You, like me, were probably sat happily at home, munching through a plus-sized chocolate bar and vaguely flicking through the upcoming episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt midway through a three-hour binge when – devastatingly – you heard the news that it was only airing for half a fourth season this year (what) and wouldn’t pick up again until 2019. Gosh darn it Netflix, what the fudge! Betrayed by capitalist bigwigs, the absurd and completely flawless sitcom brought joy and many a blissful binge-watch, and I’m missing it like heck.
If the pangs of withdrawal haven’t quite gone away, and you need to fill those lonely six months until it airs again with a Kimmy-related fix, you’ve come to the right place. This week an exclusive interview has been released with producer Tina Fey (who also stars as alcoholic psychiatrist Andrea Bayden in the show) and leading actor Tituss Burgess (co-lead Titus Andromedon), who give a quick snapshot of life behind the scenes and the development of Tituss’ character, during a conversation at the Whitby Hotel in New York on Tuesday.
Burgess and Fey spoke about her NBC show 30 Rock and how Tituss originally appeared in a single episode.
Burgess: I auditioned for an under-5 for your show, 30 Rock…
Fey: Yes. Tituss played a small part – there was a fake reality show that Sherri Shepherd’s character had and she needed a hairstylist/friend/hanger-on named D’Fwan. Tituss came in and played D’Fwan and we thought he was really funny, and we said ‘let’s do this again’… we brought him back two or three times. He had scenes with Alec Baldwin [and also with Fey].
Burgess: I had never done network, anybody’s anything before, and I show up to set and I remember thinking, ‘please let someone else’s coverage be first so that I could learn and do this job that you hired me for… I learnt so much from 30 Rock, from watching you and I was a bit confused as to how you were able to do all the things.
Fey: Stepping onto a set like that for the first time it’s like going to do a dinner party at Buckingham Palace. You’re just kind of like, ‘this fork?’ … Some people get it faster than others and Tituss was very quick to pick up, to read the room, and he was really funny. After 30 Rock ended, my writing partner Robert Carlock and I were developing another show and we started to circles the idea that became this show. We said, let’s create a character that is like D’Fwan but not D’Fwan and we named the character Titus…the part was written increasingly for (Burgess) – and Tituss still had to come in and audition for the part! Thank God it all worked out.
Burgess also spoke about his experiences of growing up with musicals:
‘I never had a problem [being myself]. I didn’t have a problem, everyone else had a problem. If it weren’t for Stephen Sondheim and his musicals I’d probably be in the country somewhere, hiding. It just let me come on out and be myself.’
It’s this combination of Fey’s to-a-T writing and Burgess’ utter flamboyant-ness that make Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt so addictive. The show has been running since 2015 and stars Ellie Kemper, Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess and Carol Kane. The remainder of the fourth season will be aired on January 25 next year, but there is also talk of a movie, so things aren’t quite as bleak and final as they seem. We’ll see them again. And remember, when things seem really tough, just take it ten seconds at a time, until you get there! One, two, three…