Laughs stream with Jane Krakowski on Netflix's 'Unbreakable'

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2015 9:47 AM
Laughs stream with Jane Krakowski on Netflix's 'Unbreakable'

NEW YORK (AP) — Here's some good news: The daffy ethos of "30 Rock" lives again in "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." And why shouldn't it, since this new Netflix comedy (with its 13 episodes now available for streaming) was spawned by "30 Rock" co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock?

Even better news: "Kimmy" is redolent of its own special quirkiness, even as it occupies the same Manhattan turf where "30 Rock" romped for seven rollicking seasons — and as it brings back "30 Rock" alum Jane Krakowski with her guarantee of laughter.

In the title role of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Ellie Kemper ("The Office") plays a wide-eyed, plucky young woman who claims New York as her new home after being sprung from 15 years' captivity in the so-called "Indiana Mole Women" cult.

Though a bit behind the times (she fantasizes about a concert pairing Michael Jackson with Whitney Houston) and uninitiated in big-city life, Kimmy quickly finds an apartment (with Carol Kane as her eccentric landlady), a roommate (recurring "30 Rock" player Tituss Burgess as a flamboyant musical-star wannabe), and a position as nanny for wealthy Jacqueline Voorhees' bratty son and mouthy stepdaughter.

Jacqueline is played by scene-stealer Krakowski as a trophy wife who fears her luster has tarnished in her often-absent husband's eyes.

A former flight attendant on the make, "She's now turning the age of her husband's first wife when he ditched HER for Jacqueline," says Krakowski with a sympathetic chuckle.

Jacqueline is desperately self-obsessed and vain. When Kimmy lends encouragement with "Listen to your gut," Jacqueline replies indignantly, "I don't HAVE a gut!"

But she strikes a marked contrast with Jenna Maroney, the shamelessly ambitious TV personality Krakowski played on "30 Rock." Jenna was hilariously blind to her many shortcomings, oblivious to her second-rate career and talent.

"Jacqueline is so much more vulnerable at her core than Jenna ever was," says Krakowski. "Like Kimmy, who was locked in a bunker for 15 years, Jacqueline has been kept in her own gilded cage, and she hasn't found happiness there. Beyond the humor and jokes, she's a dark, rich character to play."

For someone so brassy and commanding on the screen, Krakowski in person is surprisingly pixyish, a charming blond sprite. Over an iced-tea-and-lemonade at a favorite lunch spot near her Manhattan home, she bears no signs of her status as a show-biz veteran, a multitalented threat whose film debut was as a youngster in "National Lampoon's Vacation," who from 1997 to 2002 was a regular on the groundbreaking legal dramedy "Ally McBeal," and along the way became a two-time Tony winner singing and dancing in such Broadway hits as "Grand Hotel," ''Company," ''Once Upon a Mattress," ''Nine" and "Starlight Express," for which she added nightly roller-skating marathons to her list of accomplishments.

She's a master of physical comedy and, as a vocalist, she can put across the most mouth-puckering lyrics (notably Jenna's "30 Rock" anthem, "Rural Juror," which inevitably came out something like "ruhrrr juhrrr").

Is there anything Krakowski can't do? "Draw pictures and cook, for starters," she says modestly.

Also: staying cool around stars she admires. For instance, she speaks of getting goose-bumpy among the glitterati at the recent "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary" gala.

"I've got to figure out a way to get over that awkward hump," she muses.

Growing up in New Jersey, Krakowski, now 46, was the daughter of parents who devoted their free time to community theater. Early on, she caught the acting bug herself and quickly turned pro.

"I got work as a child," she says, "but I never got really known, which is a great thing. I had time to fail and learn. I didn't have to get over the hurdle of being known as a youngster, then start over as an adult. Things progressed in a nice way to give my career longevity.

"Now I hope to grow old with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock and their comic world, if they'll have me."

Happily, "Kimmy" is already a go for a second season. That was part of the deal when Netflix snagged the series, which, filmed last fall, was originally headed for NBC.

A new season should bring a further strengthening of the odd-couple bond between Kimmy and Jacqueline, a relationship nourished by the chemistry between the two actresses.

"Ellie is sunshine and brightness, and I really love working with her," says Krakowski, adding, "Our first scene ever together was when we snuggle in bed together," with Kimmy comforting the comically distraught Jacqueline. "True to show-biz fashion, our most intimate scene was shot first."

No problem. Krakowski, as always, went with her gut. Even though she doesn't have one.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore

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Online:

http://www.netflix.com