Tituss Burgess talks 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,' the Emmys and Pinot Noir

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By: Gibson Johns

Tituss Burgess is living in an "alternate universe." Well, at least that's how he describes it.

The multi-talented performer, who has played Tituss Andromedon on the first two seasons of Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," admits that he is still adjusting to his new level of fame. For Burgess, it's not necessarily the notoriety that requires a step back, but it's the praise from his peers -- the people he has been looking up to throughout his career -- that remains surreal.

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But the two-time Emmy nominee got some sound advice from Queen Latifah, who has more than enough experience responding to compliments from her fellow actors. "Stand there and take it," she once told him. And that's what he does.

As Andromedon, the former Broadway star proved to be the show's breakout hit in its first season for his viral sensation, "Pinot Noir," though Burgess himself doesn't quite get what all of the fuss is about. His character really came into his own in season two, though, when he started dating Mikey and viewers saw a whole new side to him.

I recently sat down with Tituss Burgess at the "Fresh and Feisty Soiree," which celebrated the launch of his ad campaign with Downy's Unstopables. We talked about "Kimmy Schmidt," dealing with praise, his new campaign and the importance of his on-screen relationship.

See photos of Tituss Burgess throughout his career:

Tituss Burgess through the years
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Tituss Burgess through the years
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Actor Tituss Burgess attends A Fresh Too Feisty To Quit Campaign Launch at Gansevoort Park Avenue on October 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
Tituss Burgess during 14th Annual Rockers on Broadway at The Cutting Room in New York, NY, United States. (Photo by Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic)
Valerie Pettiford, Nikki James, Michael Benjamin Washington, E. Faye Butler, Tituss Burgess, Rashad Naylor and Albert Cattafi of 'The Wiz' (Photo by Robert Benson/WireImage for Susie Dobson Global PR)
Tituss Burgess during the Opening Night Performance Curtain Call of 'The Little Mermaid' at the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre in New York City. January 10, 2008 (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tituss Burgess performs at the 'The Little Mermaid' Broadway Cast performance and CD signing on February 26, 2008 at World of Disney in New York City. (Photo by Janette Pellegrini/WireImage)
Tituss Burgess performing in the Gala Performance of BROADWAY BACKWARDS 4 - benefiting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Comunity Center. February 9, 2009 (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tituss Burgess attends the after party for Broadway Backwards 6 at John's Pizzeria on February 7, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: Singer/actor Tituss Burgess attends a press preview at 54 Below on August 21, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Tituss Burgess performing in 'Best in Shows' A benefit for the Humane Society of New York at New World Stages on November 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: Tituss Burgess and Ellie Kemper on the set of 'The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' on March 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/GC Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured: Tituss Burgess -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 31: Tituss Burgess attends the 5th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 31, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images for Tumblr)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Tituss Burgess attends the 2015 Ailey Spirit Gala at David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center on June 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
Comedian Tituss Burgess poses for a portrait at the Logo TV's 'Trailblazers' at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on June 25, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Megan Mack/Getty Images Portrait)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29: Actor Tituss Burgess attends Voices For The Voiceless: Stars For Foster Kids at St James Theater on June 29, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Voices for the Voiceless)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 06: Actor/comedian Tituss Burgess attends TrevorLIVE LA 2015 at Hollywood Palladium on December 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 21: Actor Tituss Burgess attends the 31st annual Artios Awards at Hard Rock Cafe, Times Square on January 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: (L-R) Tina Fey, Tituss Burgess and Ellie Kemper attend the 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Season 2 world premiere at SVA Theatre on March 30, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Tituss Burgess attends Miscast 2016 Gala at Hammerstein Ballroom on April 4, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Tituss Burgess visits at SiriusXM Studio on April 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: (L-R) Tituss Burgess, Cecily Strong, Martha Plimpton and Jesse Tyler Ferguson attend Broadway Acts for Women: A Star-Studded Night of Karaoke and Comedy at 54 Below on May 1, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 359 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Tituss Burgess during an interview with host Seth Meyers on April 26, 2016 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06: Tituss Burgess and Ellie Kemper arrive at the FYC Panel For 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' at UCB Sunset Theater on June 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Actor Tituss Burgess attends the Television Academy reception for Emmy nominated performers at Pacific Design Center on September 16, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actor Tituss Burgess attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Check our my full conversation with Tituss Burgess below:

Shooting was delayed for the third season of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," but it's coming. Do you have any idea about what we can expect from Tituss in the upcoming episodes?

Let's just say that if you are a Tituss enthusiast, you will be very satisfied about what he is about to do. Because -- woo! -- it is just so much. It's great -- it's really great. It's taken a great deal of work to ... I'm already saying too much. It's great. [Laughs]

You've been nominated twice for an Emmy for your turn as Tituss Andromedon. How does that feel? Is it still surreal?

Yeah! I don't even know how to put it into words. I feel like I'm living in an alternate universe. To get to the Emmys and be drenched in love from my peers ... Having people who I have watched for years rush up to me to talk to me about me is a very strange, strange sensation.

I got some great advice from Queen Latifah once. She said, "Stand there and take it." And I replay that in my head when celebrities come up to me. She's like, "You're supposed to be here." It takes a little repositioning in my head to allow myself to be this new incarnation of me -- it's so public -- but it's beautiful.

"Pinot Noir" must be brought up during almost every interview you give. Does it ever get annoying?

I still embrace it! I just can't believe it's sticking with people. I don't really get it, so when people start talking about it I try to listen to the common threads to try to understand [why people are so enamored with it]. But I just stand there and take it.

Not only that, but you now have your own line of Pinot Noir!

It's so good. It's so delicious. I was more of a Malbec guy before all of this, and we chose a blend that was so perfect and more fuller-bodied than the pinot noir I had had in the past.

Throughout season two of "Kimmy Schmidt," Tituss had a relationship with Mikey and it was so refreshing to watch because LGBT representation on television is still not where it needs to be. Do you feel any pressure -- or the burden of representation -- in that way?

No, but what I did feel was an obligation to honor ... Look, you also don't see interracial relationships between gay men a lot on TV -- or really in comedy -- and what I love is that it's a non-issue, which really is pushing it forward and starting a conversation about why we don't see [interracial relationships between gay men] more.

So many of my friends are all over the place [when it comes to who they date.] I'm an equal opportunity employer myself! [Laughs] So, no, I didn't feel an obligation, but I was very proud of it. Tina [Fey] and Robert [Carlock] know where voices are lacking, and they give voices to the voiceless.

Let's talk about your "For A Fresh Too Feisty To Quit" campaign for Unstopables. Why did it feel like a good fit for you?

Well, I like primary colors. [Laughs] No, when I got a sample of the product, I actually used it. It smells so good and it works! I didn't want to endorse anything, of course, that I haven't used personally. The pitch sounded really fun and tailored to my personality -- well, parts of my personality -- so it really just felt like a natural fit. I'd also never been to Mexico City, which is where we shot the spot, so that was an added bonus.

What does "Fresh and Feisty" mean to you?

I kind of think they're one-in-the-same and inextricably tied to one another. Fresh is feisty, you know? It's direct without being over-bearing or over powering. It's fun and not too in your face. It's just about taking it for what it is with no frills.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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