Carol Kane is ready to tackle her political ambitions

The comic star embarks on a new season of Netflix’s acclaimed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and politics looms.
Carol Kane is ready to tackle her political ambitions

Carol Kane began her career on the stage in 1966 and still performs there, recently in Wicked. Photo: Andrew Eccles / August Image

This spring, yet another unprecedented political candidate will hit the airwaves: Lillian Kaushtupper, the kooky landlady of the title character on Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, brought to vivid life by veteran actor Carol Kane

After railing against unbridled development and entitled “hipsters” ruining her Brooklyn neighborhood, in season three (premiering May 19), she’s going to do something about it.

“She’s a scrappy survivor, like most New Yorkers of a certain age,” says Kane. “Lillian is profoundly upset about the gentrification of her neighborhood, as I am about mine on the Upper West Side. Suddenly there are the same three banks and drugstores on every block, and the bookstores have disappeared.”

Ellie Kemper, Titus Burgess, Jane Krakowski and Kane comprise the tight ensemble anchoring the comedy. She says the new season “might be the best of them all, because everybody’s growing and we’re closer to our characters and each other.” 

In addition to her political ambitions, Lillian finds romance after her breakup with “Bobby” Durst, an incorporation of the real-life murder suspect by creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.

“Having worked with Jim Brooks and Ed Weinberger on Taxi, it feels miraculous to me that I should be getting another chance to work with the best writers,” Kane, 64, says.

From 1980 to 1983, she played Simka, the confident wife of Andy Kaufman’s zany Latka. Brooks taught her a key comedy lesson: “You can’t think, ‘How can I do this to get a laugh?’ You always have to remember the truth of the character and situation.” 

Kane’s career, which stretches back to the 1960s, includes such seminal films as Carnal Knowledge, Dog Day Afternoon, Annie Hall and The Princess Bride. She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination in 1975 for Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street, about Jewish immigrants in 1890s New York. “It was craaazy, like a mistake had been made,” she says. “This tiny film was so specific and personal.”

It was yet another charmed moment in her career. “I got to make movies with Hal Ashby and Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet, these great directors, and worked with Jack Nicholson, Jules Feiffer and Mike Nichols on my first movie. Looking back, it seems impossible, but when I was young I didn’t imagine the possibility that it wouldn’t happen.”

Today, she is happy to be recognized as Lillian by fans everywhere. 

“I’m so computer-illiterate I don’t understand how everybody knows about the show. In the Taxi days it was just NBC, ABC, CBS and Channel 13!  Now there are so many shows and ways of accessing them that I’m shocked so many people recognize me from Kimmy. But I love it.”