Why Daniel Radcliffe Was Unfazed by Playing a Royal in the 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Special (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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After four seasons, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns for an interactive movie, Kimmy vs. the Reverend! The hilarious new special -- a choose your own adventure in similar fashion to Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch -- picks up after the events of the series finale with Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) about to get married to Prince Frederick Windsor (Daniel Radcliffe). Before she can walk down the aisle, however, the discovery of an old book reveals that the Reverend (Jon Hamm) may still have women locked away in another underground hatch. Supported by Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski) and Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), Kimmy sets off to put a stop to the Reverend once and for all.
Ultimately, Kimmy’s journey -- as well as the antics of all her friends -- are determined by the viewers, who get to decide which path they take. For instance, when she and Titus get stranded, should they wait for an Uber or walk? While each decision may seem fairly straightforward, they each come with their own consequences that yield unexpected results.
“There are a lot of different routes to take throughout the course of the show,” Kemper tells ET’s Lauren Zima, revealing that “keeping track of it all was a little too much for my feeble little brain to handle.” But the end result, she promises, is unlike anything ever seen before -- and is a totally unique experience for longtime fans of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
While the special sees a lot of returning favorites, like Amy Sedaris, Chris Parnell and Fred Armisen in various recurring roles, nothing beats the addition of Radcliffe, who plays an emotionally-stunted royal who is 12th in line to the throne. The former Harry Potter star says the whole experience was like a crazy dream -- in a good way. “I got to go in and play this ridiculous character and say some incredibly funny lines,” he says. “So yeah, it was a joy.”
Unafraid to skewer the biggest names or brands in pop culture, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has long made jokes out of headlines. And the special is no different, with Radcliffe as an extended member of the royal family.
Despite being born and raised in London, the English actor has no worries about making a few jokes at their expense. “They’re busy enough without having to worry about what impression I’m leaving of them on a Netflix special,” he says. “Coming from England, I’m somebody who as much as I don’t dislike any of the royals, I don’t have any, you know, antipathy towards them or feel strongly personally about any of them.”
In fact, the actor says as a whole, the royal family is a “funny and crazy” institution, which makes them perfect for a laugh or two. “I feel like it is quite ripe pickings for comedy in there,” he muses, adding that Prince Frederick was a “fun role to play.”
And although he has no relationship with the royal family, Radcliffe jokes now it would have been fun to know someone just so he could've called them about the role. “And said, ‘Just so you know I’m playing a weird 12th cousin of yours that doesn't exist,’” he quips.
While Radcliffe was unfazed by playing a royal, his casting got his co-stars excited about the opportunity to act alongside the international star. “I couldn't believe when Tina and Robert told us that he had agreed to do our show,” Kemper says. “It was just like the thrill of a lifetime. So, I was just so happy to be able to work with him.”
Krakowski adds that Radcliffe was a “great get” for the show. “I have seen him on Broadway, I have seen his movies, I know how mega talented he is, and I know how hard he works at what he does and I was blown away by his professionalism and I was blown away at how funny he was,” she says.
But of all the cast members that got to work with him, Krakowski says Kane won the lottery. “When we did the first read through of this interactive special, we only went down one path so we all really didn't know everyone else's storylines or how it was going to deviate and the different choices you can make until we later got all the pages,” the actress says. “Initially, we never knew that Carol was going to get the money so to speak, the moment.”
In addition to returning as Lillian, Kimmy’s former landlord and friend, Kane also plays Frederick’s longtime nanny. “I never got to play a British nanny before,” Kane says. “It was so much fun to be such a completely different person than Lillian.”
Because the two characters share an uncanny resemblance, Lillian’s presence sparks some uncomfortable feelings for Frederick, who ends up kissing his new friend. “It’s hard work, but somebody had to do it,” Kane jokes, adding that when it came to filming the kissing scene, “I got it wrong so many times.”
And given how Kemper describes Radcliffe, it’s hard not to imagine why he had such a magnetic hold over his co-stars. “The minute he talks to you, he really zeros right in and connects to you,” she says. “So I felt like, ‘Oh, I've known this guy forever.’ So that's the sort of rapport he establishes and it's really warm.”
But, in order to see Lillian lock lips with Frederick or Kimmy defeat the Reverend and still get to wed her prince, audiences have to make the appropriate choices throughout the special. “Hopefully that’s one of the things that’ll be cool for people who are watching,” Radcliffe says. “To go down the different routes and experiment with controlling what ends up happening.”