The shortcut came in the form of Kimmy’s stepfather and stepsister, who Kimmy had been unaware of until they crashed into her life near the end of the first season. They served to tell the audience “something is up, and why didn’t we meet her mother?” Carlock notes. “There were a couple little jokes here and there that hinted at what her childhood was like, including one where she mentions that she knows exactly what time she was born… because the time of her birth was in her mother’s lawsuit against the roller coaster, the amusement park. It goes by in passing but was also intended to give a sense that this is a reckless mom; this is perhaps not the most attentive mother, going on a roller coaster when she’s about to give birth.”
The decision to use that roller coaster detail as a character trait didn’t come about until the writers were breaking the story for Season 2, knowing that they wanted to introduce Kimmy’s mom. “We wanted the arc of the year to be Kimmy continuing to deal with the stuff that makes her her and, despite her desire to move forward, continuing to have to deal with the past,” Carlock explains. “We said, ‘okay, what do we know? What have we established?’ And someone mentioned the roller coaster joke … Once we unwrapped the idea of the roller coaster, the more it fit exactly with what we were trying to tell and the idea of, ‘Why haven’t we seen her? Because she’s someone who invented the term Coasterhead because she chases roller coasters all over the world.’
“Not only is that convenient in terms of the practical nature of, ‘oh, she’s not around and she wasn’t around for Kimmy,’ but it started to lend itself to certain thematic [elements] of a person who wasn’t happy with her life and wanted those thrills,” Carlock notes. “There’s that wonderful line at the end when her mom lets the mask drop for just a second, and says the reason she loves roller coasters is because it’s the only place where you can scream and people don’t look at you weird. I think that’s definitely about her missing daughter, but even before that, to us, it was about a woman who was frustrated and unhappy and, she admits, didn’t want to be a mom.”
That detail provided the narrative catalyst for the finale confrontation between Kimmy and her mother, Carlock says. “We just started to fall in love with, yeah, this big fight, but [also the idea] of, ‘oh, you’re trapped on a roller coaster, and once it starts to pull away, it can’t stop.’ If this is a woman who avoids these kinds of conversations, it was the perfect place for Kimmy to trap her and make her have that conversation. Tina wrote the first draft of those scenes herself, and they were great.”
Seasons 1 and 2 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are available to stream on Netflix.