Who Plays The Backpack On ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’? The Jan S. Port Voice Actor Is No Stranger To Puppets
Spoilers ahead for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 4 Part 1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has lots of delightful cameos from the worlds of stage and screen. One of the performers that pops up in the Season 4 finale is from both. Who plays Kimmy's backpack on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? You've heard Stephanie D'Abruzzo's voice before, and she's basically the only choice for this role.
Are you surprised that Kimmy has imagined that her backpack is a muppet best friend that gives her an idea for a young adult fantasy novel? Like, of course she does. Her new imaginary friend is the perfect kind of magical realism for the show to incorporate.
However, Jan S. Port is not just a quirky gag, it's also a manifestation of Kimmy's immaturity and disconnect from the real world. The backpack wants her to keep having fun and going on adventures rather than be practical and grow up. "In the bunker I tried to escape reality," she says to Jan. "Now I need to face reality." The show doesn't back down from her past or forget that Kimmy is a trauma victim. Jan is essentially a coping mechanism — an imaginary friend invented to help her deal with being trapped.
And the actor who plays Kimmy's coping backpack is a talented performer with a background in musical theatre, television, Netflix in fact, and puppets! Here's where you've seen and heard D'Abruzzo over the years.
In 2004, D'Abruzzo was nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Kate Monster in the hit musical Avenue Q. The show, like Kimmy Schmidt, mixed adult themes and childhood tropes in the name of comedy. If you're not familiar with the show, go and look up "There's A Fine, Fine Line" as soon as possible — it's a heart wrenching break-up song you need in your life.
The Scrubs Musical
In the musical episode of Scrubs, hot off the popularity of Avenue Q, she played the patient whose infection caused everyone to break into song. She doesn't sing much in her role, really just the clip above and a few other moments, but she's integral to an iconic episode.
As an accomplished puppeteer, it's no surprise that D'Abruzzo is a regular on Sesame Street. She's in the R.E.M. video above, and plays characters including Curly Bear, Elizabeth, and Lulu. Recently, she even started playing Prairie Dawn.
D'Abruzzo's husband, Craig Shemin, is the current President of the Jim Henson Legacy and former staff writer. So they're a big muppet family, to say the least.
VH1's I Heart The '80s
According to this sizzle reel from the artist's website, D'Abruzzo was a panelist on VH1's nostalgic pop culture series.
And Plenty Of Other Places
Theatre fans also know her from the Original Cast Recording of I Love You, Because, a gender-swapped musical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The performer also plays Peri on Julie's Greenroom, Umo on Oobi, and Jody on The Puzzle Place.
She has also done a lot of voiceover work, which you can find listed on her website. Her resume includes animated cartoons, educational videos, and commercials for everything from Chase Bank to McDonald's and the New York Botanical Gardens.
So basically, if you need someone to operate a puppet and perform some lowkey dark material with a sunny voice, D'Abruzzo is the perfect person to call. It's no surprise at all that she's on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — in fact, she already lent her voice to a Season 2 episode.
At the end of the Season 4 finale, Kimmy ends up keeping her backpack to continue working on her young adult fantasy book series. Hopefully the Jan will return in the second half of the final season, and maybe even get a musical number.