After four seasons, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is almost over.
With the final six episodes hitting Netflix on Jan 25, Kimmy fans will wave goodbye to possibly the most carefree and optimistic onscreen abduction survivor the world has ever seen.
Blazing a trail as Netflix’s first comedy, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s show about a woman rescued from a doomsday cult bunker brought social commentary along with its signature wacky fairytale vibe. Leaving no misogynistic stone unturned, the show produced laughs on the #MeToo topic, a plethora of political references, and even poked fun at Peak TV and the fantastically-named ‘Houseflix’, while picking up 18 Emmy nominations along the way.
With the finale drawing near, Fey and Carlock reveal to Deadline their feelings on the big finish, how they couldn’t resist a pastiche on ‘90s favorite Sliding Doors, the potential for a follow-up movie, and why Titus Andromedon deserves his very own spin-off.
DEADLINE: Kimmy experiences some positive surprises in the final few episodes. What are some of your favorite aspects of the story as it comes to a close?
CARLOCK: You’re approaching wanting to give the series an ending in these six, and I guess this is obvious, but it was what makes sense for each character and I’m really happy with where we land Jacqueline. She spent so much of her life defining herself by the relationships that she’s in, and finally she finds a relationship where the person respects her for her mind somehow, and that requires a certain specific character traits for that person, but I was really happy with where she ends up, and I just love Zack Quinto’s performance. It was just hilarious.
FEY: When you’re ending a series, you know you are going to let people get what they want because you hold off on growth for so long, with characters, and Kimmy’s landing place was something we had thought of at the end of the previous season. I do like how Kimmy’s story ends, and how her dark experience and her childlike imagination have combined to make her who she is, and she’s able to really make something of value out of who she is.
DEADLINE: Even in the first half of this season, there’s a sense of things coming full circle for Kimmy, right?
FEY: Yeah. I think so, especially given where she lands. You know, she supposedly was born on a roller coaster.
DEADLINE: How on earth did you come up with that story in the first place?
CARLOCK: We knew her mom was a dirt bag, and that joke was just thrown away. I think it was almost in a big kind of word vomit with you, right, Tina? With your character when she went to therapy? It’s not a new idea that a roller coaster could be a metaphor for life or for other things, but it just ended up being really helpful in terms of talking about her mother’s character and that idea. I mean, one of my favorite things from the series is the ending of that season where her mom talks about liking roller coasters because you can scream and no one looks at you weird. And you know these characters have a lot to scream about.
DEADLINE: So there’s been talk of a follow-up film. You’ve said there’s no news on that, but if it were to happen, hypothetically, what would be your ideal scenario?
CARLOCK: Well, I just think it would be really fun. We chose very specific ending places for everybody but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t stories to tell. I think there’s some really fun stuff that is still on the table for all of them, so it would be fun.
FEY: We would respond just to the idea to have everybody back not just our cast but our crew who we love so much, and so many of whom are our crew from 30 Rock. These are the people we’ve been working with for 12 years on and off, so the idea of any excuse to reunite, we’re more than happy to do it, and we definitely feel like these characters are fertile enough to revisit, and yeah, hopefully it will all work out.
DEADLINE: If you did a film, would it appeal to you to do a slightly less PG version?
FEY: It could be fun, but also it reminds me of like when Howard Stern went to XM Radio or Sirius or whatever it is, and at first you’re like, now they’re just doing all the stuff they couldn’t do and it’s almost gross. But now they’re back to having really interesting conversations with people. So I think it would be tempting to be like, “Now they’re going to curse all the time and everyone could be naked,” but I think we would just find our way back to jokes.
DEADLINE: A Titus spinoff has to happen. Please tell me you’re considering it?
FEY: We are now. Now that you brought it up, sure.
DEADLINE: And he had a small part in 30 Rock of course.
FEY: He had a recurring role as a character named D’Fwan from a reality show and when we first worked with him, we thought he was really funny but we had no idea that he had this whole stage background, we just thought he was a funny day player guy who came in to read for these small parts, and we just kept bringing him back because he was so funny in it. It wasn’t until the series was over that I found out that he was like the lead in The Little Mermaid on Broadway and that he sang. Well, he wasn’t the mermaid, he was the crab. I made it sound like he was the mermaid. In 2019 I think he could be the mermaid.
DEADLINE: Back in the beginning, being the first Netflix comedy had to feel like a brave new world. Why did the idea of streaming work for you then?
FEY: It was exciting for us, because we knew that we often made shows that were for a niche audience, and that the idea that people could find you when they want to and watch when they want to, I felt like it was something that was going to be really helpful for us. As well as to not be beholden to, ‘What’s our lead-in, and is there a baseball game that same night?’ and to live and die by a rating week-to-week. So it was a joy to launch a show in a different way because of that.
CARLOCK: And to launch a show with a big, possibly thorny premise in the middle of it where people could watch past the pilot immediately and meet the characters more fully.
DEADLINE: And since Netflix is where it is now, you couldn’t resist making fun of it on the show?
FEY: I think it’s a compulsion, don’t you think Robert?
CARLOCK: Yeah. I mean as wild as some of the things that happen to our characters can be, we always think of them as living in the real world, and you can’t live in the real world right now without an onslaught of content that’s out there. And Kimmy is the one who’s trying to catch up with the world and with the culture. At some point she would have to run into that, and it’s just such a part of how we can do things now.
DEADLINE: #MeToo happened after you’d begun, but did you always know you were going to address sexual harassment, given Kimmy’s history?
FEY: Yeah. I think it evolved in tandem. We always knew – you know in the pilot episode a line was delivered, by Matt Lauer I believe, which was, “Amazing what you can get women to do because they’re afraid of being rude.” And we knew that was the fabric of Kimmy’s experience, we certainly didn’t know how it was going to play out across the entertainment industry. You know, we did not know the #MeToo movement was coming, but we knew where Kimmy would have stood on it.
CARLOCK: Even though I think we followed the premise as topical, as stuff happens to women and it’s horrifying, but we never expected to be topical in our storytelling if that makes any sense. These characters live so day-to-day and hand-to-mouth that they can’t concern themselves with gender politics, sexual or otherwise, and the idea that this stuff became so present, it surprised us I think that we were starting topical stories.
DEADLINE: Titus has his own #MeToo situation this season too, and Kimmy’s survivor spirit helps him. What were the conversations about giving Titus that story?
FEY: Well, it’s an extremely heightened and silly version of that story, but we certainly do know that men have had #MeToo experiences for sure so it wasn’t too far-fetched that Titus would have had some kind of experience and the way that he has in the show is insane, in keeping with our universe. But I think in the first half of it his casting couch experience was meant to stand alone, and I think we realized it could come back in a way. And we wanted him to have the courage to be an upstander because of his life with Kimmy. The Titus that we meet in Season 1 would’ve just let that happen to him, or only protected himself and not spoken up to help others, and so because of where he is with Kimmy he has an ability to try to do the right thing.
DEADLINE: Then there’s the alternate reality storyline aka Sliding Doors in these new episodes. What gave you the idea?
FEY: Well, I think it was an exciting day in the room when we realized that [the film was from 1998] because Kimmy’s backstory is that she was kidnapped in 1998, and so when things from the culture happened to fall in that window line, because Sliding Doors was 1998, we were like, ‘Oh, my God, oh, my God, it’s perfect, it’s kismet.’ Sliding Doors has been parodied before in other places as well, but I felt like she owned a swing at it because she is a person who really would have had a different life had she made one slightly different decision on that day.
CARLOCK: And as far afield as the episode is in some ways, we did feel like it was still very strongly connected to the scenes of the show, like the choices that you make and how much control do you have over your fate, and stuff that Kimmy’s been wrestling with since she got out of the bunker and so it felt like all right, this is still connected to the series but let’s give our actors and our writers the fun of stepping out of their usual roles for a little bit.
DEADLINE: What has been some of your best fan feedback?
FEY: Yeah. We’ve definitely you know heard from people who have experienced trauma and have been happy to see their own resilience reflected to them or to see someone just talking about it at all, and I do think we were aware pretty early on too that we have a young audience, so I mean I don’t hang out in the streets that much.
CARLOCK: You used to. You’ve changed.
FEY: But we get letters every now and then.
CARLOCK: You do occasionally hear from people who have gone through in some cases things as horrible as what Kimmy went through, and this is so gratifying because while it’s a comedy, we’ve tried to be respectful of that experience. The comedy is about overcoming it and you know, I think there was a woman who just left a note in season 1, I don’t know if you remember this, Tina, at Dave Miner’s office, just saying, “I don’t want to bother anyone but this show saved my life.” And it was like, “Well, that’s amazing.”
DEADLINE: What’s the legacy of the show? How would you like it to be remembered?
FEY: I mean the nice thing is that people hopefully will always be able to watch it somewhere if they want to, but it’s hard because like anything it’s going to age until it will be like, “I can’t believe they said X, Y, Z then,” but that people will remember it as having good intentions of trying to find comedy out of darkness, and trying to give a voice to the kind of character that would normally just be a dead body on the floor on a talk show.
DEADLINE: So what’s next on the agenda for you?
FEY: Well, we need to develop for television again. This is kind of where we were five years ago, between 30 Rock and Kimmy, and the way that we found a way out of that was our mutual agent Richard Weitz came to us and said, “Would you ever develop for Ellie Kemper?” So we’re just going to wait here until Richard Weitz has another idea. And then we’ll start up something.
CARLOCK: Yes. I know we’ve got some irons in the fire, and hopefully in the next year or so we’ll have some more nonsense for America to be confused by.