Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt started with an unlikely premise for a comedy: a group of women held captive in an underground bunker for 15 years by the leader of a doomsday cult (played by Jon Hamm; Mad Men). Ellie Kemper, who plays the part of Schmidt, reveals why the show resonates with so many viewers.

What was your first thought when the show was outlined to you? "I couldn't believe my luck at getting to work with [creators] Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. I felt like I had won the lottery. When they presented the idea to me, I couldn't tell if they were serious or not. I thought they were testing my savviness. But they weren't joking. There were moments when I thought, 'This is a tricky thing to pull off.'"

Why do you think the show has resonated with so many people? "Anyone can relate to the fish-out-of-water story. And everyone goes through difficult times in life, and to be able to survive that and move forward is something any human can relate to. And I hope people keep coming back because they're drawn to these really complicated, complex, funny characters who are people you care about and want to know more about."

Are you as optimistic as Kimmy is? "I'd like to think I am, but whenever I say that, I think about it and realise I'm not. I think her most admirable quality is her tenacity and strength. I like to think I'm a hard worker, and that sort of toughness is something I admire in a person."

Now that this show is available globally, do you think worldwide audiences can relate to it as much as American ones? "I was just talking to a journalist from Portugal who was telling me that the idea of the doomsday cult is alien to them. While that specific thing is, thank goodness, alien to some places, I think most humans can relate to a horrible experience, and that just because you've been knocked down doesn't mean you can't continue moving forward."

The second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available on Netflix.

Ellie Kemper was speaking to Kavita Daswani