Ellie Kemper is a delight, folks. She’s a multi-talent as an actor, comedian, author and mom, and she’s currently working with Tom’s of Maine to promote (get this) bacteria! She’s also late for our interview. Which, honestly, only serves to make her more delightful from my point of view, because she’s late for a reason I can personally relate hard to: She’s on Central Time, and absolutely everyone she works with / deals with / chats with on a daily basis is in NYC. To which I say: Girl, same.
What is time even, anymore, in 2020?
Ellie Kemper: I AM SO SORRY. Oh my god. I’m in Saint Louis and I thought it was Central Time, I don’t know, I’m so sorry. Throughout this whole time, nothing aligns with Central Time, it’s a total brain fart.
SK: Oh I’m right there with you, no apology needed. I live in Nashville and most of the SheKnows team is in New York. I’m either totally late or totally early, constantly. What are you doing in Saint Louis anyway?
EK: Basically we came here in the beginning of March, from NYC, when things got crazy. I grew up here, so we were actually staying at a friend’s house for awhile and now we’re renting a place. It’s quieter here, in a good way. It feels like it’s so tense in NYC, and it feels hard to avoid things. But now it’s looking up there! It’s a turn for the better.
SK: Yeah cases are way worse elsewhere now, New York is pretty much a success story.
EK: Exactly. But still, if I were in New York, I’d have to take the kids on the elevator downstairs, and that’s just the first hurdle. It feels like you’d constantly…it just feels very difficult to be in NYC.
SK: Have you been doing any homeschooling?
EK: Thank goodness my workload in terms of schooling has been very light; my son James is about to turn 4. So mostly we did some Zoom meetings during April but nothing too academically intense. I don’t know how parents with older children are doing it. It feels like a Herculean effort right now. My kids did a lot of singing and drawing, but then I don’t know how people are actually teaching, especially if you’re still in the beginning stage of reading.
SK: Did being Kimmy Schmidt prepare you for quarantine?
EK: She’s definitely been an inspiration! I mean, what we had to go through is tough, but it’s better than a bunker! I was texting with the other “Mole Women” and I said, “Shouldn’t we be the best at this??” As corny as it sounds, I do try to channel her. We’ve only been doing this for four or five months; she went through this for 15 years in much more extreme conditions. I get to be in a house with a yard!
SK: Do you manage to carve out time for yourself at all? Sometimes moms just need to, like, hide.
EK: I could not agree more. My one-year-old needs to be held most of the time because he can’t walk, so the minute I pass him to my husband or my mom, you just have to disappear. You don’t say where you’re going, you go into a room. Just to be quiet. I’ve been trying hard to wake up before everyone in my house wakes up. Even though, ugh, I could use that hour of sleep, you’re taking that time to be with yourself and have some time to yourself during the day. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve been making sure to try to do that in the morning. Any moment you can find, taking those five minutes.
SK: Absolutely. I actually had a court date recently that was really boring but I was also like, wow, I get to sit here and it’s quiet and no child is touching me. That’s nice.
EK: Yes! I completely understand. We just need to go to court. Any break we can find.
SK: Do you think you’ll have more kids, or has the pandemic changed your thinking on that? ]
EK: We’re done, but we already said we’re done. I could imagine how the pandemic is affecting that decision for a lot of people, though.
SK: Did you notice any major differences between your two pregnancies?
EK: They both were fairly easy. The end of my second pregnancy, that was harder. I was obviously older, and with a month left I had some sort of pinched nerve where I was having trouble walking for the last month. The baby was sitting on a nerve and it made me feel like I was 85 years old and pregnant. As soon as I had the baby, it went away, but I was very lucky. I even want to be careful because people have such horrendous experiences — but pregnancy is always an overwhelming task.
SK: How did you choose your sons’ names?
EK: That’s a great question. We like the name James, it’s a very dignified, timeless name, but it also happened to be the name of my own grandfather. It’s always nice when it aligns with a family name. And so far he’s just James, no nicknames — except I guess Jamesy. The baby’s name is Matthew; by the time he turns 1 he will have spent half his life in St. Louis, not New York! He’s doing great in lockdown, honestly it’s nice having kids who don’t know what’s going on. Matthew has only been a source of joy. It’s really nice to look at a baby giggling and forget what’s going on in the world at large. Anyway James, we had decided his name way ahead of time; Matthew we were definitely in the hospital. I couldn’t believe it was the morning we were going home and we were still going over the name. And he’s Matthew, not Matt, for now. They’re traditional sorts of names, some might say boring, but unobjectionable! I mean, I’ve never met a Matthew I didn’t like.
SK: That’s legit. And what are you working on with Tom’s of Maine?
EK: So I partnered with Tom’s for their prebiotic line, and a lot of people know about probiotics, and people are familiar with that, but they’ve been using prebiotics in new products — that support growth of good bacteria. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, what with the increased hand-washing. I love the Tom’s of Maine hand soap; it smells so delicious and refreshing and actually makes me look forward to washing my hands. And my four-year-old, well, kids like to be morally superior so if somebody hasn’t washed their hands, he likes to be the callout police. So I try to make it into a kind of game. That and masks — I read somewhere that if you get your kids on mask control duty, they’ll call people out in public.
SK: Okay, last question: If you could have one Office character as your kid’s babysitter, who would it be?
EK: Oooooh! Honestly, I’d want Pam to take care of my child.
SK: Wouldn’t we all.
EK: Right, because she has kids and feels very responsible. But for, like, the fun babysitter? The one I’d want to still be in the house while they were babysitting? I think Kelly would have fun with that. But, you know, I’d want to be on the premises.
If you’re home with kids like Ellie is, here are some great ways to keep children busy while schools are closed.