Carlock; their last TV collaboration (30 Rock) racked up 16 wins and 103 nominations in seven seasons. One hurdle now, however, is that UKS is a New York show. Its writers room and set are relatively peripheral to many of today's nominees. The fact that it dropped at the late date of May 19 also could work against it. 

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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