Tina Fey Reveals Inspiration for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—The Most Inspiring TV Comedy in a Very Long Time

Tina Fey and Ellie Kemper reveal inspiration for TV's most inspiring new show

By Kristin Dos Santos Mar 05, 2015 7:55 PMTags
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtEric Liebowitz courtesy of Netflix

It's been a long time since a TV show came along and made us legit TINGLE WITH HAPPINESS from head to toe. That show drops at midnight on Netflix, and it is Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

In case you've been living a hole in the ground, the premise of Kimmy Schmidt is a girl who's been living in a hole in the ground…for 15 years. After being held captive by a cult leader, Kimmy breaks free to start her life over again in New York City.

The setup? Oh, it's insane. And far-fetched, and absurd. The execution? It's everything you could ever want in a show, thanks to the genius perfection (can she please just run for President of Everything, or at least All TV?) of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who last gifted the world with 30 Rock. Their smart, zippy humor is back in full effect, and  they've brought together another incredible cast, including Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski.

Eric Liebowitz courtesy of Netflix

Like the best episodes of 30 Rock, you'll have to pause to laugh at points as the series goes on, but what's truly loveable about Kimmy is the darker tone (cult victim, held in a bunker, where "weird sex stuff happened") mixed with Kimmy's unabashed strength and optimism, which actually came from Ellie's own personal disposition in real life.

"The whole show came about," Tina Fey tells me (watch the video interview below!), "because NBC said, ‘Would you guys ever want to write a show for Ellie Kemper?' And we were like, ‘Yes!' Because we were big fans of hers from The Office and Bridesmaids…. And the thing that we sort of focused in on her was that she has this kind of this sunniness, but also this strength…So this idea somehow came from that of like, OK, what's a kind of person who sees the world really optimistically? Early pitches were like, what if she was someone who was a baby pulled out of a well as a child? Or a woman who's just woken up from a coma? So of course we pick the weirdest of the choices."

Eric Liebowitz courtesy of Netflix

The pilot episode shows Kimmy arriving in New York for the first time, and it's reminiscent of Elf, a k a perhaps the most magical, feel-good movie of all time, with Kimmy adorably unaware of iPhones, selfies and "hashbrowns" (hashtags). "You get to see a grownup experiencing things as a child or a developing person," Kemper tells me, adding that she'd love to see Kimmy and Buddy the Elf strike up a romance in some weird alternate universe. Co-sign on that, sister!

And yes, Ellie admits, she does share Kimmy's sunninees—or at least, hopes to. "Bad things will happen," Ellie explains, "that's what life is, but the ability to overcome that and surmount it and let those experiences define you is, I think, what makes her so inspiring, and I hope I have some of that resilience in common with her. That optimism."

Kimmy's optomism is infectious to those around her, including Jane Krakowski's hilarious, image-obsessed trophy wife character, who "lives from the outside in."

"Listen," Kimmy says, "changing your outside isn't going to fix what's wrong on your inside. In order to fix ourselves, we need to start right here, and find that small unbreakable you inside yourself..."

At least that's what she THINKS she's saying to a room full of women waiting in a plastic surgeon's office, but she's actually too doped up and drooling. And therein lies the dark.

Still, in a TV world of zombies and both scripted and non-scripted sociopaths, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a real breath of fresh air.

Check out the video interviews with Tina Fey, Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski below!


Watch: Tina Fey's Inspiration for "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Watch: Ellie Kemper "Extremely Lucky" to Snag "Kimmy Schmidt"
Watch: Jane Krakowski Gushes Over Incredible Cast