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As the addictive theme song of Netflix’s freshman comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt taught viewers, “Females are strong as hell.” But Kimmy’s strength will be tested in a big way in season two when the series introduces her mom.
“What I know about her is that she wore short skirts and maybe wasn’t the most attentive mother, so it might be a sad revelation who the mother was,” Ellie Kemper told The Hollywood Reporter at an Emmy event held Monday at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. “[Kimmy] didn’t really have a family to go back to, so I’m interested to know who that mom will be. I have a feeling whatever sadness is there will be dealt with a humorous way.”
After nabbing great guest-stars like Jon Hamm and Dean Norris in season one, the other big question is who will play Kimmy’s mom. “Joan Cusack played my mom in the series finale of The Office, which was amazing. That was great casting,” said Kemper. “I’m not going to name any other woman because what if a woman gets insulted that I said they could play my mom? So I’ll just name my mom: Dotty Kemper.”
THR also caught up with executive producer Jack Burditt about what else to expect in season two — specifically the prospect of more Daddy’s Boy — the advantage of binge-watching and keeping those guest-stars a secret.
came from this horrible, unspeakable experience, and she is tough like a young girl might be tough. She is all pinks and candy and yellows but still very powerful.””]
All the episodes were released at once, so what surprised you the most about how viewers reacted to the first season?
Binge-watching is just brand new to anything I’ve worked on. I think it helped, in a way, because the jumping-off point of the series and how it begins, I think it would have been a tough sell. We were originally supposed to be on NBC, and I think if it sat there alone and you couldn’t see really what the whole series is about is about hope and survival and getting past something you don’t even know if you’re going to be able to move forward on. Being able to go from one episode to the next, we avoided all of that, like, “What is this show?” and “I’m offended,” and all of that because people could watch a bunch to start with. I’ve never been a part of a brand-new show that got this reaction so quickly. Even 30 Rock was kind of a slow build. It took a while. This was kind of new and exciting. Some people watched all 13 the first day and took to social media and everything, and what I liked was people weren’t spoiling it. People weren’t saying that Jon Hamm is playing the reverend and things like that. People were very nice, the way that they were talking about the show. It was a good experience. It makes me want to do more things for Netflix.
Were there particular aspects of the series that viewers really responded to that surprised you?
Daddy’s Boy. We knew we loved it, but we thought, “This is so weird.” Luckily, nobody at NBC said, “Wait, what are you doing?” We never got that, and we were able to go forward with it. That was nice that people were loving it as much as we were in the room when we were talking about it and then when we shot it.
When you have things that hit so well like that, do you feel the pressure going into season two to top yourselves or do a sequel to Daddy’s Boy?
I don’t think we have a feeling that we have to top that. We’re a bunch of weirdos in the writers’ room, so we’re always trying to find the stuff that’s going to amuse anyways. That said, I think we all want to see more Daddy’s Boy, whether it’s Kimmy and Titus seeing more of the movie or something like that. We do want to see more of that. But yeah, there’s always going to be weird bits and gags that we’re not aiming for that will just be born in that writers’ room.
Are there particular relationships and characters that you’re excited to explore in season two?
I feel like we really haven’t touched on Titus that much. We’re going to get more into his past, and his wife showed up at the end of season one, and we don’t really still know a lot about him, so we’re looking forward to finding out more about him. Lillian, we really want to get into what her whole background is. If we had done 22 [episodes] like you do in network TV, we certainly would have done more with her. Everybody is so in love with Carol Kane, and we just kind of ran out of time to get to it.
Were there things you were planning for NBC if you had gotten a back nine that now will carry into season two?
We were talking about Lillian more. We were talking about meeting Kimmy’s mom at some point, which we will do in season two. At one point, we didn’t know whether we were going to save the trial for season two, or we were talking about doing it for a back nine. … There was a lot of debate, but we wound up saying, “If this is it, we’ve got to see the reverend. We’ve got to have closure to that whole bit,” so we put that in the end, and then it forced other things that we were going to do out.
Now that the trial is over, how much will Kimmy’s past be addressed in future episodes of the show?
The show is supposed to be moving on and everything like that, so what Kimmy went through is still going to inform her character at times, but I think it’s going to be moving away from that as much as possible. We’re still going to have the mole women, and we’re going to see more of them. We’re going to see more of Gretchen, we’ll see Cyndee dealing with — she had a moment of fame, then what now? So yeah, there are remnants of that. We’ll still be dealing with it, but there’s also a sense of, let’s see what else can happen in Kimmy’s life that is interesting and fun without everything being about, “I was in a bunker for 15 years.”
You had so many great people from 30 Rock on the first season of Kimmy. Are there other people from the 30 Rock world that you’re hoping to include in season two?
There was a part of us that said, “Let’s try to not do that so much in season one,” but it’s about finding the right part for the right people. I’m sure you will see other people who were on 30 Rock pop up in season two.
Have you and the writers been approached by actors about appearing on the show?
I don’t know if I can name names, but, yes, people have approached us and said they would love to do something on the show. … It’s funny because last season it was this weird show that nobody knew what we were doing. We were in such a vacuum because we filmed everything before we [aired], so we had no feedback on anything. Everybody thought, “What’s that show?” I’m sure a lot more people are going to be coming forward and saying, “I want to do a spot on that show.”
It was great because when we were thinking of Rev. Richard, we love Jon Hamm, and [we knew] he would be perfect for it. We were going into a weekend and I was going to go to SNL, and I told Tina [Fey] and [co-creator] Robert Carlock, I said, “I think Hamm’s going to be there tomorrow night, should I mention this to him?” They said, “Yeah, mention it if he’s there.” I saw him, and I talked to him for a while and I go, “Hey, we have this arc coming up on Kimmy Schmidt, and you’d be perfect for it. I don’t know what your schedule is like or if you have time.” And he said, “Maybe, let me think. I love working with you guys. Let me see what I can do.” I said, “Do you know what the show is about?” And he said, “Oh, I know what you’re asking me to do.” That’s one reason we love him to death because he’s fearless. He knew this character was going to be a monster. Then Tina and Robert went over to his apartment the next night to pitch it more and he goes, “OK, give me 24 hours to decide.”
Now that the show is a hit, are you worried about not being able to keep those guest-stars under wraps in season two?
It was a bummer at times on 30 Rock that our guest-stars — people knew who they were and that they were going to be on when we were just filming it. I, as a TV fan, always liked being surprised when somebody popped up. So that was nice that nobody knew that Jon Hamm or Tina were going to be in those final three. I don’t think we’ll get away with it again.
The entire first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available on Netflix. Who do you think should play Kimmy’s mom in season two?
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William Jackson Harper