When "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" gave Kimmy's roommate Titus Andromedon relationship lemons, star Tituss Burgess made lemonade: Beyonce's "Lemonade," to be precise.
As the Netflix sitcom returns for a third season May 19th, one of the most hotly anticipated sequences teased in the trailers is Titus's recreation to the pop superstar's hugely popular song sensation of 2016, complete with some baseball bat bashing, after his burgeoning romance with Mike the construction worker hits a rocky patch. And even though the sequence inspired a little initial trepidation, Burgess admits he eventually dove right in -- literally.
"They showed me some songs in advance of the table read," recalls Burgess, "and I'm reading it and I'm like, 'This rhyming scheme is awfully close to ... 'Lemonade!' And then I saw the f*cking water that I was supposed to be in and I wasn't a fan because I do not swim. Ultimately, there was a lot of people around to make sure I didn't drown!"
"I was mostly curious as to where it fit in the scheme of the narrative," he admitted. "It's one thing to do a parody, but it's another thing to do an homage and to use it as a dramatic device. And it seemed so lovely and so appropriate that that's how he'd exorcise his demons in the face of heartbreak. So it was lovely -- and I love Beyonce, so what was there not to love about that episode?"
Burgess joined Moviefone to offer a peek into the equally unbreakable Titus's Season 3 path, as well as to reveal how performing in an outrageously funny comedy has had some serious emotional resonance in his life.
Moviefone: We left Titus in an interesting space at the end of the season. Tell me where we pick up with him and especially his relationship journey. He's got this job that kind of threw a monkey wrench in his plans.
Tituss Burgess: That is correct: a little monkey wrench into their relationship, which was still early on for those two. He gets an opportunity to go on a cruise. Titus rarely lands an audition gig, so he gets this gig, he goes on this cruise -- and he comes back prematurely. He literally sort of washes ashore.
He's trying to keep it a secret why he's back, and what happened, but we'll find out later on -- particularly in Episode 8, we'll find out what happened, and what this big secret is. It's still Titus flailing about, doing the best he can in an attempt to be a good person. You'd be surprised at the number of situations Titus finds himself in, trying to be a good person.
One of the things that I really love about this show is you guys go wall-to-wall with the funny, but you're still saying something with the show. These characters are still traveling through life and trying to better themselves. Tell me what you like about being able to play that with so much funny on top of it.
It's largely how I live my life. I musicalize some very traumatic moments in an attempt to move through life. Truly, even sitting in traffic; when the horns are honking I'll notice how they're harmonized. Do you know what I mean? So being inside the world of "Kimmy Schmidt," it makes perfect sense for me -- for us -- to be able to shove a lot of heart, a lot of human sentiment, into the most preposterous of comedic moments.
How has this role and this job changed your life?
It has given me, and the world will soon see, an opportunity to bring light to some issues concerning minorities and people in the LGBTQ community that we've not seen before. It's given me an opportunity to be sort of ... how's the proper way to say this? Someone people can look to as a means of relief, be it comedic relief or musical relief, whatever. That's very important to me.
I'm sure many celebrities have had moments like these, but the stories I hear from people who follow me and watch the show are so moving. It's just more than just being on a TV show and being famous. I've had this one lady come up to me. She said she was depressed. Her husband had just divorced her. It was a long story, but the long story short, she said "It was so lovely that I could have you in my home as often as I needed you." That's a big deal. That's a big deal. So it doesn't go lost on me, what we do, and I think we need some relief now more than ever.
You get to play some of the show's biggest, most outrageous moments. Some of the comedy they give you to do is almost cartoon-level brilliant. Can you tease a good one without ruining the joke?
There's a song that we sing about a particular part of the female anatomy. That's what I'll tell you. And it will be every bit as ridiculous as "Peeno Noir" was.
Is it going to go viral, do you think?
I don't know, I don't know! You guys decide. I didn't even think "Peeno Noir" was going to be a thing. So I will let you all tell me.
When did you realize you had such a great aptitude for comedy? The music aptitude, I imagine, was something you probably knew pretty early on in life.
I'm an only child, so I spent a great deal of time entertaining myself. I didn't need other people around to tell me when something was particularly funny -- I don't know if this is coming out right! Yeah, and since I had no one to bounce things off of, I'd spend a great deal of time sitting back and watching the world, and less time participating in the world. And the world produces some pretty peculiar things, so I just report on them.
Are we going to be seeing you in anything outside of the show sometime soon?
Yeah, I'm filming a movie this summer called "Departures," and I'm in negotiations for another project ... but I better not say it! But yes, you will. And, yes, soon.