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5 Questions with Tituss Burgess

A true gem of a show in a busy Spring TV schedule is The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The show, created by Robert Carlock and Tina Fey found a perfect fit on Netflix Canada, and a very big reason for this fit is breakout performer Tituss Burgess, who plays the character of “Titus Andromedon” aka Ronald Wilkerson. Burgess is a veteran of Fey’s productions, having appeared as D’Fwan on 30 Rock, but the show has really given the multi-talented Burgess the chance to take in the limelight. We spoke to the actor by phone from his New York apartment.

Scene Creek: One of the highlights of the first season was Peeno Noir.

Burgess: (laughing) One of my favourite songs.

Scene Creek: That was your idea?

Burgess: It wasn’t my idea, just the melody for it was my idea. The (singing) “…no noir”, that part.

Scene Creek: When you were on Broadway and growing up, did you envision yourself as a TV person?

Burgess: My entire focus, I was completely consumed with musical theatre, and that was what I wanted to do when I got to New York. And, after Guys and Dolls in 2009, I wanted to do something else. And I didn’t quite know how to break into network television. It quickly became an obsession of mine. (On the show), Titus is obviously obsessed with being a musical theatre star. It’s fun to already have an “in” to that world. And to know all the little ins and outs that Titus is so desperately in pursuit of. To have a career in that already, it’s fun to see him chase that dream.

Scene Creek: How do you watch your Netflix shows?

House of Cards is my obsession. And I have devoted an entire two or three days to it. And I watch in my apartment, and I order all the takeout that I possibly can. And I watch it ad nauseum. I can’t get enough. I watch it back to back to back. And when it’s over, my life is empty (sad laugh).

Scene Creek: Are you finding that people are responsive to you?

It’s been overwhelmingly positive. It’s so strange to talk about how much people adore me. But people love Titus. I have been Tweeting, and fun things like that, and I’ve already been bombarded on the street with some fans. So it’s been lovely. I welcome it. It’s for them. If they didn’t like it, then I wouldn’t have a job. It’s been wonderful. It’s expanded.

Scene Creek: And you have an album, correct?

I do! I have an album on iTunes called Comfortable. I keep threatening to do a concert of it sometime soon. I literally was just at my piano, playing when you called, and singing In a Sentimental Mood, by Duke Ellington. I love listening to anything Renee Fleming does. I’m a huge fan of this new artist, her name is Emily King. Her album The Seven is everything. And Janelle Monáe is my obsession. I like PrimeTime and Cold War.

I think Whitney Houston’s performance in The Preacher’s Wife where she sings “I Believe in You and Me” is so magical, and she offers up such, such magic. Not to be sad, but I really need her presence on earth. There’s another level to her when she scales down and she gives such stirring performances. I am writing a musical based on a Whitney Houston film, which I may or may not have just mentioned. I am writing the score and the lyrics and Rick Ellis is writing the book. He wrote Jersey Boys. It’s shaping up to be really lovely if I do say so myself.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is currently available for streaming exclusively on Netflix Canada