Lillian Dolomite Kaushtupper is the lusty, shady, gentrification-battling landlady with a dark past that seemed only to get darker and darker with each season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” She’s a drug lookout who claims there is a “gigantic furry monster” living in the neighborhood; she is living with a policeman’s bullet in her chest; and she recently had a relationship with Robert Durst. Carol Kane calls her “sort of the embodiment of New York.”
Kane, who has lived in New York for more than five decades, says Lillian is “a tough-talking landlady who enjoys a cocktail now and then … [she’s] passionate about New York and wanting it to keep its unique and varied character … I admire the fact that she’ll say anything she feels about anything and anyone. And … like each of the characters, [they’re] in need of finding soul mates.”
Well, Lillian doesn’t sound so unusual when she puts it that way.
As Kane and the others behind “Kimmy” await production on the interactive special for 2020 that will put a bow on the comedy series that wrapped its fourth and final season this year, she visited the L.A. Times video studio for an Envelope Emmy Contenders chat.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” had one of the oddest, darkest premises of any successful comedy in TV history thus far: An Indiana teenager is kidnapped and held in an underground bunker with other women by a wannabe cult leader; she gets out 15 years later and moves to New York for a fresh start, where she meets idiosyncratic weirdos who become her friends. Kane says the bizarre world of the show was no bar to wanting to take the role.
“I would have said yes no matter what, because I just think when you get an opportunity to work with great writers, you have to take it,” she says. “Because, for me, the writing is everything. It’s just everything.”
Kane knows of what she speaks: Her film and television résumé includes works by Woody Allen, Jules Feiffer, James L. Brooks and William Goldman, to name just a few. The award-winning “Schmidt” team of Robert Carlock and Tina Fey is certainly among the best in the business today.
“It’s a cliché,” she says, “but I was just a huge, huge admirer.”
That admiration carried all the way through to the end of the series proper and where the showrunners left the characters, including Ms. Kaushtupper.
“I just love the last episode, where Lillian decides to blow herself up with her sideways tugboat that she doesn’t have a permit for,” says Kane. “And I love that my dead lover that Peter Riegert plays and dead husband, Kenan Thompson plays [are there] … I love my Robert Durst stuff, my relationship with Bobby Durst, I love Fred Armisen” who plays the real-life murder suspect on the show, “he’s incredible, right?”
“But that last episode, the blowing up of the thing, and the fact that it doesn’t work, and then I get to be the voice of the subway … I guess that’s my favorite for Lillian.”
“My first movie was like a miracle because it was with Mike Nichols directing, and Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Candy Bergen,” she said of the 1971 “Carnal Knowledge.” “You know, Mike was a genius. And I remember being so nervous because — my first movie and in that company of people. And I said, ‘Mike, I’m just so nervous that … I’ll do something wrong and I’ll let you down.’ And basically, he said, ‘You’re perfect. You’re perfect as you are. So you can’t do any wrong.’
“The wisdom and generosity of that just knocked me out. And it taught me a lot about what makes a great director.”
To see the entire interview, click on the video below.