Tituss Burgess grew up loving music and pursued a degree in the subject at the University of Georgia. After college, he eventually made his way to New York where he appeared in such musicals as Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid and Guys and Dolls. In 2011, Burgess began his recurring role on the hit sitcom 30 Rock. He moved to a starring part for another comedy series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which debuted in 2015.
Early Life and Career
Born on February 21, 1979, in Athens, Georgia, actor and singer Tituss Burgess found his passion for music early on. He sang in church growing up and played the piano. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Burgess discovered his love of performing after singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" for his elementary school classmates. He loved to hear the applause.
Burgess studied music at the University of Georgia, Athens, earning his bachelor's degree in the subject in 2001. He sought to make a life for himself as a performer, landing work in Florida's Walt Disney World. In 2005, Burgess took to the Broadway stage to make his debut in Good Vibrations. He then appeared in the hit musical Jersey Boys.
In 2007, Burgess originated the role of Sebastian, the musical Jamaican crab, in The Little Mermaid. He stayed with the show, based on the popular Disney movie of the same title, for about year. Burgess soon took on the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the 2009 revival of Guys and Dolls. According to The New York Times, he eventually became a bit disenchanted with his career options in theater, stating "No one ever wanted to see me do anything other than belt for Jesus." He decided to pursue other acting opportunities.
'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'
Burgess first made a splash on television with a recurring role on the sitcom 30 Rock in 2011. He played hairdresser D'Fwan, an associate of TV star Angie Jordan (Sherri Shepherd). This project gave Burgess a chance to work with Tina Fey who encouraged him to have fun with the character. He told Playbill that "I have creative license to be as weird and as quirky as I want."
When Fey and Robert Carlock created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Burgess was brought in to audition for Titus Andromedon, a struggling black gay actor in New York City. It's unclear whether Burgess inspired this Titus, but he did see a lot of parallels between himself and the character. Burgess told the entertainment site Vulture that "I thought, 'Wow, did they really write something for me, or is it just coincidence?'" Burgess further explained to the New York Times that "Several of my friends called me wanting to see if I could coach on them" on playing the Titus character.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt debuted in 2015 with Burgess as Titus and Ellie Kemper as the title character. Kimmy escapes a doomsday cult after years of living in seclusion and starts a new life in New York City. There she meets Titus and becomes his roommate, and the unlikely duo eventually form their own unique friendship. The show has received some criticism for how it handles race, but Burgess has defended the series. He finds such comments "ridiculous," as he told Vulture. "Just like South Park does such a brilliant job of making fun of everybody and no one's the victim, that's exactly what this show does." Burgess himself has worked hard not to make Titus a stereotype, and critics and audiences alike have enjoyed his portrayal. Burgess earned his first Emmy Award nomination for his work on Schmidt.
Being on the popular Netflix show has been a career-changing event for Burgess. As he explained to Philly magazine, "I've never been famous before. I got stopped all the time for theater, but this is a whole different thing."
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