Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2: fan favourite Tituss Burgess speaks

The actor on his favourite episodes, working with Ellie Kemper and, of course, "Pinot Noir"

Jacob Stolworthy
Thursday 14 April 2016 17:11 BST

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," says Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actor Tituss Burgess when asked if he felt pressure to improve upon his Emmy-nominated performance for the comedy show's second season, due to hit Netflix on Friday.

A fair comment; the former Broadway actor won legions of fans for his performance of Titus Andromedon - the theatrical struggling actor roommate of Ellie Kemper's eponymous Schmidt - when the show debuted in 2015. Following a young woman adjusting to New York City life following her rescue from a doomsday cult, the sitcom was renewed for a third season months before its second premiered.

Naturally, Burgess - who played a minor role in Tina Fey's previous comedy series 30 Rock - became a hit with fans who eagerly await the release of the 13 new episodes. The actor attended a Netflix Event in Paris earlier this week where he sat down with The Independent to discuss what viewers can expect from season two.

How much of you is there in Titus Andromedon?

I think outside of our love of musical theatre, there’s very little in common. I register on about a two or a three; he’s at a thousand. By the time we’re done filming episode 13, I cannot wait to put him away; imagine waking up at four o'clock in the morning and filming all of his scenes, right out of the gate. It's like 'Jesus Christ!" But also, I know so many people like him and that’s how I created him. Once I understood the world, it was easy.

You're quoted as saying that you like working with Netflix for it's a network that doesn’t view Titus as "a gimmick." What did you mean by that?

I just mean it’s nice to work with a network - to have a network work with you - in the way they’re not using Titus Andromedon as a Christmas tree decoration; he is the Christmas tree.

What's going to be the big talking point of season two?

Here’s what I’ll say: I did not expect "Pinot Noir" to explode so rather than predict, I think I’m safest to say it is littered with moments just as enjoyable. I’m curious to see what the world will tell me is the big thing.

Do you get inundated with bottles of Pinot Noir?

Yeah. If I cut my wrists for you, I'll bleed wine.

The first season successfully blended the laughs with darker moments. Does season two continue on the same track?

It's so bizarre that they were able to take such a dark premise and find the hope - the story of survival - and this season we don’t depart from that so much as we go full steam ahead right into it.

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Do you have a favourite episode?

My favourite episode is probably episode five where it’s full of songs from the Great American Songbook and the last scene is a duet that I sing with Lillian [Carol Kane]. The song is called "Just Go On" and it has stuck with me as I move through life outside of Kimmy; I love that it perfectly encapsulates what the entire show is about.

Do you read what the critics say about the show?

No. When I cook at home, most of the people I cook for want to be in the kitchen while I'm cooking. I love nothing more than someone monitoring how much salt I put into something, how much pepper I add - but nothing that you can offer is going to sway how I decide to deliver information to you; you’ll either receive it or you won’t. The critics are not writers - they’re not a part of the creative process, therefore, they should not influence how I go about doing my next bit of work.

Did you find there was pressure to be better with the second season?

What does that even mean? To be "better?" If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. How does that attitude compare with being a broadway actor? There’s a faster turnaround in commercial theatre and more often than not - shows tank and close quickly. That’s where I learned to stop reading what people say because on some level I have more control on my performance on TV than I do in theatre. The construct is a lot more rigid. I find in TV they are relying on you to construct a performance; in theatre, depending on the director you’re working with, they’re busy extracting the performance they want - that’s where I learned to put The Times down, doll.

How's your working relationship with Ellie Kemper?

The first time I met Ellie was my audition. I walked in, we locked eyes and we started laughing. I hadn’t met her. I don’t know why we started laughing and I don’t know what she was laughing at. We couldn’t get through our sides because she couldn’t get through her lines; she kept messing up. I stopped and said, "What is wrong with you?" But we love each other. She lifts me in a way that is beyond the show - she lifts me in a way that is beyond how Kimmy lifts Titus.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2 is available on Netflix from 15 April

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