Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s heroine is known for her aggressive cheer, so it’s appropriate that season two (Netflix, April 15) begins with a Christmas scene.
Kimmy, played by Ellie Kemper, places the finishing touches on her tree and gives a final “later, gator!” to the problems of yesteryear, like being one of the infamous “Indiana mole women”—snatched as a teen by a crazed preacher, she was kept in an underground bunker for 15 years before escaping to a new life in NYC and putting her kidnapper in prison.
“But now she’s going to have to work out a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with him or the bunker,” explains Kemper, for whom Tina Fey and Fey’s fellow 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock wrote the show. That means enduring the same hardships as nonmole people, like dating dramz (e.g. finding out the guy you brought to a burger restaurant is vegan; turns out the animal rights 5K where you met wasn’t “so animals could marry each other”).
Luckily, Kimmy’s optimism persists.
“Kimmy couldn’t have gotten through the horrible situation that she did without being exceptionally strong,” says Kemper. After her turns in The Office, Bridesmaids and Kimmy, it’s hard to imagine a role that doesn’t involve a painful amount of smiling.
She says she’d love to play “someone kind of dark,” but she’s worried “people would laugh.” Her next project, however, doesn’t involve acting at all: “I want to write a collection of essays. I’m telling you that because then I will have to make myself do it! Writing is hard, but I’ve been making myself do a little bit every day.”
Perhaps she can take some inspiration from her on-screen alter ego. “I think of Kimmy sometimes, if I’m going through something very difficult,” she says. “I’ll be like, Well, this lady survived that, so I have a feeling I can survive this.”