The highlight of season 3 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was Tituss. His did he/didn’t he cannibalism story line coupled with his very real struggle of love is one of the reasons he’s nominated for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (too bad he has no chance because Alec Baldwin is all but a shoe in for his Trump impression on SNL but that’s not what this is about). At times serious, at times absurd, at all times funny, Burgess made the show his own.
Tituss Burgess was in D.C. last month. He’ll be here again this week. During Pride he was championing Casa Ruby and other organizations that help LGBTQ homeless youth. This week he kicks off a comedy festival with a performance with a Kimmy Schmidt co-star and orchestra. The man has range. We sat down with him during Pride to discuss doing good for often forgotten youths. And detergent.
Brightest Young Things: How do you turn people onto something that is inherently not fun?
T.B.: How do you turn people onto something that is inherently not fun?
T.B.: What’s not fun?
BYT: Homelessness. That’s not a fun topic. No one wants to think about it. Yoga for homelessness doesn’t exist because it’s not a fun cause but it’s a really important one. How do you get people interested?
T.B.: Well, and I mean this in the most modest way, you put faces like mine on it.
T.B.: You link it up with a familiar conglomerate so that people know that mainstream businesses are paying attention to this issue and I think that’s the way to draw attention to it.
BYT: Does it ever make you uncomfortable having to explain that to people?
T.B.: No. I mean if you asked it that means other people are wondering the same thing.
BYT: That’s fair. Is it uncomfortable to bring up religion when it comes to LGBT causes (Burgess spoke extensively about his role in the church on a recent episode of RuPaul: What’s The Tee)?
T.B.: Absolutely not.
BYT: Absolutely. Is this why religion was part of season three Kimmy Schmidt?
T.B.: Is that why religion was part of season three? No. Religion was part of season three of Kimmy Schmidt because Tina Fey wanted it to be.
BYT: Aren’t you working on a documentary about this stuff?
T.B.: I am working on a documentary about it.
BYT: So the writers room had to know that.
T.B.: No, they don’t. They didn’t, they don’t. It’s happening, but it hasn’t been announced to the network or whatever because for the same reasons that I sort of just said. When you are a minister of music at a very young age in a very rural town where no one challenges the pulpit’s authority, unfortunately in some churches you get a lot of hate speech in the name of God. And I think personally, I needed to go back and revisit my church and explore and try to have a conversation, a dialogue, with the former minister to see why the topic of sexuality is so important to them. Why is it so high up on the list of things to denounce when, truth be told, we are all severely flawed? So not one, quote unquote, sin, is one sinful than the other, so if we expose all of our flaws none of us will get into quote unquote heaven.
BYT: Do you feel like this is an incredibly great time to be doing this right now? Hate speech is kind of having a moment right now.
T.B.: Yeah, she’s loving being center stage.
BYT: Yeah it’s…
T.B.: It’s fucking obnoxious.
BYT: There you go. How do you confront that?
T.B.: Doing what I’m doing. Making out with Marriott, doing these documentaries. Bringing attention to…
BYT: How do people that don’t have your platform combat that?
T.B.: Everyone has a platform.
BYT: How so?
T.B.: Social media.
BYT: Yeah, but…
T.B.: No, no let me finish. Social media, there’s your friendship circle there’s your church that you may or may not go to, there is your school. All you have to do it be a leader in whatever little group you’re in and that is your platform and that is how it’s doled out and has a domino effect it starts with you it starts with me. When I walk out of here and into the airport, I turn on my patience pill cause I know it’s going to be difficult. People are more curt and maybe not on their best behaviors. If we all lead with a little more kindness, a little more niceness, the would would be a better place. That’s how you make the world a better place with small incremental change.
BYT: Sure. The social media stuff, though, that’s kind of like an echo chamber and you can kind of pick and filter out.
T.B.: You can but you can also not. All it takes is glance down so tweets are going by racing by but what if you just ran by a Tweet from anyone from any random handle that said, “Hope you have a nice day today. Breathe, you are loved” you know it’s little subliminal messages. Just the way hate takes up space and can be on loop in the back of your head, so can messages about love.
BYT: Absolutely. Speaking about messages of love. I just looked down at your arm and I realized that you have a tattoo. I’ve never noticed that tattoo. How long have you had that tattoo?
T.B.: Since 2009.
BYT: Since 2009 you’ve had “I am my own” tattooed with an ellipsis. What does that mean to you? Or are you completely sick of talking about that?
T.B.: I’m not sick of talking about it. It’s fine. There’s a large part of… Self care is very important, and I grew up in a single parent home. So, I largely had to parent myself, I had to father myself. And for the longest, time I resented that and now I’m appreciative of it and I want people to feel a type of love that I did not experience from my father. And if joining companies like Marriott and meeting all these random LGBTQ people I met today means even for three hours or two seconds, I can offer some warmth, then I’m doing my job. And I look down and this is… I’m my last line of defense. So I gotta take care of myself first so I can take care of you.
BYT: Have you and Amy Sedaris talked at all about the laundry commercials at all. Because you just took a job from Amy Sedaris.
T.B.: I did not take a job from her. She has plenty of jobs she probably did not have time to do. But no we’ve not actually, I have not seen Amy since… Oh no that’s not true. We didn’t have any scenes together…
BYT: Did you not have any scenes together in season three?
T.B.: No, I don’t think, so we wouldn’t have been on set at the same time.
BYT: So she’s just too busy you are in fact doing her a favor, is what the answer is.
T.B.: Of course.