Ellie Kemper on How Kimmy Schmidt "Made the World a Better Place"

The 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' star talks to The Hollywood Reporter about her lead character's final season book storyline and what's next.
Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

[The following story contains spoilers for the second half of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's fourth and final season.]

Over four seasons on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ellie Kemper's lead character went from the victim of a doomsday cult to a successful children's book author on par with J.K. Rowling.

Beyond that, with The Legends of Greemulax, Kemper says, Kimmy has "made the world a better place."

Viewers see the impact Greemulax has over the course of the final six episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, as it reaches various people, including former men's rights activist Fran Dodd (Bobby Moynihan), Kimmy's frenemy Xanthippe Voorhees (Dylan Gelula) and, most important, her target audience of young boys.

And Kemper says she in particular was moved by what one young fan tells Kimmy at the opening of the Greemulax roller coaster at the end of the series.

"I cried many times when that little boy says thanks for making me feel safe," she says. "That's very powerful, a very powerful idea, of course right now, in our current age."

Joining the boy in line for the roller coaster is Kimmy's amusement park ride-loving mother Lori-Ann Schmidt (Lisa Kudrow), and it seems the pair are finally at peace with each another.

"I really marvel at how far Kimmy has come because when she set out to find her mom, I think she had this notion that she was going to call her mom out on what she'd done wrong but that they would make amends, ultimately her mom would apologize in some way, that she would in some way get this sense of redemption or satisfaction from in some way knowing that her mom was sorry and I don't know that her mom is sorry. As she says, she did the best that she could," Kemper says. "With that ending in the finale, there's this sense I think that I noticed in Kimmy that's not resignation but it's acceptance that her mom is so far from perfect. She's going to make the relationship work based on how they both function but she's not going to continue to try to change her mom or try to control her behavior or make her regret what she has done. Kimmy has come to this very mature place where the only person she can control is herself. It's just a great portrait of a relationship because no relationship is perfect. I think Kimmy is content with her relationship with her mom and I think that's why we had to see them at the end of the series because there had to be that reassurance that it's certainly not a perfect relationship but she's content."

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Kemper talks about why Kimmy's surprised by the success of her book and what she thinks is next for her lead character, including her hope for a romantic reunion.

The big storyline with Kimmy in these episodes is that she writes her book and it becomes a big hit, but she doesn't realize until later that it's a success. She didn't think anyone was reading it. We see in bits and pieces the impact that the book is having out there and how it's affecting people but we don't see her becoming a huge success with the book. Why do you think she's so surprised by the success she has with her book?

I think she's probably surprised because there were so many setbacks on the way to her book becoming a success and when Xan informs her that no, this is a huge novel, the reason the website keeps crashing is because people keep buying it, I think she's probably surprised because every sign had pointed to "Oh no, this won't be. Nobody's going to buy that. Nobody wants to hear that story. This is babyish. You don't have anything to say." And why would she have any expectation that it would do well. The fact that it did resonate with people of all ages and all genders and went on to record sales, there has to be something in its central message that is appealing to people. I think she's surprised because she faced so much adversity on the way to getting this book written.… The fact that the story she wanted to tell in her heart was so successful is so life-affirming in a way because I think it's evidence of the fact that what she has to say is important.

How do you think having that success and Kimmy becoming seemingly super rich affects her? And what's she going to use that money for?

I don't know what she'll use the money for. I think the way it affects her, and again we really only see that, four years later, but I just have this sense that none of it is going to go to her head. She's not going to become a fame addict or money addict or want to fill some bottomless hole. I think she is so pleased that what she offered the world was accepted. I feel that she will write more because she wants to and because she wants to keep helping other people and I think this is a control that she can exert, adding to people's happiness. As for the money, I hope she bought a house. A nice house, with lots of light, because she missed out on light for a long time. 

It seems like she wants to see the world, so maybe she does some traveling?

Yeah, outside of the midwest and New York, I hope she did get to go see places. She missed out on a huge chunk of her life. So, yeah, she deserves to be taking in as much as she can. 

Kimmy ends up, as far as we know, single. She has had a few romances over the course of the series, with Dong (Ki Hong Lee), Perry (Daveed Diggs) and others. Do you think there's possibly a reunion with one of them in the future or has she not really found love yet?

I have always hoped that she and Dong might get back together just because his sweetness and purity of heart was so joyful, it made me as a person so happy to see them together and I think that they're so alike in the way that they see the world and carry themselves that I just in a very emotional, immediate way, hoped that they might get back together. I don't know how they would find each other again or cross paths, but life is long. That would be my personal and selfish hope that she would somehow reunite with him. But, like I just said, life is long, maybe she'll meet someone that we haven't met yet. But personally I hope it's Dong. 

What's next for you, Ellie?

I'm not sure is the answer. I spent the fall promoting my book and now the last six episodes [of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt] are coming out, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do next. This is the first time, I guess, that I'm moving on to the next job as a mom. I didn't have a baby yet when I started filming Kimmy, so there are different things to take into consideration as I figure out what I want to do next. The answer is I'm not sure. Maybe I'll marry Dong. [Laughs.] No, I won't.