While fans of comedienne, author, and actress Tina Fey may be disappointed that she’s not starring in it, they can still look forward to the new show from the beloved funny woman, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which is set to start streaming on Netflix, March 6.
The series was written for actress Ellie Kemper, who has popped up in small roles on The Office, Bridesmaids, and 21 Jump Street although this will be her first chance to prove whether she can carry a project on her own. Created by Fey and 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock specifically for Kemper, Fey describes how NBC asked the pair to make a show around the actress. “So we spent a couple weeks thinking about Ellie Kemper — which, if you’ve not done it, is a lovely way to spend time,” she recently told Entertainment Weekly.
Kemper is known for her funny, naive, “nice girl” persona. According to a profile from Vanity Fair, the actress began her career as a humor writer, interned at Conan, and took improv classes before a guest role on The Office became recurring and turned into a part on the hit comedy Bridesmaids. Landing the team behind 30 Rock — a show that’s gaining sort of a cult classic status due to its unique rapid-fire style of joke-telling and fans of Fey — to write a series just for her is a huge moment for the actress to say the least.
The series follows the title character, who has some personality traits in common with Kemper, as she leaves a small religious cult in the Midwest that had her brainwashed for 15 years and moves to New York City. Kimmy moves into a Manhattan apartment with an aspiring singer played by Tituss Burgess and nannies for a little girl whose mother is played by 30 Rock co-star Jane Krakowski. NPR called Kimmy Schmidt “one of the most unique fictional characters among 2015’s crop of new shows.” Fey says the show is inspired by Mary Tyler Moore, as the character must start completely new after essentially losing out on her adult years.
The series started out on NBC but moved to Netflix in the fall, getting picked up for a second season in the process. Fey spoke to Entertainment Weekly a little about the ways that writing for a streaming service have changed the process for someone used to working on network TV. “The back half of these 13, we’ve edited them with Netflix in mind. At the very least, to not be writing toward commercial breaks and editing down to rigid network timing — a half hour [slot] on network is 21 minutes and 15 seconds [of content]. And so we’d be able to put back some jokes that were cut solely to get to that timing. That said, the tone of the show is sort of set, because it was written for network. So I don’t think it’s going to take a graphic sexual turn in season 2,” she said.
The writing team isn’t all the show will have in common with 30 Rock. While Fey and Carlock dismissed the idea of a 30 Rock cinematic universe, with Fey pointing out that “Because Jane [Krakowski] is a different character in this show… the roof would cave in,” they did say that the New York of Kimmy is the same New York we see in 30 Rock.
“At one time in the pilot, we found ourselves shooting in Rockefeller Plaza. We were half joking about seeing Kenneth just walk by in the background,” Carlock said. “But we couldn’t afford [Jack] McBrayer, so…”
For those who still can’t get over 30 Rock ending, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt contains similar writing, humor, and setting, with the creators free from the rigid constraints of network television.
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