Kemper went from comedy to romance when she met her husband interning at “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
When she auditioned for “Saturday Night Live” in 2008, Kemper felt like she’d made it. Lorne Michaels had seen her perform at an Upright Citizens Brigade showcase and his office called two days later. “It was like, ‘Lorne Michaels wants to meet you in his office in an hour,’ which is crazy! I forget what I was doing. Probably, I don’t know, eating chocolate.” And though she didn’t actually get the “SNL” gig, the experience felt enormous. “I thought, ‘Whatever happens, I can always tell my grandkids I auditioned for ‘Saturday Night Live!’ ”
Or, she can tell them how the following year, she was cast in the fifth season of “The Office” as perky receptionist Erin — a character who evolved a bit as the show went on. Through the first few episodes, Erin is pretty grounded, Kemper says. “And then as time went on she got a little stranger. And I always worry: Is that because the writers were watching me in real life? And they were like, ‘Oh, she’s weird . . .’ ”
And now on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Kemper’s working for supreme comedy boss-lady Tina Fey. “A lot of people ask, ‘What’s the best advice Tina Fey’s given you?’ ” Kemper says. “But she doesn’t, like, go about doling out advice — like, ‘I’ve got another tip for you!’ ” Instead, Kemper just watches Tina work: “She’s very kind, she’s very quiet, and she’s very focused.”
Kemper’s also a fan of the show’s costume designer Tina Nigro, who dresses Kimmy in those eccentrically happy outfits. Which are actually starting to grow on her. “Kimmy this season is wearing a lot of great sweatshirts with animals on them,” Kemper says. “There are a couple cat ones I like a lot.” But then again, she laughs, when it comes to fashion, “I think I have a skewed sense of what’s good.”
Luckily, she has an expert for that: stylist Jessica Paster, who keeps Kemper’s red-carpet game on point in dresses by Peter Pilotto and Naeem Khan. “I love, love, love, love, love, love Naeem Khan,” says the actress, who wore a striped sequin dress of his to the 2015 Emmys. “Every dress he makes looks like it belongs in a museum. You put it on, and you feel like royalty.”
What’s in the pipeline for the expressive actress? Getting back into on the improv stage in New York.Photo: Scott Council
Up next, Kemper’s in “The Secret Life of Pets,” an animated film out this summer. She also intends to get back on the improv stage in New York. “It’s like a muscle in your brain that gets flabby when you’re not exercising it,” she says. She’s also going to keep hanging out with her husband — mostly, she says, at home, which her friends give her slack for, including co-star Tituss Burgess.
“He says I never go out . . . and I don’t. So we have all these plans to do stuff, and I will always bail or something changes.” She laughs remembering how Burgess recently pulled over in a cab when he saw Kemper walking home, and they chatted for five minutes. “He texted me just as we were parting ways,” she says, “and he was like, ‘I guess that’s our big hangout session!’ ” She can’t help it, she says. “I have problems going out at night. I just get tired!” At least now her pregnancy gives her the best built-in excuse. “I always want to be working,” she says. “But I want to balance that out with family and friends.”
So while her character Kimmy springs around New York, Kemper after-hours is happy to sit back, away from the bright lights, and enjoy expanding her family — however small or large it may become. “When I was 20, I was like, ‘I’m going to have four children!’And then the years go by,” she says. “So I don’t know if I’ll have four children.” As the theme song to “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” says, “It’s going to be a fascinating transition.”
Fashion photos by Scott Council
Crew Credits: Fashion Editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Makeup Artist: Liza Coggins for Aim Artists; Hair Stylist: Christian Marc for Forward Artists
Fashion credits for first photo: Dress, $9,990 at naeemkhan.com; 18-k gold earrings with sapphires and diamonds, $12,999, and 14-k gold ring (left) with topaz, sapphires and diamonds, $4,397, both at levian.com; 18-k rose-gold ring with quartz, mother of pearl, carnelian, topaz, sapphires and diamonds, $7,570 at pasqualebruni.com
Fashion credits for third and fourth photo: (Left): Dress, $6,445, and earrings, $345, both at Dolce & Gabbana, 827 Madison Ave.; Sandals, $650 at sophiawebster.com; “Diana F+” camera, $99 at Lomography, 41 W. Eighth St.
(Right): Dress, $3,795 at Monique Lhuillier, 19 E. 71st St.; Sandals, $625 at Giuseppe Zanotti, 806 Madison Ave.; 14-k white-gold earrings with diamonds and topaz, $8,995 at effyjewelry.com; 18-k gold ring with tanzanite and diamond, $13,038 at levian.com; “Mr. Fancypants” glitter glasses, $16 (set) at shopsweetlulu.com
Fashion credits for fifth photo: Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet jacket, $898, shirt, $275; and shorts, $348; all at aliceandolivia.com; Sandals, $765 at Giuseppe Zanotti; Earrings, price upon request at lydiacourteille.com