LOS ANGELES – Dan Levy always knew how he wanted “Schitt’s Creek” to end. It was just a matter of getting there.
In the Pop TV series’ early years, it was a character-driven comedy, says Eugene Levy, Dan’s father, co-star and co-creator. “In order to be a success, we had to get to a point where the audience had an emotional investment in the characters.”
To accomplish that, the Levys leaned into their actors’ skills. Noah Reid, for example, had always been a singer. Emily Hampshire always wanted to play Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.” Both got to display their talents on the series.
“A lot of the bigger moments really came from just seizing the opportunity, knowing the caliber of the actors we had and saying ‘OK,’” Dan Levy says. “It was a combination of servicing story and challenging our actors.”
During the series’ six years, viewers have seen the Rose family go from distinct outsiders to Schitt’s Creek regulars. Moira (played by Catherine O’Hara) became a member of the town council; David (played by Dan Levy) opened a gift shop; Johnny (Eugene Levy) became a partner in the motel and Alexis (Annie Murphy) worked for the town veterinarian.
Even though they were conceived as the kind of family most see on reality shows (think: Kardashians), they weren’t above their surroundings. The Roses were forced to move to Schitt’s Creek because it was the last thing they owned.
O’Hara says the Roses didn’t bemoan their situation, either.
“Even though it’s Johnny’s hiring of a business manager that got us into this position, I didn’t want to be harping on him about,” O’Hara says. “We just naturally sort of got into supporting each other. Why fight?”
For the Roses, it was finally a chance to come together as a family. “We had kids but we let them loose because money allowed that,” O’Hara says. “Not until we lived together were we even thinking of being parents and then being examples of what love could really be like.”
Stuck in two motel rooms, the four Roses grew closer to each other and the folks in town. While Moira continued to act like a faded soap star (she lived in hope that she’d be called back to the series), she joined the Jazzagals a cappella group and consulted on the production of “Cabaret.” David helped Jocelyn Schitt dress for success. Johnny urged motel clerk Stevie (Hampshire) to pursue management as a career. They adapted.
Behind the scenes, there was a similar process. O’Hara and Eugene Levy had worked together for years – first on “SCTV,” then on a series of Christopher Guest films. Dan Levy and Annie Murphy were just beginning their relationship as TV brother and sister.
“Before we started shooting our first episode, I sat down with Annie and I sat down with Emily and we talked through the lines that didn’t really feel like they necessarily fit with themselves,” Dan Levy says. “Annie was able to add some of her own impulses and ideas to the part right off the bat.
“In providing space for the actors to feel like they weren’t just coming in and executing someone else’s idea but having ownership of the part from the very beginning was really crucial…and informative to all of us.”
Dan Levy and Murphy found themselves mimicking each other’s mannerisms.
David blossomed as the series progressed, largely because Dan Levy didn’t want to treat queer relationships the way they’d been treated on network television: “’We have to teach a lesson’ or they have to be the butt of the joke,” he says. “For me, it was really important to represent my life, to present my friends, to represent my family, to represent people that I knew. My life is not a lesson to be learned.”
Now, as “Schitt’s Creek” comes to an end, insiders say it taught them many things. Eugene Levy says he learned just how talented his son is; Dan Levy says he realized how important being a decent person is, particularly in a work environment. His father and O’Hara “came into the show with no ego, no attitude” and showed how working together can affect a series. “All you have to do is focus on the success of what you’re doing. That is everything.”
While the final episode will bring many storylines to a close, there’s always the possibility of a “Schitt’s Creek” film.
“I’d be open to anything,” Dan Levy says. “I think the reason we were all so upset when we wrapped the show is that none of us necessarily wanted to end it. I could work with this team of people forever.”
The final episode of "Schitt's Creek" is slated to air April 7.
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