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