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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Ellie Kemper reveals the hardest lesson she had to learn

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Helen Bownass
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What will the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actor and author, 38, make of our existential questions?

What is the meaning of life?

I think it must be about finding connections with other human beings. Those very big or very small moments of feeling like we are all in this together.

What is the difference between right and wrong?

The difference is that you feel bad when you do the wrong thing, and you feel fine when you do the right thing. We all know what’s right and what’s wrong. We just convince ourselves otherwise, because people do what they want to do.

Where is your happy place?

Any meal with my family.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture.

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

I think respected. Respect suggests you’ve behaved in an honourable way.

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?

My amazing turkey posole stew, which is the only thing I can cook from memory, and I weirdly make it perfectly every single time.

Who or what is your greatest love?

My family.

When did you last lie?

Earlier this week at Trader Joe’s [an American supermarket]. I was stocking up on coffee and animal crackers, which I love, and the cashier asked me if I was a teacher. I found myself saying, “Yes.” I was tired, I think. Then I thought it would be weird if I corrected myself and said, “No.” I was already in too deep at that point. It was lies, it was all lies.

Does the supernatural exist?

It has to, right? No way it’s just people shopping at Rite Aid [an American pharmacy].

Are you fatalistic?

No. I think people can change and therefore influence their own futures.

What is your greatest fear?

That I’m going to leave home one morning somehow having forgotten to put on trousers.

Animals or babies?

Babies.

What talent do you yearn for?

I really wish I had a better brain for business. I would love to march into a room and say, “OK, here’s the business model.”

Do you like to be complimented?

I mean, yes.

Do you have a high pain threshold?

I always think that I do, but then I get an injection and start weeping uncontrollably.

What book do you recommend most to others?

Blue Nights by Joan Didion [a memoir about the death of Didion’s daughter, Quintana, in 2005]. That’s a tough one. It’s beautiful.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

Some things just stink. It’s about moving through those stinky moments without collapsing. It’s OK to feel sad, or scared, or in pain. Those moments will pass. But they really stink when you’re in the middle of them.

Ellie Kemper rates Joan Didion’s visceral memoir, Blue Nights

What food sums up happiness?

I need to be perfectly clear on this one: [shouts] Ample Hills’ Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream!

What have you never understood?

Various insurance policies.

What is the one thing you want to know before you die?

From where or from whom did I get this preternatural gift for making unbelievable turkey posole?

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die?

Yes! I’m so terrified of both of those things.

Quinoa or Quavers?

Quinoa. I love it. I make an enormous pot of it every weekend and we eat it throughout the week. I’m so scared for when they find out it’s bad for you.

Ellie Kemper’s My Squirrel Days (£18.99, Hodder & Stoughton) is out now

Images: Courtesy of press agency

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