'Kimmy Schmidt' Boss on #MeToo Movement's Presence in Season 4

Co-showrunner Robert Carlock talked about how the Netflix series will continue to approach Trump and what else viewers can expect from the upcoming batch of episodes.
Courtesy of Eric Liebowitz/Netlix
'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has long celebrated resilient women, proclaiming in its catchy theme song, "Females are strong as hell."

Now, after months of women in Hollywood and other industries speaking out about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, the #MeToo movement will be "very present" in Kimmy Schmidt's upcoming fourth season, co-showrunner Robert Carlock told The Hollywood Reporter just days before Netflix announced that the season would be split, with the first six episodes dropping on Wednesday, May 30, and the second half arriving later this year.

At the end of season three, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) got a new job at a startup. The office environment will provide fresh, possibly uncomfortable experiences for Kimmy, with the show already hinting in previous seasons that Kimmy's time being held captive by doomsday cult leader Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) may have included some sexual abuse.

"Our characters are not fully aware exactly of what's going on in the world, for various reasons," Carlock told THR at Sunday's Writers Guild Awards in New York, where he was being honored alongside longtime collaborator Tina Fey. "But [the #MeToo movement and wave of sexual misconduct claims are] very present, especially in the first half of the season as we've talked about it. Kimmy [will be] confronting some things in a workplace. It's the first time she's ever been in a workplace, and that changes the rules. That movement, whether we talk about it expressly or not, is very present in how Kimmy looks at the world, and you talk about someone who represents the relief of that happening and [the sense that] hopefully it's not too late for other people."

Carlock and Fey have already tackled sexual misconduct on NBC's Great News, which they executive produce, with Fey co-writing and starring as an inappropriately behaving female executive in a timely episode of the sitcom that aired in October. And a joke about Harvey Weinstein's aggressive behavior towards women on 30 Rock, in a 2012 episode that Fey wrote and Carlock executive produced, began quickly circulating online after the movie mogul was accused of decades of impropriety.

Still, Carlock claims the joke, in which Jane Krakowski's character Jenna Maroney says she "turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions … out of five," wasn't inspired by any specific knowledge of what Weinstein has since been accused of.

"[We] certainly didn't know what was actually happening," Carlock said. "You hear about casting couches, and that seems quaint — and it turns out it's not very quaint."

While the characters on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt live in a fictional Manhattan neighborhood known as East Dogmouth, the show is grounded in reality, and the most recent season featured a handful of references to Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential election. Now, going into season four, a year into Trump's presidency, Carlock admitted the writing team is still trying to find the right way to incorporate him into the show.

"There hasn't been as much going into the season. I thought there might be a lot more because I felt like we kind of missed it," Carlock told THR. "It's such a perfect thing for Kimmy. Now it kind of feels like we're a little bit on the other side of it. He's a condition that we're living with more than something that we're in reaction to. We certainly don't want to pile on and exhaust our audience, because our show isn't necessarily about the bigger world in a lot of ways. But it's definitely present. I thought we would do more story about it, but as we got into it we realized, 'Boy, this has been hit and hit and hit and needs to continue to be talked about.' But the thing I was really looking forward to was writing Kimmy reacting to this happening, to a woman losing to a bully, to a reverend, and it felt like we were past that. So we're still trying to find that hook. But living in that world has been an interesting thing to write because people like our characters, who are not people who are necessarily succeeding in life, they both share in the anger that fueled his presidency but also don't necessarily feel included in the world that he's building, for sure."

As for lighter things viewers can look forward to in season four, which began filming this past week, Carlock hinted that fans would "see Mikey again," hinting at a return appearance by Titus' (Tituss Burgess) ex-boyfriend, played by Mike Carlsen.

"We'll have a lot of singing," he teased. "Kimmy will be dressing increasingly like a human adult. Eventually everyone will be happy."