The half-hour Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is back for Season 2 and Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), who decided to reclaim her life and start over in New York City, after living in a cult for 15 years, is still as resilient as ever, but is also still learning to adjust to the 21st century. As she continues to learn more about who she is, her relationships with best friend and roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess), employer-turned-friend Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) and landlady Lillian (Carol Kane) deepen in hilarious and heartfelt ways.
At a roundtable interview to promote the new season, co-stars Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess talked about how this show is just as fun to make as it is to watch, not feeling the pressure to top the success of the first season, getting to delve into their characters’ backstories, exploring their characters’ ambitions, really sticking to the script and not doing much improvisation, and why this show has been so appealing for audiences and critics.
Collider: Is this show as much fun to make as it is to watch?
TITUSS BURGESS: I think so. We have a really great time at work. It doesn’t feel like work.
JANE KRAKOWSKI: It doesn’t, whatsoever. It’s so much fun. I think just working, full stop, for Tina Fey and Robert Carlock is the comic dream. They take you so far with all of your characters, and it’s also one of the most wonderful environments to be in. Most of our crew and creative teams are all the same from 30 Rock. People tend to stay, and I always think that’s a sign of a very good place to work.
When you have a first season that’s so strong and so solid, how does Season 2 feel? Do you feel pressure to top it?
BURGESS: I don’t ever feel pressure to top myself on anything, but I do feel an obligation to be as invested and not just go, “Oh, people like us now, we don’t have to worry.” But, the material is so funny that there isn’t really even much time to think about that. Also, you can’t control it. Either they’re going to like it or they’re not.
KRAKOWSKI: I felt more of a curiosity of where they were going to bring all of our characters in the second season. It’s also a very different feeling to do all 13 episodes, and then present all of them completed. We had no idea whether people were going to like it or not, when it first came out, and we were so thrilled and thankful for the reaction that the show got, especially with the story of us not going to NBC and coming to Netflix. It was so exciting to get that reception. I felt curiosity about where, now that we were fully making the show for Netflix, it would take us. And I feel Season 2 is even richer than Season 1, for all the characters.
BURGESS: You go down the rabbit hole of everyone’s backstory. There are a lot of answered questions, and a lot of new questions. That makes it easy and fun to act. We have such great writers, and I trust them completely.
What did you think of your characters’ backstories?
KRAKOWSKI: It’s rough times for Jacqueline in Season 2, with her $12 million. The last episode (of Season 1) had so many cliffhangers, and it was wonderful that we started with all of those cliffhangers and answered all of those questions in the first episode (of Season 2). That was great for us. I think there’s a lot more heart this season.
BURGESS: We’re a lot more vulnerable, that’s for sure.
Jane, what can you say about your character’s journey for Season 2?
KRAKOWSKI: Jacqueline is really dealing with not being Mrs. Voorhees anymore. She’s now Jacqueline White. I’m thrilled that we spent a lot of time learning about her early years, her childhood, and her fighting for her family’s rights. It was a surprise to me that we would grow that storyline so fully this season, but we really did. They tried to grow Jacqueline into more of a fully formed human being. I feel like Jacqueline grew a lot this season. They really went into depth on all of the characters and all of the characters grow so much in Season 2, which is what you hope for, really. When you take on a series, you don’t want to stay the same person. We have our continuing humorous throughline, but they’ve helped us all grow, quite a bit.
Is there a lot of improvisation on this show?
BURGESS: We say what they write. Every now and again, they’ll let you do a couple however you might want to do it, but most of what ends up in the edit is what was on paper. They don’t need our help. They really don’t.
Tituss, has your sense of humor changed and evolved, or do you feel it’s always been the same?
BURGESS: I feel like I’ve always had a sordid sense of humor, and it’s only gotten more twisted as I’ve gotten older. I don’t think my tastes have changed. I’ve always been weird.
How are things in Titus and Kimmy’s apartment?
BURGESS: It looks the same, but their dynamic has tightened. I think they need each other a lot more this season than they did last season. The lovely thing about Kimmy and Titus’ relationship is that Kimmy really teaches Titus how important it is to be kind and to not be so self-absorbed. It’s a lesson that has been a long time coming. Titus has a hard time being open, letting himself be really seen, and considering someone else’s feelings. This season, you’ll see that he cares about other people and puts other people’s needs before his own, and I think that’s lovely. He’s still as sassy as he was last season, but it’s nice to see him not be so self-involved.
Are you anything like Titus Andromedon?
BURGESS: I don’t think I’m like him. I’m very much an introvert. I don’t enjoy attention as much as people may think I do. I think some people, when they meet me, are expecting him, but he’s fake. He’s not real life. I think the only thing we might share is our sense of humor and our love of theater. I very much care about people.
Does Jacqueline have new ambitions because of this new turn in her life?
KRAKOWSKI: Through the influence of Kimmy, Jacqueline tries to grow to care more about others than just herself, which is a big leap for her. I think she’s trying to stand on her own two feet this season, and to not only have her own identity, but to use her identity to help others. I think, in her humorous way, she succeeds in a few ways, but also fails with a little heartbreak. One of Jacqueline’s biggest ambitions this year is that, instead of running away from her family roots and changing, she wants to help and make change for them, if she can. She tries, and I think that’s the biggest growth we can get.
What are Titus’ ambitions this season?
BURGESS: I don’t know if Titus set out to find it, but to have a successful relationship is probably the biggest ambition he has this season. He still also really wants to be famous. He’s still very much desirous of that life, but you also see him at odds because he’s so comfortable in this new relationship. It’s quite interesting to watch that play out. He’s at a little bit of a crossroads at the end of the season, and it’s interesting to see what he chooses.
What do you think the intrinsic appeal of this show is?
KRAKOWSKI: I think it’s Kimmy’s optimism and her happiness through adversity. When people saw the show, they saw what was in the creative genius minds of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. What was lovely was that they gave us the chance. They didn’t go, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like I’d want to watch.” They gave us a chance. What’s really lovely is that we found that one of our largest audiences is young girls, who are pre-teen and teenage. Even though Kimmy has had the 15 years of tough times, she’s such an optimistic character for young girls to look up to and I think it’s amazing that we have that. There’s a great innocence in Kimmy, and we don’t have that too much, so to see that girls are reacting to that is lovely. It makes me hopeful for our future generations of girls that they’re happy to have a light and happy role model.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 is available at Netflix.