10:02am PT by Hilary Lewis
Inside 'Kimmy Schmidt's' Sexual Harassment Storyline
[This story contains spoilers from the season four Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt premiere episode, "Kimmy Is...Little Girl, Big City!"]
"There's a reckoning going on and it is important and … overdue," Kimmy Schmidt's (Ellie Kemper) roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess) instructs after Kimmy herself has been accused of sexual harassment in the first episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's fourth season, the first half of which started streaming on Wednesday.
Indeed, it was just that ongoing wave of sexual misconduct claims that led the Netflix comedy to tackle the #MeToo movement, which co-showrunner Robert Carlock had previously told The Hollywood Reporter would be "very present" in the current batch of episodes.
"That stuff was blowing up and continuing to blow up and it felt like stuff that intersected with the stuff that we've talked about on the show a lot," Carlock says, "And our characters, Kimmy especially, would have a strong point of view on it." In going through her own accusation, Kimmy name-checks a number of high-profile men who've been accused of sexual misconduct: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and President Donald Trump.
But in a gender-bending twist, the Kimmy Schmidt writers made their eponymous female protagonist the "perpetrator" to be able to address the wave of allegations, "in our comedy vernacular," Carlock explains.
Kimmy finds herself accused after she tries to put an employee she has to fire in a good mood before delivering the bad news.
Unfortunately, much of what she says and does, as shown in the clip below, sounds a lot like sexual harassment.
She gives him a quick shoulder massage, tells him she likes him and indicates that they should spend time together at night outside of work and tries to get him to not be embarrassed by demonstrating how she can easily be humiliated, when she stands up and her pants fall down. And the kicker: She offers him a smoothie, with a straw, telling him, "This thing's not going to suck itself."
When the employee walks out and says "No, thank you," she fires him.
"We didn't think there was a particularly fun version of Kimmy saving the victim," Carlock adds. "I mean we've certainly plumbed that in her story a lot."
The series already hinted 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.
And in the season four premiere, Kimmy does flash back to the fear she and her fellow kidnapping victims felt in the bunker, realizing that her reclusive colleagues might have been afraid of her outgoing nature.
But Kimmy isn't the only one with a sexual misconduct connection. Titus tells Kimmy how, as viewers saw in an earlier season, he was propositioned by a Sesame Street puppeteer, or rather, by the man's puppet.
All of these experiences, Carlock says, reflect themes the series explores.
"It felt like it crossed paths with so many of the themes that we are obsessed with in terms of people who have power and how they use it and those who don't and are on the outside, which are most of our characters; whether you can still make good in America and whether the American dream lives or whether people keep you from it more and more aggressively; the way that gender politics play out; the way that sexual politics play out. So it felt like we really wanted to go at it. It felt natural to talk about it and there are some things in our characters' past, not just Kimmy's, that can intersect with that larger conversation," Carlock says, alluding to Titus' experience.
Carlock previously revealed to THR, and Netflix confirmed, that the second half of Kimmy Schmidt's fourth and final season would air in 2019, and would be more like a shortened fifth season, with the prospect of a movie finale still "very much alive."