By now, you’ve probably, hopefully finished binge-watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And if you haven’t already settled in for a second run-through of the surprising Netflix sitcom, you’re likely wondering: What’s next?
EW spoke with series co-creator Robert Carlock (who developed the show with Tina Fey) about the mega-success of the series’ premiere episodes, and what shape season two could take.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You haven’t experienced a full binge drop like this before. How was opening weekend?
ROBERT CARLOCK: Tina and I were really excited for people to see it, but at the same time, the whole Netflix universe was new. We couldn’t be happier with how it went. It did feel like an opening weekend, and the notices were good. I don’t remember getting so many e-mails so quickly of people saying, “I just watched the first seven! My kids have binge-watched the whole 13!” It was really fun to get that feedback, especially from people who had seen the whole thing.
Stepping back and seeing the finished product, what popped to you that you maybe didn’t notice during the day-to-day?
One thing that stood out, and this is always a goal with a new show, is to earn the room to have every character interact and have story together. By the end, we had Lillian and Jacqueline off on a story together, which is something that in the first episode you couldn’t have thought would have happened. You do get a sense that we had a progression and we started to meld these two very, very different worlds, and I think that will be part of the fun of the next season.
I can’t even contain my excitement at a Lillian-Jacqueline friendship.
That’s what Kimmy does. She brings people together.
Talk about Tituss. I don’t even have a question for you, but please just talk about Tituss.
The hilarious thing…we named the character Titus because we thought of him [actor Tituss Burgess]. Having worked with him on 30 Rock, he’s a character, and we didn’t know how skilled he was, really. He would kill with every line on 30 Rock, but we’re stupid. We didn’t know—and we’re Broadway and theatre fans—that he’s this crazy Broadway musical theatre guy with one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard. And we thought, okay, he can hit one-liners, and he has presence and style, but we started to mold the character without really knowing how deep the chest was. I mean, he had to audition for a part named after him! But it just kept coming. It was such a delight, and seeing the two of them together, Ellie and Tituss… you need at least two characters to work, and then you get Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski and it felt like, oh, this is a show.
There’s something exciting about seeing lightning in a bottle like that.
We knew what Ellie could do, which is a lot, and we were asking a lot from Tituss in terms of making that character feel real. I know guys like that, and we wanted to write towards that voice and Tituss can do it just flawlessly. He was such a revelation every day. He’s batting 1,000. I remember watching between takes, early on…Ellie has a nice voice and she likes to sing, and between takes, sometimes you’d just hear her sing, and I was watching Ellie and Tituss sitting on the couch together and she’s singing something and he just looks at her and goes, “Stop.” And I laughed, and she laughed and loved it, and I thought, that’s not just Tituss with two S’s and Ellie, that’s Titus with one S and Kimmy, too. A little real world moment.
Now that that dust has settled, what’s your takeaway on the Netflix model?
We certainly couldn’t be happier. Among other things, we got to take out all the commercial act breaks. We edited the first 6 episodes thinking they would be on broadcast, and we were a little nervous going back. The only thing is I wish we could have another 13 drop right now and have the same great feedback that we had. But it does make me really eager to get back into the room in about a month or so and start working on season two. It’s been a great experience and I think…Tina and I still very much believe in broadcast and are going to continue to develop for broadcast, but I really like the idea that people really choose to watch you. They pay to have Netflix and they click on that button and they watch you, and it’s a more active experience, and I think that that has a little something to do with people’s enthusiasm for it.
As you start up the writers’ room again, what’s the difference heading into season two knowing you’re on Netflix versus adapting to it halfway through season one?
I think those things will be subtle. We really did write the show we wanted to write. At the center is a character who has some childlike and repressed qualities, and thus has some limitations on herself that I think dictate the limitations on the show. And I mean limitations in a good way. How do you operate within them? How do you push outside of them?
So no gigantic changes afoot.
I think in keeping with Orange Is the New Black, there’ll be a lot more shower sex, but I don’t think it’s going to change that much.
You said that season one was Kimmy’s origin story. Will season two give us some meatier backstories of some other characters? I mean, there’s Titus’s wife…
Absolutely. Titus has stuff to deal with, he’s running away from his own past. I think we all are. And thank goodness everyone’s got Kimmy thereand of course she’ll have her own problems, too. Going forward, it can’t mean that because we’re on Netflix, it explodes into a different show, but maybe it means we can earn different things—or by season 20, have earned things you couldn’t have imagined.
Which character are you personally most excited to explore further this year?
One really interesting thing will be figuring out the next chapter in Jacqueline’s life. She’s someone who seemed to have everything, and is now in a place where she has to figure out what she actually wants and how she’s going to get it. I was talking to Tina about this the other day, but I definitely want to figure out what it is that Lillian is looking for and wanting at her point in life, and with her colorful backstory. It’ll be fun to try to find something that she can be going for, now that she knows Kimmy’s deal and that light has been shined on her.
She’s a criminal.
She’s a drug lookout! And a murderer!
Titus vs. Lillian vs. Jacqueline. Who’s the most absurd?
I don’t think of any of them as absurd. I think all people do absurd things all the time. That their absurdity is in many ways a mask. Honestly, on the Upper East Side and working in this business, you meet people like Jacqueline and like Titus and like Lillian in various ways all the time. What I think we want to continue to do is get those masks off and find out what’s under there, because what I love about the character of Kimmy is that except having lied about her past for a while, she’s all there and is up front and so anything is possible. I think those other guys are so set in their ways and play this drama of being fabulous or being perfect or being curmudgeonly as a defense, and over the 13 we kind of chipped away at all of that and will continue to do so.
The show is linked to social media by the very nature of Netflix. With the explosion of ‘Peeno Noir,’ for instance, does that strike a chord for you in terms of figuring out what people want more of in season two?
You take everything with a grain of salt, but you also do try to listen and understand. With a broadcast show, you can take that into account as you’re going. I think having Titus sing and having that be intrinsic to his character is a great thing, and it’s not a question of oh, what’s the next ‘Peeno Noir,’ but what’s the next iteration of what Titus would possibly want to do to top that? How can we make them feel the same way about something new? And that’ll be the fun of getting back in, because so much of it seemed to work, and looking for that next iteration of that stuff.
By the way, do you ever catch yourself listening to ‘Peeno Noir’?
I’ve been sent some covers by other people. There’s a kid on YouTube who put something up called “Chardonnay.” There were some college acapella kids that did the theme song. That’s fun, to watch people embracing it and making it their own.
So you’re back to the writers’ room in May?
Yeah, middle of May. We’re shooting in August.
Have there been any plans to fast-track season two? Or will it be back around the same time next year?
Netflix wants them all at once and all done. Ordinarily, we’ve got the first six done when you start a season on [a] network, and then you’re kind of overlapping as it’s coming out. They want all 13 and that’s great, but complicates post-production a little bit. So we’re aiming for spring of ’16.