The premise was wacky: A former religious cult captive escapes to New York and makes up for 15 years of lost time, retaining the sunny outlook that rubs off on everyone around her. But Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was an instant Netflix hit, thanks largely to Ellie Kemper (The Office, Bridesmaids, 21 Jump Street) in the title role. Already renewed for a third season, Season 2 begins streaming April 15, picking up three months after the first season finale. The newly pregnant Kemper teases what’s ahead in a conversation that also covers fan encounters and her surprising relationship with Jon Hamm.
“In real life I have started wearing more color and I really think it changes your outlook on the day.”
What do you love about Kimmy?
I love how furious Kimmy gets with injustice. If she feels a situation is not right—it can be silly or serious—I like playing that outrage because it can be a tiny thing and that can be funny or, if it’s a more serious thing that I feel is justified, it feels cathartic. I like that she’s very protective and fierce.
I love her clothes. I think she has such a great style. She’s dressed as she remembers dressing as a 15 year-old. But that’s kind of made a comeback—it’s weirdly hip. It’s really colorful. In real life I have started wearing more color and I really think it changes your outlook on the day.
What can we expect to see this season?
She grapples with some pretty heavy life stuff but also, she doesn’t have a ton of street smarts, and there’s a lot of new stuff that she just doesn’t know about. But, obviously, she’s not a dummy. The writers were able to keep it light in terms of things that she doesn’t know, like what she thinks MILF stands for and stuff like that, but also playing these sincere and heavier moments.
What’s great this season is how much stuff she has to deal with that she’d much rather suppress, as any person does. We’re learning that the bunker may not be the only thing that happened to her. She points to that for the reason she feels certain ways without examining things beyond that. I was really grateful to the writers for fleshing her out so completely. Just because she put the Reverend in jail is not a cure-all. There’s a lot of work to be done.
What were some of your favorite scenes from the first season?
One of my favorite things was acting with Jon Hamm. He’s from my hometown and taught me in ninth grade, so that was a very cool moment to be in a scene with him. Also we had to play this very serious scene, it was very surreal. I feel like he’s a big brother. He’s been so supportive of everyone from our high school who comes out to L.A. to start something. He came to my one-person show years ago, wearing his St. Louis Blues hat. He’s just a good guy. I cry every time he wins an award.
Do people always expect you to be in a great mood because Kimmy always is?
That might be the perception. I worry about that, because I’m not always in a great mood. But it’s better than expecting me to be in a bad mood. She’s definitely more optimistic than me.
What kind of encounters do you have with fans?
I guess people aren’t going to come up to you and tell you they hate your show, so I’m only getting positive feedback. I’ve had people share with me that they were going through a difficult time, had some very challenging moment in their life, and that they watched this and it helped them to feel better, which is a nice thing to hear.
Is it hard to get into that high-energy mode sometimes?
Yes, it is, especially when days are long. More coffee!