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Secrets of

Secrets of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," from the "30 Rock" cameo that could have been, to Tina Fey's spirit character. (Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz)


'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt': Secrets behind Tina Fey's Netflix comedy

203 Meserole Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11222

We've learned a lot about Kimmy Schmidt's (Ellie Kemper) past since she decided to relocate to New York City after being held captive in a bunker in Indiana for 15 years, but the wide-eyed redhead keeps on surprising us.

The Netflix comedy, created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, films at Broadway Stages in Greenpoint and at various spots around the five boroughs, making the city itself a prominent character in the series.

The May release of season four came with the news that it would be the series' last, with a rumored finale movie still to come. While you're left in suspense, we'll fill you in on some of the show's secrets, like a "30 Rock" cameo that could have been.

It turns out, Kimmy wasn't the only primary

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

An underground metaphor

It turns out, Kimmy wasn't the only primary character who had to learn to adjust to life outside of a bunker in the series' early seasons. It's true Titus (Tituss Burgess), Lillian (Carol Kane) and Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) didn't spend any time in a physical underground "safe" house like Kimmy -- as far as we know -- but that doesn't mean their personal journeys didn't overlap.

"The original concept of the show was that each character had their own bunker, so to speak," Krakowski said ahead of the fourth season release. For Jacqueline, her "bunker" was the elite "trophy wife" life she built for herself on the Upper East Side that held her back from realizing fulfilling her hidden potential.

"The reality is, it didn't work out for her the way she thought it should," Krakowski explained. "She gets her own courage and strength and ability, I say with a question mark, to make her own gilded world on her own two feet."

Titus' bunker was his need to break away from the unobtainable vision of being consistently fabulous; and Lillian's was rooted in her isolated pre-Kimmy and Titus existence.

The series was originally titled

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

'Tooken' would have given off a very different vibe

The series was originally titled "Tooken," but at the New York Comedy Festival's "Kimmy Schmidt" panel at the 92nd Street Y in November 2016, Fey said she ended up swapping the name to keep the vibe fun-spirited and focused on female empowerment, rather than on Kimmy's traumatic experience. "Females are strong as hell," after all.

While many city-set shows (

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Needing to stay modest kept Kimmy’s apartment relatable

While many city-set shows ("Girls," "Two Broke Girls") struggled to place characters in apartments they'd realistically be able to afford, "Kimmy Schmidt" presented the production team with an unusual problem.

"I think we sort of have the opposite problem," Teresa Mastropierro, who has been the show's production designer for the past three years, said. "In New York, a lot of apartments are gentrified now and we were trying to find a location that had an exterior that was really run down. It was sort of part of the storyline that only a person that spent the last 15 years in a bunker would think this is somehow a step up."

The actual apartment facade featured in the show

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Kimmy and Titus live in a fictional area of Manhattan

The actual apartment facade featured in the show can be found on Freeman Street in Greenpoint, but Kimmy and Titus aren't Brooklynites. They live in the fictional town of East Dogmouth, which is supposed to be north of 125th Street, according to Mastropierro. The area north of Manhattan was included in the city's Second Avenue subway expansion plan, we learn in season three when Lillian drops by the South Doggypaw stop.

Take Kemper out of the picture and what

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Technically, Kemper didn’t audition for the role

Take Kemper out of the picture and what do you have? "Unbreakable Lillian Kaushtupper," maybe. Fey said she based many aspects of the character's personality off Kemper herself, but it turns out the entire show may not exist at all if not for the former "Office" actress. Kemper only met Fey and Carlock once before the pilot was written, she said, but it was enough for the co-creators to know she was perfect for the role.

Kemper told amNewYork she was only "semi-aware" that a meeting for drinks was doubling as an audition.

"I met with Tina and Robert, who created the show, for drinks the spring before they ended up writing it and I thought that we were maybe talking about something down the road," she said. "It was sort of vague ... but then when I met them again that summer, they had written the pilot. So, I had an idea that I might be working with them in the future, but I didn't realize it would be that soon."

Mastropierro and her team studied real-life survivalists and

Credit: Teresa Mastropierro

The design team worked to make the bunker 'not too creepy'

Mastropierro and her team studied real-life survivalists and cult leaders before building the bunker. They placed specific focus on Warren Jeffs, the former leader of one of the largest polygamist cults in the country who's currently serving a prison term of 20 years to life in California.

The bunker's construction took a total of eight weeks to execute, according to Mastropierro. "We were trying really hard not to make it too creepy, but it's hard to make something like that not creepy," she said. "The lighter touches in the bunker were brought in by the girls themselves, their own artwork, paper chains from canned food labels, things they had in their backpacks when they were kidnapped."

If you haven't already noticed, Titus loves Barbies.

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Titus' Barbies have their own sets

If you haven't already noticed, Titus loves Barbies. He has a collection of them that sit on shelves by the front door. "If you look closely at the Barbie displays, they're not just standing there. They each have an environment [behind them]," Mastropierro said, explaining that the team designed mini-stage sets for each one of his dolls.

Kemper has a hard time controlling her laughter

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Kemper’s favorite moment happened off-screen

Kemper has a hard time controlling her laughter while filming. Some of her favorite moments happen when the camera stops rolling, she said, recalling one particular first-day-of-work memory that would probably be mortifying to anyone who isn't surrounded by talented actor-comedians all day.

"My favorite Kimmy scene was actually in the pilot, and it wasn't the scene itself. It was behind the scenes," Kemper said. Joking around with her new friend Tituss Burgess, who plays Titus Andromedon, Kemper ended up laughing a little too hard and things got, well, pretty wet.

She continued: "We were taking a selfie and Titus, in the scene [we had just filmed], is only wearing a towel. I am sitting on his lap in the selfie and we're trying to take it, but I'm laughing so hard because it looks like he's naked ... I wet my pants from laughing so hard, on his lap." As for Burgess, he was "unfazed."

There's one thing the pilot was missing --

Credit: NBC

A '30 Rock' favorite almost made a guest appearance

There's one thing the pilot was missing -- a cameo from NBC's forever page, Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer). A scene featuring the "30 Rock" character walking into 30 Rockefeller Plaza almost made it into the first episode, and we're still wishing it did.

When Fey found out McBrayer was in New York while they were filming the pilot, she knew she had to ask him to "come down and just put on your weird '70s suit like you're still the president of NBC and just walk through the shot," she said at a Tribeca Film Festival panel on the show in April.

Fey also addressed the could-have-been cameo at the New York Comedy Festival saying, "In the pilot, [Kimmy] was going to the 'Today Show' ... we joked about having Kenneth going in and we said, 'no, this isn't that show.'"

From Kimbecile to Kimillionaire, Titus has more than

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Burgess isn't responsible for those rapid-fire nicknames

From Kimbecile to Kimillionaire, Titus has more than 20 Kimmy-themed nicknames for his peppy roommate. (You can go ahead and count them, but this buzzy Slate video tracked every name he's had for Kimmy through the second season). While Burgess may have some things in common with Titus (a name, for one), he can't take credit for his character's rapid-fire nicknames. The show's writers -- Fey, Carlock, Sam Means, Dan Rubin, Leila Strachan, Azie Dungey, Meredith Scardino and Lauren Gurganous -- are the ones who brainstorm at a roundtable to come up with plenty of new names.

"We don't improvise at all. Everything that you guys see is pretty much scripted," Burgess said. "I wish I could take credit for them, but I cannot."

... Lillian. And while we don't exactly see

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Fey identifies most with ...

... Lillian. And while we don't exactly see the similarities, Fey said her inner fashionista aligns with Lillian's bold style choices. "The person whose wardrobe I always look at and think, 'I gotta start dressing like that,' is Lillian," Fey said at the New York Comedy Festival. "I identify most with Lillian."

The series found a permanent home on Netflix

Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

Thank Netflix for the extra laughs

The series found a permanent home on Netflix after being originally developed for NBC. Not being picked up turned out to be "the best chance" the show was given, Carlock said at the New York Comedy Festival. Being off-network allows the show a bit more leeway when it comes to topics covered and episode timing. Not having to worry about being canceled before the full season aired or having to limit the script to fit within a 30-minute time slot helped add an extra six minutes of jokes per episode, Carlock added.


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