Netflix has debuted the trailer and key art for the interactive special Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend, which will launch on the streaming service May 12th.
In the special, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) sets off on her biggest adventure yet. Three states! Explosions! A dancing hamburger! And you, the viewer, get to decide how the story goes. Will you foil the Reverend’s (Jon Hamm) evil plan and get Kimmy to her wedding on time? Or will you accidentally start a war against the robots? So grab your remote and a tray of delicious scrod, ‘cause Kimmy’s got her own Netflix interactive special!
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend stars Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, Carol Kane, Daniel Radcliffe, Jon Hamm, Sara Chase, Lauren Adams, Donna Maria, Amy Sedaris, Michael Carlsen, Fred Armisen, Chris Parnell, Jack McBrayer, and Johnny Knoxville. The special was executive produced by Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Sam Means, Meredith Scardino, Jeff Richmond, and David Miner.
Netflix’s Director of Product Innovation Carla Engelbrecht says that after the success of Bandersnatch, the content team were really passionate about starting to experiment with other genres, and comedy was their first instinct.
“Tina and Robert immediately came to mind, because they were continually pushing boundaries with the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt series,” she says. “They are phenomenal, amazing storytellers and we knew that with this set of tools, they were going to not only take our interactive storytelling to new heights, but they were also going to push comedy to places it’s never been before. To end a series with an interactive special is unprecedented and it’s going to create an opportunity for viewers to come into Kimmy’s world.”
Fey reveals that when writing began on Kimmy vs. The Reverend there were three other writers from the series working alongside her – Robert Carlock, Sam Means, and Meredith Scardino. “We pared it down to just the four of us to write the special. We started by talking about what we might want to happen and what would lend to good stories. We had to decide whether to try to stick to one story, or to do our typical A, B, and C story.
“Our format has always been three and because we’re masochists, we ultimately said, ‘We have to do three stories.’ Then we just started writing the stories as we normally would. It was really fun. I think it suits the comedy writer’s brain to have this freedom to think about crazy ways to have a dead end or a funny way for things to loop around.”
“It really has been super fun to write,” adds Scardino. “There have been many great, weird tangents that we have gone on that might not normally have made their way into a typical non-interactive episode. I think that this project has really lent itself to the particular brains of the people that I collaborate with. We’ve just had a blast working on it.”
In creating the interactive special, the writers had all sorts of new things that they could do that would never be done in a traditional series. Engelbrecht discloses, “They could tell jokes that they would never tell otherwise and they could make mistakes and then rewind and go back. In most series, you can’t actually kill your characters and then have them come back in the next scene!”
Carlock says that there was also another layer to the approach that the writers spent a lot of time thinking about. “With interactivity, the viewer has to really engage and press a button, so we wanted to ensure that they would be invested and want to make a choice.
“We tried to really think about that and because it’s a comedy we wanted to make some choices where there wouldn’t necessarily be story consequences to the decision, but hopefully both of those are satisfying comedically. We didn’t want to do that too often though because I think the beauty of this is that you do actually get to affect the story.”
Fey saw this as a great opportunity to squeeze in even more jokes than they could fit into any other comedy format. “It’s great for our style of comedy. We already have so many jokes because there are always many leftover jokes, but now we can hide them places like an Easter egg hunt! You can have the same scene with a different character’s point of view, and that can lead to a whole other set of jokes. Some of the choices behind the dead ends are pure comedy and some of them lead to moral conundrums. That is where the choice points are really married to the spine of the story, and the spine of the characters.
“As a small writing team, we didn’t really have any conflict between us about what the right path would be for Kimmy. After four seasons of the series, we all felt like we knew Kimmy and who she is. We definitely wanted this to be a story that was about more than just her getting married, because she’s so much more interesting than just being part of a love story, but we also felt that maybe she had earned a love story on the side.”
Fey explains where we find these characters at the beginning of the special. “This new story takes place after the end of the series. When we start the interactive episode, we find Kimmy preparing for her wedding and we don’t know to whom she is getting married. Then, in her beloved old backpack Jan, she finds a book, but she doesn’t quite recognize it. She wonders how she could possibly have had a book stuck in the lining of this backpack, and not known that it was there.”
“She starts to realize that it was a library book that was actually checked out several years after she went into the bunker and so she starts to worry that it means there are some other girls missing somewhere that she doesn’t know about. She is torn as to whether to go on this mission to try to find out if these girls exist and where they might be, or go through with her wedding. She decides to try to do both and so we get to see Kimmy and friends on this crazy road trip adventure to try to find out the answers to this mystery, but they also need to get back in time for her wedding.”
Created and executive produced by Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock) and Robert Carlock (Saturday Night Live, Friends, 30 Rock), the series has earned 18 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series for each of its seasons. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a production of Universal Television, Little Stranger, Inc., Bevel Gears, and 3 Arts Entertainment for Netflix.