Emmy Nominations: ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ Survives and Thrives

“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.


Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content