Peppy, bright and determined Ellie Kemper is the same ray of sunshine in her new memoir as she is in “The Office,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Bridesmaids.” Like many stars today, Kemper has hopped on the author wagon. As she jokes, it was not only her desire but her responsibility, one that she knew would be thrust upon her.
Tongue in cheek, she says she knew “I would fulfill my duty as an upbeat actress under contract on a television series and serve my county in the only way I knew how.” Dutifully carrying out this task, Kemper has penned stories on her rise to fame that will make readers cringe, laugh, and fall in love her wholesomely candid voice in her new memoir My Squirrel Days (Scribner).
First of all, that title. Intriguing but also mystifying. In Kemper’s case, we are talking about literal squirrels and hard lessons she gleaned when she was young in St. Louis, trying to fit into a group in which she was not welcome. Inspired by the movie, “Gorillas in the Mist,” Kemper tried to connect with her backyard animals and learned (after a slightly bruised back and badly damaged ego after falling from a vine) that squirrels are just as mean as people. They can laugh just as easily at you instead of with you. It was every girl and squirrel for oneself.
It turns out this literal fall is one of many that Kemper documents in her rise to success. Tumbling down the stairs during a childhood Christmas play of her own making, toppling on famed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and tripping in her haste to get her childhood dreamboat Christoper Plummer (who will always be Captain von Trapp to her) a glass of water are just a few featured.
Kemper does not hesitate to write about her noteworthy achievements or her stumbles along the way. She also reveals that sometimes her real-life role as a young daughter merged with the ditzy characters she would come to play (washing her dad’s car with S.O.S. pads in an effort to do him a favor).
And of course, also included in this story are the inside details behind Kemper’s introduction to show business, and anecdotes from behind the scenes as only she can give them. We learn first-hand her exposure to improvisational acting “like a magic show” in Chicago that inspired her to join the comedy scene.
We try to hold it together during the shooting of “The Office,” as our writer endures an oddly intense encounter with the head of craft service, learning the hard way that only Steve Carell can touch bagels with his hands. “In the world of show business, even hygiene is a status game.”
Kemper unpacks how she was born to play Becca from Bridesmaids, defined her naïveté and optimism, as well as some of the crazy things she has done as a real bridesmaid. She too describes the lessons she has learned playing her lead role Kimmy (one of the most important being “just do what Tina Fey does”) and how during the shooting of the second season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” the long hours of production and stress give her a temporarily lame hand.
My Squirrel Days reveals the determination and positive energy that radiates from a truly remarkable woman, who thankfully still has many chapters yet to add in her story of acting success. You can count on my pre-order of any sequel.
My Squirrel Days is available to purchase now.
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ABOUT ELLIE KEMPER:
Ellie Kemper is the Emmy-nominated star of the Netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt. She portrayed Erin Hannon on NBC’s The Office; cosstarred in Bridesmaids; and has also appeared in 21 Jump Street, Identity Thief, and Somewhere. Ellie voiced Katie in The Secret Life of Pets and is the voice of Cracle on Disney’s Sofia the First. Her writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and The Onion. Ellie currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and son, but is constantly trying to find a way to get back to St. Louis. My Squirrel Days is her first book.