How Ellie Kemper's 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' was influenced by Elizabeth Smart

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How Survivors' Stories Helped Shape Netflix's Kimmy Schmidt

On Netflix series "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Ellie Kemper plays a woman freed from the underground bunker of a doomsday cult — a character the actress says was inspired by the real life survival story of Elizabeth Smart.

While "Kimmy Schmidt" is the sort of oddball comedy we've come to expect from creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Kemper attributes the title character's optimism to the spirit of Smart — the ABC News correspondent who was kidnapped at 14 and subjected to horrific sexual assault until her rescue nine months later.

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How Ellie Kemper's 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' was influenced by Elizabeth Smart
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 18: Actress Ellie Kemper attends the 19th Annual Webby Awards on May 18, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Webby Awards)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 13: Actress Ellie Kemper attends ELLE's Annual Women in Television Celebration on January 13, 2015 at Sunset Tower in West Hollywood, California. Presented by Hearts on Fire and Olay. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for ELLE)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07: Producer and co-writer Tina Fey (L) and Ellie Kemper (R) speak about the 'The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' during the Netflix TCA Press Tour at Langham Hotel on January 7, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for Netflix)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: Actress Ellie Kemper attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Actress Ellie Kemper arrives at the MTV Movie Awards at Universal Studios, in Los Angeles, California, on June 3, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/GettyImages)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Actress Ellie Kemper attends the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - MARCH 16: Ellie Kemper and Angela Kinsey arrives at 'The Office' series finale wrap party at Unici Casa Gallery on March 16, 2013 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 16: Actress Ellie Kemper speaks onstage during 'VH1 Divas' 2012 at The Shrine Auditorium on December 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: Ellie Kemper attends the 2014 NBC Upfront Presentation at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on May 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 27: Actress Ellie Kemper arrives at Valentino Rodeo Drive Flagship store opening on March 27, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 13: Actress Ellie Kemper arrives at the Premiere Of Columbia Pictures' '21 Jump Street' at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on March 13, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Actress Ellie Kemper arrives at the 84th Annual Academy Awards held at the Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 10: Actress Ellie Kemper attends the premiere of Columbia Pictures' 'Sex Tape' at Regency Village Theatre on July 10, 2014 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Actress Ellie Kemper arrives at the 14th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards With Presenting Sponsor Lacoste held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on February 21, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - APRIL 28: Actress Ellie Kemper arrives at the Premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Bridesmaids' at the Mann Village Theatre on April 28, 2011 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
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"I read Elizabeth Smart's memoir, and every night before she would go to bed, she would think about what she was grateful for that day — and she was in the depths of hell," Kemper said during a recent interview for upcoming issue of TheWrap's Emmy Magazine.

"You've got to count your blessings. Kimmy's been through her own hell and she's still wanting to make a full life for herself," said Kemper. "I can only hope that if I had been through something as horrific as that, that I would maintain my sense of wonder — which is essentially what Kimmy has."

There are undeniable parallels between the character and Kemper, for whom Fey and Carlock specifically built the series.

"I personally am very upbeat. I've bumbled my way through life being cheerful and, luckily, having an optimistic view of things. And I've largely played characters like that," she said of roles in "Bridesmaids" and "The Office."

"Kimmy Schmidt" costars Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and "30 Rock" alum Jane Krakowski. Season two is currently in pre-production, with season one available to stream on Netflix.

Read original story How Ellie Kemper's 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Was Influenced by Elizabeth Smart At TheWrap


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