“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” almost didn’t make it to air, but today, Kimmy is singing a different tune.
“Schmidt” had a strong showing with seven nominations for its freshman season, including a surprise berth in the comedy series race. That’s icing on the cake for a show that hit some turbulence when NBC decided to pass on after it had lensed a full season. Now “Schmidt” is seen as an underdog in race, which suits the show that stars Ellie Kemper as a woman who escapes after years in a cult and has to adjust to her new life in the big city.
“Two of the first emails we got were from (NBC execs) Jen Salke and Bob Greenblatt,” Robert Carlock, who created the series with his “30 Rock” partner Tina Fey, tells Variety. “We wouldn’t be in this place if it were not for their imaginations saying, ‘Where is the best place for the show to be as good as it could be?’ As soon as it came up that the best place would be Netflix, we were so thankful to get there with Bob and Jen’s help.”
Carlock recalled the show’s early in-limbo status, reminiscing: “There was that period of time when we said, ‘It’s hard to say if America will get to see Tina and Jon Hamm. And they were both nominated today.” He continued, “to think of that, and then to think, ‘Wow, people did embrace it and we did find the right place for it, to have a day like today, it’s very gratifying. That’s really nice to get this recognition and feel like we’re a real show.”
The excitement was tempered a bit by the lack of a mention for Kemper. Carlock admits he was certain she was a lock. “This show wouldn’t work (without her) so it’s too bad that she didn’t get some recognition, but unfortunately, she’s too well brought up and too good of a person to say anything but that she’s thrilled for the show,” he said.
And for good reason. “Kimmy” swept most of the major categories with Tituss Burgess getting a nod for supporting actor; Jane Krakowski, an Emmy favorite from her “30 Rock” days, also getting the supporting nod; and Fey and Hamm in the mix for their guest shots.
“Literally, when I got the phone call, my heart started palpitating so much because I really thought they were joking around. I was searching for a baby aspirin to calm my heart down,” Krakowski told Variety of her nom. “I’ve been here four times before, but it’s still so unbelievable to me to be nominated, especially for this show. I love this show so much and I love playing my role, and so I am speechless and I am in shock and I am thrilled that the show got a nomination.”
Burgess was also overwhelmed. “It’s lovely to know that your peers who you respect deem your show worthy of this type of attention,” he says. “It just makes us want to work harder and want to get back into the studio and give the world something else to look forward to.”
For the “Schmidt” team, looking forward means getting ready for season two, which was a certainty from the outset when Netflix picked up two seasons in the deal with NBC and Universal TV, which Greenblatt and Salke also oversee. Carlock says he hopes the award recognition further solidifies Netflix’s “affection for it and their confidence for having it on their platform.”
If anything, “Kimmy’s” early Emmy success is an example of television’s changing landscape. Carlock raved, “We’re just so thankful to so many people that there is a world where NBCUniversal can have an outlet like Netflix to make the whole thing work. It’s kind of amazing.”
Laura Prudom and Seth Kelley contributed to this report.