Ellie Kemper plays a woman who was abducted and forced to devote 15 years living in an underground bunker before being rescued in the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Kemper is also identified for her role as Erin, the cheerful receptionist on the NBC series The Office. Eric Liebowitz/Netflix/Netflix
toggle caption Eric Liebowitz/Netflix/Netflix
It really is not each and every day that an actress has a tv show written especially for her, but that is precisely what happened with Ellie Kemper and the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
“I nevertheless am not confident what in my face screams ‘bunker-cult victim’ to [show creators Robert Carlock and Tina Fey], but one thing did, so they went with that,” Kemper jokes to Fresh Air‘s Ann Marie Baldonado.
On the Netflix series, Kemper plays a lady who was kidnapped by an apocalyptic Christian cult leader and was rescued soon after living for 15 years in an underground bunker. Now free of charge and forging a new life in New York City, Kimmy has to make up for lost time. She gets a job and tries to uncover really like and earn her GED — all with a defiant optimism that belies the darkness of her previous.
Creating a comedy about such a significant subject can be tricky, but Kemper says the series tries to concentrate on Kimmy’s future rather than her past: “It’s a story about moving forward and … survival,” she says. “I was never ever worried about the tone or how it would be executed simply because Robert [Carlock] and Tina [Fey] had been at the helm. … I believe if any person can pull one thing off like that it’s those two.”
On delivering jokes in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
It’s so funny since we get these lines that generally they are presented on the most lovely platter to you you just have to say them. You never have to dress them up in something, and a lot of the time Tituss [Burgess] and I or Carol [Kane] and I will say, “I do not get this joke,” and I’ve Googled jokes ahead of, that I do not get, and even Google sometimes does not have the answer for me.
On how she relates to Kimmy, who missed out on her teen years in the bunker
I don’t discover it so far removed from my actual self, the idea of not understanding present references or factors that have transpired in the previous 15 years.
Whilst I certainly did not undergo something as traumatic as Kimmy did, I weirdly did not watch a ton of tv or movies when I was developing up, and I do not discover it so far removed from my actual self, the idea of not understanding current references or factors that have transpired in the past 15 years. Due to the fact, for instance, I am not on social media. I am not even proficient at technology, so I find a lot of the factors that Kimmy says to be upsettingly close to what I actually in actual life experience.
My husband — he’s a comedy writer, and he’s continuously stunned by what I don’t know, what I missed out on. He’s like, “What have been you carrying out in the course of your teen years?” And I usually say, “I was hanging out with pals! Because I was nicely adjusted.”
But anyway, in terms of playing Kimmy’s naive side, there is usually a danger of that being grating or obnoxious for folks to watch, so I believe it really is just a balance of she is so sincere in her lack of information, I guess, and she’s so determined to catch up on it, I think that playing it very sincerely helps to alleviate the danger of appearing grating or obnoxious in the reality that she doesn’t know a lot of stuff.
On auditioning for Parks and Rec and landing a role of Erin on The Workplace
I had met with [Parks and Recreation creators] Greg Daniels and Mike Schur, who ran the ship at The Office, the American version of The Workplace, and a couple months later they known as me in to read a part with the casting director Allison Jones, but then my manager known as me a month later to let me know I hadn’t gotten [the part of Aziz Ansari’s character’s wife on Parks and Rec]. …
Then, I feel, in the following February, they named me in for this 4-episode arc for a short-term receptionist who was filling in when Pam went to the Michael Scott Paper Co. [on The Office]. So they named me in to audition and I read with Ed Helms [of The Office]. … [Erin, the character] was a lot more severe and a little bit a lot more sarcastic, I feel, at the beginning, and then I worry that as the writers got to know me, they sort of made Erin weirder, so that’s sort of how she morphed into the weirdo rube that she became.
On how her improv teacher in higher school was actor Jon Hamm, who plays the cult leader on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
He taught improv and I feel sorry for him because I talk about him all the time. He’s possibly like, “Cease mentioning my name!” No, he would never say that because he’s the kindest man that there is. He attended my college, my higher school, John Burroughs, and then went to college and came back following college and taught theater at our higher school for a year, so I was a freshman taking a ninth grade … Introduction to Theater course, and he taught the improv portion of that class. …
He is a excellent person. Absolutely everyone in St. Louis adores him, and I’ve known as him the Prince of St. Louis, and rightfully so, and everyone there wants to claim responsibility and ownership of him. …
It was so crazy when we began seeing his face on buses and billboards as Don Draper [in Mad Men], which was just like, “Wait a minute, that’s Mr. Hamm? He’s this arresting matinee idol.” … It was so cool to see that. By the way, I have to inform you, that I came out to Los Angeles to put on this 1-person show I had been staging, trying to get an agent and a job, and I was in Los Angeles doing it and this was, like, the first season that he was on Mad Men, and I emailed him just to see if he may remember me and if he would come help me at my show, and he wrote appropriate back and he was front row in that show, wearing his St. Louis Blues hat. … I will say, he sort of stole the spotlight a small bit, absolutely everyone was like, “Jon Hamm is here,” but that was fine with me.
Arts & Life : NPR