[Spoilers for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 3 episode 5]
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 3 includes a surprise crossover with a fellow Netflix series. Netflix has certainly not shied away from opportunities for cross promotion. In the last few months, Stranger Things has inspired a promo for Mystery Science Theater 3000 and another one for Bill Nye Explains the Universe. The children's show Julie's Greenroom featured guest appearances from both Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess -- stars of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt -- as themselves. And Orange is the New Black crossed over with Black Mirror in a recent promo.
So when 'Kimmy Steps on a Crack' -- the fifth episode of the recently released third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt -- featured a crossover with one of Netflix's most popular shows, it felt very much like something Netflix would do. In season 2, Kimmy's former fellow bunkermate Gretchen headed out to form her own cult -- at Kimmy's suggestion. After that cult is found to be kidnapping boys and threatening an explosion, Kimmy comes in to talk her friend down. It works, and Gretchen finds herself incarcerated at Litchfield prison -- the setting of Orange is the New Black -- befriending Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) and others.
In an interview with EW, Kimmy Schmidt co-creator Robert Carlock explained how the crossover came to be:
"We didn’t want to blow up Gretchen or any of the people around her, so we knew she was going to jail. I think [the OITNB scene] was just half a joke pitch and half we felt we could somehow save money, and that turned out not to be true. And, it turned into purely a joke that I think was Tina [Fey]’s. We thought it was funny to suggest we lived in that same world as Orange Is the New Black, and of course, we’re always looking for Netflix synergies.
We emailed Jenji Kohan just asking if it was okay that we said she was going to that prison, and then I think we added the idea of, “Oh, it’d be nice to have one of their actors to make it really real.” And, we asked if that was okay. Jenji was very open to us just trampling all over the world she created, which we were very appreciative of."
The scene did not give any indication on where it falls in the timeline of OITNB. Since the show ended its fourth season with a prison riot and several guards taken hostage, odds are that this moment takes place either before the riot or after it is resolved -- which might happen in the upcoming fifth season.
Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan was very accommodating to the crossover, though she did make one request. The scene includes a moment when Black Cindy discusses the time she stabbed her boss at SeaWorld. Kohen wanted to be sure that it didn't sound like that was the reason Black Cindy was incarcerated at Litchfield.
Carlock also explained that he had a list of availability for the cast of OITNB to see which character would work best, but Black Cindy was always at the top of the list -- due to Moore having worked on 30 Rock which Carlock was showrunner for and which -- like Kimmy Schmidt -- was created by Tina Fey. Their familiarity with Moore made her the perfect choice for the crossover.
During the scene, there is also a reference to the Yakuza -- a group familiar to fans of Daredevil. Carlock claimed to not know if the person who came up with that reference did so with the superhero show in mind. But with Daredevil and Kimmy Schmidt both being set in New York City, that certainly could be another fun potential crossover. Maybe in season 4.
The third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is now available on Netflix. Orange is the New Black season 5 will be released June 9.