EMMYS 2017: How Tituss Burgess Turned His Theatre Roots Into Fuel for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Special Features   EMMYS 2017: How Tituss Burgess Turned His Theatre Roots Into Fuel for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
 
Scoring his third nomination for the over-the-top Titus Andromedon, his Netflix character would be nothing without Burgess’ own theatre history.

Before he sang “Peeno Noir,” Tituss Burgess was feeling some Good Vibrations, making his Broadway debut in 2005 in the jukebox musical with songs by The Beach Boys.

Still, much like his Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt alter-ego, Titus Andromedon, Burgess did audition (unsuccessfully) for The Lion King multiple times—though not quite as many as Kimmy Schmidt’s roommate. Quirks like these—based on his life or not—are the details that make Titus such a loveable and relatable character—over the top or not—and Burgess’ portrayal of them have earned him his third consecutive Emmy nomination for the role.

After his first nomination in 2015, Burgess told Backstage magazine, “I never on my vision board put an Emmy Award nomination.” His priority was always theatre.

Prior to Broadway, Burgess started his career in regional theatre, doing shows like The Wiz and Jesus Christ Superstar. After debuting in Good Vibrations, Burgess had one more Broadway ensemble role in the long-running hit Jersey Boys before breaking out as the famous crab, Sebastian, in Disney’s stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid. His rendition of “Under the Sea” was one for the ages, and audiences couldn’t get enough of his crazy high belt as the cranky crustacean.

Broadway beckoned again with the 2009 revival of Guys and Dolls, in which Burgess delivered a show-stopping rendition of Nicely Nicely Johnson’s Act 2 “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat.”

Once the world found out about Burgess’ unusually high tenor (he sings “Meadowlark” in the original key—watch the video below), he began performing solo concerts at venues like Birdland and Subculture and regularly performing for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS at their annual Broadway Backwards concert.

Of course, television scooped him up when Tina Fey cast him in her network series with Robert Carlock, 30 Rock, as flamboyant hairdresser D’Fwan. Burgess still made time for theatre, cast as the first male Witch in Carnival Studio Theatre’s production of Into the Woods in Miami.

As of late, Burgess has been occupied with Kimmy Schmidt—time well-invested if this Emmy nomination is any indication—and there is no doubt the theatricality and vocal prowess of Titus Andromedon would be lost without the actor who embodies them.

Tune in to the 69th Annual Emmy Awards September 17 on CBS.

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