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The new comedy on Pop network this month, Schitt’s Creek begins with a joke in its very own title. Though Schitt’s Creek is actually the name of a real American town, it sounds remarkably like the expression “up shit’s creek.” The show stars comedy legend Eugene Levy, and it’s the brainchild of his son, Dan Levy.

The elder Levy plays Johnny Rose, patriarch of a wealthy family who lose it all. Dan plays his son David, with Catherine O’Hara as Moira Rose and Annie Murphy as Alexis Rose. The Roses once bought the town  as a joke, and now it is their only remaining asset. Ironically, they have to move to Schitt’s Creek to start their lives over. 

Father and Son Eugene and Dan Levy“My reaction initially was, what a great thing this will be to be working with my son,” Eugene Levy said at a press junket for POP recently. “All through school, everything that he had been associated with, every play, I would offer my help and whatever I could do for him.  And he would say, ‘No, I got it. I'm fine.’ ‘I can help you run lines.’ ‘No, I got it. I got it.’  So I always thought that basically, even if he ended up in show business, ‘I got it’ would be the catch phrase, and I would never end up having anything to do with him in this business. So when he came to me and said, ‘Do you want to work on a show together?  I have an idea,’ I thought it was a really fantastic thing.  My heart was palpitating.”

Whether or not Schitt’s Creek ever made it to air, Eugene was just happy to work on something with his family. “It started out as a nice father/son project,” Eugene said. “I didn't know how far it was going to go, but we were going to develop a television show and see what happens.  And very, very quickly, it dawned on me that he is exceptionally talented.  He's a great writer.  And this was all happening before my eyes for the first time, because we had never worked together before.  So it kind of went from being a lovely father/son project, to I can't believe what a great partner I have working on this show." 

Dan Levy in Schitt's CreekThroughout his childhood, Dan Levy must have known his father was in the American Pie movies and Christopher Guest films like A Mighty Wind, Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman

“He's actually a very serious person,” Dan Levy said. “Very funny, mind you. I grew up watching SCTV, and the Christopher Guest movies. When they came out I was in high school and thought they were the coolest thing. I started work at MTV up in Canada and really sort of didn't want to have any association at the time, because I wanted to sort of build my own brand there. Then after I left and I had had some success up in Canada, I started thinking about the show, the idea of a wealthy family losing their money. I felt like it could go in two directions.  It could go sort of as a sitcom, or it could be played very real. That's when I thought of my dad because of everything that he's written with Christopher Guest and all of those movies, and the sensibility that he brings and the heart that he brings, to all his film and television roles.”

O'hara and LevyO’Hara has been a frequent costar of Levy’s, also in the Christopher Guest movies and on TV’s SCTV (which stands for Second City Comedy Team). She’s almost been like part of the Levy family herself. 

“I've known Dan as a baby because I think we were doing SCTV when Daniel was born,” O’Hara said. “I remember the baby.  And then there was I guess that period where I was in Toronto and doing the show.  I knew [Dan] growing up then, and then I'd heard that [he was] on television and doing really well on MTV and [he] had lots of great shows and a million fans.  Then I was in Toronto at a hotel.  So there was a long patch of not seeing [Dan], I guess, for years.  I don't know, I think it was about ten years ago or something, in a hotel room in Toronto, and I'm watching MTV.  And this guy is on, and I go, ‘Look at this guy.  Does he look like Eugene Levy or what?’  And it finally said Dan Levy, and I went, ‘Oh my God, that's Daniel.’  So that's how much relationship we had until now.”

Rose familyHer collaboration with Eugene Levy has spanned decades. “Eugene is really smart and a great writer and I think a wonderful actor, and he's so lovely to collaborate with because he's so openminded,” O’Hara said. “If you give Eugene an idea, he will never laugh. For years, and we've worked together for years, I finally sort of learned. I'll still badger [Eugene]  but I've mostly learned to just wait, give as many cases as I can.  I present my case, and then I just wait. The great thing about Eugene is he will never just say no or just say yes.  He's just such a thoughtful man, and he will go away and think about it.  He will come back and say, ‘Yes and this is why’ and make a better case than I did.  Or he'll come back and say, ‘No, but this is what we [can do instead.’ I feel like I'm in good hands, and I feel like I'm respected with Eugene and that when we agree and when we disagree it's about the work and it's not some old crap coming up which I don't have with Eugene, thank God.”

Although they have appeared on screen together many times, it has always been a different O’Hara whom Eugene Levy faced. Each character was so different, and she deeply embodied them all.

Living Room“There's only one Catherine O'Hara,” Eugene Levy said. “Catherine has an amazing ability to immerse herself in characters and find the funny bone of that character.  She's very chameleon-like in terms of how deeply she gets into character, but it's not just getting into character.  She just has that knack of finding the funny moments that make the character funny without trying to be funny. She's just a great actress.  The movies that we did with Chris, which were improvised but you have to make them credible, and the characters have to be real, and the story has to be credible and grounded.  To be able to improvise in that way and still be a grounded character, there's not a lot of people who can kind of pull that off.  Catherine was, again, a first choice for this because she's the go to person, when you want to do something really exciting comedically.”

In the ‘70s, SCTV was an alternative to Saturday Night Live, a televised sketch comedy showcase for the Second City comedy team. Schitt’s Creek is not a sketch show. It is one story of the Roses’ adventures in Schitt’s Creek, but the creative freedom of launching a new show on Pop with Levy’s son takes O’Hara and Eugene Levy back to the good old days. 

New neighbors“We do have enormous creative freedom doing our show,” Eugene said. “We've really been left to do the show the way we want to do it.  And so far, thanks to my brilliant son here, we've been able to deliver a product that they, the broadcasters, look at and say, ‘Yeah, we like it.’ We're not told to move in one direction or another.  So it's a nice feeling.”

Dan Levy confirmed Schitt’s Creek represents his artistic vision entirely. “I think what's been the most rewarding for me and for us is knowing that we've made the show that we intended to make,” Dan said. “I have a lot of writers who have sold pilots, and they go through the system, and suddenly what comes out is not what they had intended.  So I think it's amazing, and I feel very lucky that we have been given that freedom to really create something that is exactly what we wanted it to be, and it's been unbelievably rewarding.”

Though the name is funny, Schitt’s Creek is not the butt of the joke on Schitt’s Creek. The Roses are the ones who don’t fit in. 

Schitt's Creek
“We're not making a joke of it being a small town,” Eugene Levy said. “It's like if you remember Mayberry [from The Andy Griffith Show], it's a small town that have their own values, and you get engrossed in those characters.  We're not making fun of small towns here.  The only thing that's being made fun of is perhaps our family that lost their money and now have to live in this town that they once bought as a joke, which, as Catherine once said, now the joke backfired on them because this is the only place they can afford to live.  But I think there's something charming about it, and we tried to bring out a kind of a small town charm with very real, tangible people that are living in this town, and we are the joke in the show, not so much the town.”

 

Visit the very funny Schitt’s Creek airing now in Canada on Tuesdays at 9/8c on CBC! Look for the show to premiere on February 11 at 10/9c on the new Pop network (previously TVGN) in the good old U.S. of A.

 

 

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 166 - September 2018
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