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Interview: Tituss Burgess on final season of 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'


Posted Friday, May 25, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Athens native and University of Georgia grad Tituss Burgess has been a true breakout star on Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," which is concluding its fourth and final season this year. His theatrical character Titus Andromedon has been exhilarating, infuriating, hilarious and just plain memorable.

The first six episodes debut May 30 with the final seven available for streaming later in the year. There are plans for a finale movie to conclude the series in grand fashion.

While Burgess is understandably sad to see the show end, he said shooting remains business as usual.

"I still wake up and have a job to do," Burgess said during a recent break shooting episode 10. "I never know anything about story lines or plots until I get the scripts. I don't even know yet how it's going to end."

For him, four years is the right length of time. "It's like being in high school," he said. "There's only so long you should stay there. I thought that this will allow us to leave on a high note."

During season four, Titus remains determined to get his construction worker ex-boyfriend Mikey back and his path is by building his acting career to impress Mikey.

"If I'm not a star, how will ever get Mikey to notice me?" Titus opines to his new agent Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) in the opening episode of season four. "I declared my love for him on a boat, Jacqueline. I can't just show up now and act all contempo casual!"

Burgess hopes his character does end up with Mikey by the series end. "All I can hope for him is to be happy and get a job," he said. "I want what he wants. He always loved Mikey." He said it was quite a move for Titus to give up Mikey season three so Mikey could sow his wild oats and learn about being a gay man, a type of sacrifice the notoriously selfish Titus had never made before.

"He is at least motivated to go out and look for work," Burgess said. "He wants Mikey to view him as someone who is participating in life in general. He doesn't want him to be lazy and stay at home. Love makes him do things."

He also said he imagines Kimmy (Ellie Kempner's delightful character who spent years in a bunker by a crazy kidnapper played by Jon Hamm) and Titus will remain buds forever. "Kimmy is stuck trying to make everyone happy and forgets putting herself first," Burgess said. "Titus is often stuck trying to make himself happy and forgetting the importance of putting others first. It's pulling two sides of the very thin but they mirror each other."

He readily admits the zippy dialogue he gets to say on "Kimmy" has spoiled him: "When I work on other projects, it's harder for me to memorize what people write because it's not the way Tina [Fey] writes."

And while Titus is well known for his music videos - his season one "Peeno Noir" and season three "Lemonade' have been seen on YouTube a combined five million times - he said as of episode 10, he had not done a video yet this season. "I'm okay with that," he said. "They're trying to keep things a surprise. It's nice to be appreciated for my comedic chops as well as the musical element."

What will he take away from his fictional character once the show is over? "I will take away that he is unabashedly 100 percent himself," Burgess said. "And he always speaks his mind. And he doesn't do it on social media. He says it to your face. He's not a wimp. He goes right for the jugular. It's one of the few things we have in common. If you have the audacity to pull it out of me, you have earned the right to be read!"

And given the latest crazes in bringing shows back on Netflix alone (e.g. "Arrested Development," "Gilmore Girls," "Fuller House') as well as on other networks ("Roseanne" anyone?), how long would it be before someone tries to resurrect "Kimmy"?

"I'm not sure," he said. "Since it lives on Netflix, it never goes away. Will people ever really miss us long enough when they can always have us?"

Burgess recently did an episode of Tyler Henry's "Hollywood Medium" and Henry sussed out information Burgess never expected to come out: his now late great grandmother Rosena sometimes comes by when Burgess is, um, getting intimate.

"She doesn't just interrupt once," he said. "She interrupts often! I usually have to get up and put things on pause."

But he isn't angry. His grandmother "was one of my closest friends and in her presence I felt zero judgment and entirely found. I have never found that with another human being since. She passed away 16 years ago in August."

NETFLIX PREVIEW

"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," first six episodes of season four available to subscribers starting Wednesday, May 30


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.