July 29, 2015 / 9:30 PM / 2 years ago

Tituss Burgess on 'Kimmy,' race and pinot noir

Actor Tituss Burgess arrives at the 5th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards in Beverly Hills, California May 31, 2015.Danny Moloshok

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) - A glass of wine at his side, Actor Tituss Burgess says he is used to fans serenading him with his catchy "Pinot Noir" song from Netflix's hit comedy "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt."

After honing his acting in theater, Burgess, 36, stepped into the television spotlight with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's "Kimmy Schmidt," securing a supporting actor Emmy nomination for playing eccentric roommate Titus Andromedon to Kimmy, a former 'mole woman' trying to carve a New York life.

Burgess discussed race, stereotypes and season two in an interview with Reuters. The following are excerpts:

Q: What were you surprised to find and pleased to find about Titus?

A: They made him three-dimensional, and he wasn't just the stereotypical gay best friend - I despise that and I had no interest in playing that.

If it's Tina and Robert, I can trust that Titus is going to be a human being who happens to be gay, who happens to be an actor, who happens to be down on his luck, and all of these things are happenstance and not the thing that we focus on. Rather we focus on this unlikely partnership, this unlikely friendship between he and Kimmy.

Q: One episode shows Titus finding more acceptance in a werewolf costume than as a black man. With race issues so prevalent, what do you hope season two can tackle?

A: The issue with race particularly within this country is largely because of lack of dialogue. Honestly, racism is something learned, not something that you just pick up one day and wish to dislike someone.

I think Tina and Robert have a delicious platform and they have a gay black man who has not yet had a career, who is part of a socio-economic demographic that is at the bottom - he is more everyman than not. And the more they borrow from the buffet and exploit the trials and tribulations, the better off my audience, our audience, will be in terms of being informed on what it's like to look like this in America.

Q: Titus will be getting a one-man show next season 2, what can we expect?

A: I know that we are once again going to do what I think is smart and right, which is borrow from today's headlines and we're going to do more of what I just spoke about (on race) in that one-man show.

Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bill Rigby

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