“I’m a terrible drinker,” corrects the writer and actor, who can be seen in Entertainment Weekly‘s LGBTQ special issue. “I order cosmos. I mix and match. I don’t know what goes with what. Everyone says, ‘You can’t drink wine and liquor.’ I do…within reason, obviously.”
Doing things within reason isn’t something Schitt’s Creek fans are used to seeing from Levy. The 35-year-old co-created and stars on the CBC/Pop TV series, which centers on the ridiculously wealthy, cosmopolitan Rose family—businessman Johnny (co-creator and Levy’s father, Eugene Levy); former soap star Moira (Catherine O’Hara); and their socialite kids, David (Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy)—who lose their fortune and move to the small town of Schitt’s Creek.
Sliding into a booth at the Black Cat, his favorite spot in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood, Levy discusses writing David as pansexual, why he’s ending the series after next year’s season 6, and what it was like being raised by his American Pie dad—all over a trio of seemingly mismatched cocktails. (A Negroni, a Moscow Mule, and a whiskey on the rocks, to be exact.)
Where did you get the idea for Schitt’s Creek?
Honestly, and this is the drink kicking in, it came from being a terrible auditioner. I’d been working at MTV [in Canada as a host of The Hills’ after-show and others] for about seven years and came to L.A. to try and act. I’ve always been a pretty ambitious person and thought, “If I’m not going to get [a job] in an audition room, I’m going to get it a different way.” So I started to brainstorm ideas for a television show. I had avoided going to my dad for help over the course of my short career out of fear of the nepotism headline. But I felt like this premise had to be explored through a comedic lens that was slightly more specialized, the kind he and Christopher Guest had done writing the mockumentaries [like 2000’s Best in Show]. We started to explore the show and very quickly realized there was something there we wanted to say.
Where did the title come from?
The name came from my dad, who’d had a very funny conversation with one of his friends. I think it was one of those boozy conversations you have over a dinner where they started talking about a town where there would be, like, Schitt Hardware and Schitt whatever it is. And he thought, “What if [the Roses] bought the town because of its funny, terrible name?” And that really stuck with us. A lot of networks were suggesting, “Why don’t you change it to Up a Creek?” or other plays on the name, but that was never really what we wanted.
You identify as a gay man but decided your character would identify as pansexual. Why was that important to you?
When you break down a character, certain things just appear. And there’s something exciting about exploring things that haven’t necessarily been represented on television before. But I knew we never wanted it to be a “teachable moment.” We made a conscious choice that his sexuality would never be in danger—that the town was going to be completely accepting of everybody. I wanted to show a projection of our own world that was kinder, show how much people can grow and the capacity with which people can love when they are not fearing for their lives. We never really tackle politics on the show, but in a way, that was the political stand I took.
What fan feedback do you get about David’s relationship with Patrick [Noah Reid]?
A lot of straight people have told me they were surprised to realize they had certain beliefs that they now see, by way of watching the show, were not good or helpful or constructive. But getting to interact with my [LGBTQ] community—and hear how the show has made a positive impact or changed the conversation with their family—has been remarkable. I’m proud that we’ve put something out into the world that seems to be effecting change in a good way.
The show has been on CBC and Pop TV since 2015, and in 2017 past seasons became available on Netflix. When did you realize the show’s fandom was reaching a fever pitch?
I guess it was this year, or maybe around season 4 [in 2018]. The show has been well-known in Canada for some time, but it’s only been in the last little while that I’ve been walking down the street in the U.S. and people have come up and said either “I love your show” or “Thank you.” I never know what to say. “Um…you’re welcome?” But, I think because we’re Canadian, it all comes with a grain of salt and we all know it could go away tomorrow. We’re still just that little team up in Canada just trying to get a show made.
So why make season 6 the end?
I had always known that that was the case. In fact, I had thought it was going to be five. Then we were given the opportunity to do two more seasons, and I thought, “Okay, I can tell the end of this story in 28 episodes.” I feel really confident that we’ve really mined everything we could. But the world doesn’t explode at the end of it. If there is something that comes up down the line that feels compelling enough to bring our troupe back together and continue to tell a story, so be it. I’m not one to lay down the iron fist and say, “This is it forever.” This is just it for now.
What’s your craziest fan experience?
I love how much drag culture has embraced Moira Rose. We did a live show in Washington and a local bar had this night called “The Night of a Thousand Moiras.” They were all going to see us live and had shown up in drag as Moira. We ended up surprising them and guest-judging their drag show. That was really fun.
And you have some celebrity fans.
You get Carol Burnett saying she’s binge-watching your show and that she loves it; if I do nothing else in this life, I’ve done something right. And Mariah Carey has tweeted [about the show]. I mean, I had posters of her on my walls in high school. It’s wild.
You’ve said you’re not a baker, so why sign on to host the first two seasons of The Great Canadian Baking Show?
I was in the thick of binging The Great British Baking Show and I tweeted and said, “If it ever comes to Canada, I would love to throw my hat in the ring as a host.” And then I woke up the next morning to 50 text messages and emails saying “It is coming to Canada, would you like to host it?” And then two weeks later, I had signed on. I’m not doing [the upcoming third season] because we couldn’t make it work with my schedule, but I love the purity to the show. Everyone’s competing for a cake plate. The simplicity of that was so wonderful that I wanted to be a part of it.
What was it like growing up with a father who became America’s dad with 1999’s American Pie?
I wish I was more confident back then because I really would’ve owned it, but I was insecure and I didn’t like the attention. I was dressed to go to the premiere of American Pie and a friend of mine had seen a sneak preview and was like, “Do not see that with your parents.” And I backed out. Having that movie come out while I was in high school, I got a lot of idiots saying, “Ooh. Is that a story about your life?” And in my mind, I was like, “I would kill to have a life that’s interesting enough to turn into a movie. No, thank you… and no, I didn’t f— a pie.”
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