Last week’s premiere of Schitt’s Creek attracted an impressive 1.36 million viewers justifying the CBC’s early second season renewal of the comedy series. Created by Eugene Levy (SCTV) and son Daniel Levy (The After Show), Schitt’s Creek depicts the story of the once-wealthy Rose family who must relocate to a small town after the government ceases their belongings. The project reunites Eugene Levy with Catherine O’Hara (who plays his wife, a former soap star) while Daniel Levy plays their son, David, and newcomer Annie Murphy plays their daughter Alexis.
Tonight, CBC will debut a new web series to act as a companion piece to the show. A smart move, considering Schitt’s Creek has had more online views than any other CBC comedy according to The Toronto Star.
The TV Watercooler caught up with Dan Levy to discuss working with his father, his character’s relationship with Emily Hampshire’s Stevie and whether or not he based his character off of any of the spoiled kids he encountered while watching The Hills.
You spent years watching the spoiled and entitled on Laguna Beach and The Hills, now you’re playing one! Did you call back to those experiences when creating David Rose?
You know what? I didn’t even put that together. Maybe it seeped in subconsciously? I think when we started to write this character, it sort of just came out in the room. It wasn’t really based on anything that I had seen, but I guess I could definitely imagine some of those characters responding the way mine does – finding themselves down and out… and broke in a dirty motel!
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that Lauren Conrad would fair too well in a scuzzy motel!
Congratulations on the second season pickup! That was quick.
Thank you very much.
Looks like there’s a lot confidence from the network. They also slotted the premiere against New Girl and The Mindy Project – two comedies that would appeal to the same audience as your show. Do you think timeslots actually matter in 2015?
I think that watching television is such a multi-platform experience now. We hope people tune in, but the beauty of television now is that you can get it on so many different platforms. Especially with all these recording systems where we can program our shows —there are so many amazing shows on TV that we can’t simply watch them all at once. I think it’s such an amazing time for TV. But I do hope that people watch live. It’s been amazing to read all the tweets of everybody letting me know that they’ve set their PVRs and they are ready to record Schitt’s Creek every week. It’s cool.
You guys are also doing a web series to go along with the show, correct?
Yes — so we have 90-second additional pieces that will run after the episode airs that will be available at CBC.ca. It’ll give the viewers a little more insight into the episode that they just watched. I’m very happy about them. I think they turned out very well.
What can you tell us about the creation process behind the show?
I think I was watching some reality television at the time… I can’t remember what it was exactly, but I remember being just so aware of how much we know about how wealthy people live their lives. Whether it’s the Real Housewives franchise or the Kardashians. Culturally, we’re just so aware and there was something about it that was just so interesting to explore the idea where if one of these families were to lose their money and focus in on that family – Is the family dynamic strong enough to survive it? And if it’s not, how do you go back and rebuild a family that has relieved so heavily on money to solve its problems.
What was it like getting Catherine O’Hara involved? You’ve known her growing up…
Yeah, she’s very particular about what she wants to do. We were very lucky that she responded that she responded to the material that we gave her and that she was interested in the show. It’s a pretty amazing cast that we’ve put together. Chris Elliott (who plays the mayor) is so amazing… Annie Murphy is so talented. She’s such a find. I can’t wait for people to really pay attention to her.
The location of this town is a bit vague. Is it set in Canada on the United States?
It’s a Canadian production. In terms of the town, all that the show ever focuses on is the town itself. This was to really focus in on the claustrophobia and what it would be like for a family to lose their money. We’ve got all these small towns across Canada, so by not necessarily giving it a geographical location, you can have people all across Canada feel that this could be a small town in their backyard.
Schitt’s Creek is a long way from Little Mosque on the Prairie. The show’s edgy for the CBC. How much creative control did you get to keep?
It’s been amazing. It’s what really hooked us with the CBC. First off, it was their enthusiasm. They really loved the project from the beginning. They really got behind what we wanted to make. I think that a lot of times you hear about people who have created television shows where there are too many cooks in the kitchen where you’ve got a network executive giving you notes that you don’t necessarily agree with and then the show gets watered down. Suddenly, the TV show that goes on air isn’t necessarily the TV show that was pitched in the first place.
The CBC has given us free range to create the show that we wanted to make and I feel that we’ve done exactly what we set out to do. We’re thrilled that they have the confidence in us to give us that freedom. I hope it pays off!
How has it been like collaborating with your dad? Has it been easy to separate the home life and the set life?
Yeah… We’ve been working on this now for two years and we’re still alive! [Laughs] So, we’ve made it through. It’s been really fun and it helps in a professional sense to have that comfort level with someone that you are working with. Just in terms of if something is a good idea or a bad idea. It’s not like working with a stranger, where you’d have to be polite about it… You can come right out and say [what you need to say]. It saves a lot of production time, actually! Just in the decision-making process, being comfortable enough to say yes or no.
What do you think you’ve learned the most from your dad since working on this project? Has your perception of your father changed
Absolutely. The experience has been a dream come true for me. I’ve learned a thousand and one things. Taking his lead, he’s such a professional that everything that I can do is just to keep in line with how he works. Being in a position where we’re in charge of a large group of people, I very much look to him in terms of how to manage this and it was great. We had such a blast.
We were very fortunate to have an amazing team of great Canadian talent, including on the production side. It’s a Canadian crew. It’s a Canadian cast. We’re proud to have shot it here in Canada.
What are some of the biggest similarities and contrasts between Dan and David? How much of yourself is in this character?
I think that David can get away with saying things to people that I would never dare. He’s a little bit more blunt than I am. I think that I would have a slightly better time handling myself in that situation. I think I’m a little more reasonable.
You wouldn’t be ordering ice cream from Paris?
I don’t think so! I know how a credit card works.
He’s way less capable than I am… I hope! But then again, you could ask some of my friends and they’d argue otherwise.
Former MuchMusic VJ Amanda Walsh has penned the fifth episode. Are there any more familiar names that have helped write or that will appear on this season?
Amanda is a great actress and she’s a really talented writer. Vera Sanataria (Degrassi, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Up All Night) who is on the team in the first season is a fantastic Canadian writer. She’s been very successful in the United States and recommended Amanda. I had known her [Amanda] very briefly and then had obviously been a fan of her’s on MuchMusic. She came in and met with us and it was a very fun fit.
It’s cool! It’s a small world, huh? To see where people go from MuchMusic and MTV Canada.
As the episodes go on, they’ll be a friendship forming between David and Stevie (Emily Hampshire)… Could there be something more? David’s sexuality hasn’t exactly been made clear – is this intentional? The friendship between David and Stevie looks seems to become genuine.
Thank you very much. I appreciate that. To your point, that is explored throughout the first season. I don’t want to tip it, but we definitely dance around it. We play with it. Emily is so good! She’s so great in it and she and I have the best time playing these characters because as different as Stevie and David are, they are really similar. I think that’s what intrigues David off the bat. He’s like, who is this girl? Why does she have such a sharp tongue? There’s something about her that is appealing to her. There’s a lot that will be explored in the first 13 episodes of the show.
Schitt’s Creek airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBC.