Tituss Burgess talks Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3, if he’s nervous for Beyoncé to see his Lemonade, and the musical role on his wish list.
It’s criminal that Tituss Burgess has not snatched TV’s top prize for playing the powerfully dramatic and lovable Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In the Netflix comedy’s third season, Burgess feels more front and center than ever before. In the second episode, he trots around the streets of New York with a baseball bat in a hilarious tribute to Beyonce’s “Hold Up,” and he later deals with breaking up with his boyfriend, Mikey (Mike Carlsen).
Burgess and I chatted about finding the balance between Titus’s confidence and his thinly veiled vulnerability as well as the show’s intelligence behind those alleged controversial moments.
Are you ever nervous to drink wine in public?
Nah. I do get a lot of bottles no matter where I go, so that’s exciting! I could probably slit my wrists and pour you a glass of wine.
Well, I obviously need to start hanging out with you. Titus ends his relationship with Mikey this season. Were you sad to see that relationship end?
If Titus went through such great lengths to exorcise his emotional demons and coin Lemonade as a verb, I think that shows how deeply, no profoundly, he cared for Mikey. As the season goes on, he circles back around and they see each other again. It was quite difficult for Titus to digest that. Mikey is sort of moving on even thought Titus let him go. He’s waiting for Mikey to come to his senses, I think. We watch Titus wander and meander about trying to find his footing again. We all know what that’s like.
I really liked the scene where Titus took Mikey to see first guy Titus was in a relationship with. I feel that type of reasoning is very much seen in the gay community. It’s a very truthful moment.
Absolutely. I agree. Tina Fey is very keen on making it as authentic as it possibly can be.
Titus is very confident and vulnerable at the same time. How do you strike that balance?
I think the vulnerability is probably what drives the confident veneer, don’t you? I think insecurities are what make us pontificate and puff our chest out sometimes and overdo it perhaps if we are not all the way believing it ourselves. There are areas where Titus is absolutely confident—if not delusional. There are ares where the veneer comes off. He finds himself having to deal with the impasse he finds himself at. One influences the other.
I remember last season there was talk on social media about some of the episodes like the one with the geisha. Are you ever worried about the reaction from the audience?
I don’t get worried about that. Look, if people are really watching, they’ll notice that these episodes that are provocative come full circle. What people are reacting to is something our show exacerbates or exposes the folly of how sensitive we have become in the world of social media and in the world of free speech.
We’ll go so far in a particular direction and sometimes in a direction of extreme discomfort to make a point. No one, myself included, is in the business of mocking or making fun of a particular group or a particular culture. I stand by every single piece of content that we’ve shot and that we’ve aired. If someone has anything to say or found something inside of what we’ve done that we haven’t cover our steps, bring it on. I’m certain I can find the error of your thought.
I actually had no idea that the Lemonade episode was a full-fledged moment. I saw the promo and just thought it was a clever thing to do, and then I was so stoked to see Titus re-creating entire songs. Would you be nervous of Beyoncé’s reaction to it?
For as obsessed as I am with Beyoncé, she has two unborn babies on the way. So I don’t know if she’s watching Kimmy Schmidt.
She might be watching Netflix when she’s resting. You never know…
It is out there in the world for all of her fans to devour and enjoy as we wait for the next big thing she gives us in musical and visual content. Whether or not she’s seen it, I’m not pressed. But I love her, so I’m honored that I could tip my hat and pay homage to her.
Do you have any comedy influences or do you like to focus on what’s on the page of each script?
It’s all what’s on the page. I don’t borrow from anyone else. I have shit to say on my own. I’m a strange bird and I have my own unique point of view.
When my mom found out that I was doing this role, she’s like, “Well, thank God! You finally have a place to channel all that weird energy of yours!” Until Kimmy, I found a modest amount of difficult finding where I belong in the scheme of television because what I offer is so “other.”
I didn’t know you have been doing some voice-over work. You recently did The Angry Birds Movie and Elena of Avalor. Was that something that always interested you?
It’s not something that I sought out. I’m perfectly aware of the many places that my voice can live. It’s an odd voice. Not just my singing voice but the range and the random things it can do. It seemed like a natural place to move forward. I know there’s more on the way, but you’ll see. It’s fun! It is a lot more fun than I thought it would be. That’s a different type of exhaustion. It’s its own thing. It’s fun to give voice to an animated creature that otherwise wouldn’t have human traits. I think it’s great to give it personality and see how it lives among other creatures.
With all of the live musicals coming out on FOX and NBC, would you like to be a part of one of those? Is there a particular musical you’d want to do?
No. I’ve not been satisfied with how any of those come across on television, and I don’t want to be a part of them yet. Disney is ready to remake The Little Mermaid, and I would love to take another stab at playing Sebastian. That’s something that I would find very appropriate and something that I can more than handle. I love that character. That’s something on my wish list. If not, que sera sera.
Well, if Disney doesn’t cast Burgess, we at ADTV can do some Lemonade-ing of our own.
All episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are streaming now on Netflix.