Simply the best: 7 things we learned from the Schitt's Creek documentary
How do you sum up what a show like Schitt's Creek means to people in the span of an hour? That was the challenge at hand for director Amy Segal.
Having produced the Schitt's Creek web series, which featured roundtable chats with the cast as the final season aired on TV, Segal put together a documentary special in tribute to the show that changed hearts, minds, and the television landscape as we know it. Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt's Creek Farewell aired on Pop TV directly after the series finale. With it came as many tears and laughs as the show itself.
Featuring interviews with series creators Dan and Eugene Levy, and their fellow cast members Catherine O'Hara, Annie Murphy, Emily Hampshire, Noah Reid, and Dustin Milligan, the doc offered viewers a rare look inside the making of the show, revealing never-before-seen footage from the set, from inside wardrobes, from audition tapes, even from that unaired pilot presentation.
Here are some of the highlights.
Eugene Levy wasn't sure if his son could handle a scripted comedy
Dan, one day, went to his dad, the star of films like Best in Show and American Pie, to see if they could work together on a show about "what it would look like for a wealthy family to lose their money." That set Eugene's "heart to palpitating."
"What would happen on camera was still a bit of an unknown," he said of Dan in the documentary. Before Schitt's Creek, Dan was one of the original hosts of MTV Live for MTV Canada, where he went on to host multiple incarnations of The After Show, including one for The Hills. "I'd certainly seen him on MTV," Eugene continued. "I knew that he was great on camera, he had a great presence, but could he handle a scripted half-hour comedy? I still didn't know."
All Eugene knew at the time was that Dan wanted Schitt's Creek to have "the same sensibility" that screenwriter Christopher Guest and Eugene had in their movies, including A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration. "Good character-based comedy, good grounded stuff," Eugene explained. "He wanted an emotional investment in the characters."
Cut to now and Eugene still finds himself in tears over saying goodbye to the show that came out of their partnership.
A glimpse at the pilot presentation
Dan and Eugene shot a 15-minute pilot to present to networks for pickup. O'Hara was always Eugene's "first choice" for various projects, and she conditionally agreed to do the short. "It's just 15 minutes and even if it sells, I won't bug you about doing the role," the actress remembered of that conversation.
Snippets of the presentation are revealed in the documentary, including a version of David, donning a black scarf and glasses, being led about town by Twyla, played by Dan's sister Sarah Levy. But this was a different version of Twyla. With glasses and a small pink bow in her hair, Sarah described her as "very nerdy and introverted, and there was a sadness to her," totally unlike the "sunnier" version we now know. The doc shows Twyla explaining what the Lucky Nail manicure salon is to David.
The pilot, of course, sold to CBC Television in Canada, and the Levys had to go back to O'Hara. They started by taking it "one year at a time, and if it's not gonna work, it's not gonna work," Dan said. "She said yes, and the rest is history."
Before she became a little bit Alexis, Murphy was just a hopeful actress hustling during pilot season in Los Angeles, looking for a job. And now there's footage of exactly what we're talking about through glimpses at the main cast's audition tapes for Schitt's Creek.
As Dan described, "Annie came in and she wasn't really made up and she had a bun in her hair and she walked in with this casual nonchalance. And I called up dad after the audition and I said, 'I think we have something here.'"
Best Wishes, Warmest Regards also brings viewers into the camera testing phase, where Murphy tested opposite Tim Rozon, who played Mutt. The pair acted out the scene wherein Alexis arrives at Mutt's doorstep and realizes he's dating Twyla.
"I was in L.A. for pilot season and things leading up to that point had not bee going great," Murphy recalled. "I hadn't worked in over two years. The universe was really screaming in my ear, 'This is not for you!' Literally the next day, I got an email for an audition for a show called Schitt's Creek."
Hampshire laughed when she remembered her audition. She described a moment where she found herself "rotary dialing an imaginary phone." Yes, there's footage of that in the documentary, too.
Inside Moira's wardrobe
Moira's wigs and wardrobe are characters on the show, as well. And the documentary pays tribute to them by taking us inside O'Hara's dressing room and wardrobe fittings.
Dan always wanted to have actual designer pieces in the show, not just for character reasons, but so the fashion world could recognize call-outs. The wigs, however, weren't in the script initially. That was O'Hara. "I just asked if I could wear all kinds of wigs depending on how I'm feeling," she said. "It works for fashion reasons, it works for hiding or revealing what what I'm feeling. It works as a protective helmet."
A wardrobe fitting in the documentary shows how they chose one of Moira's looks: how O'Hara walks out in a glittery tassel dress at the start and ends up in something else by the end. As Dan said, "We as people say so much about who we are and what we believe in and what we want and what we think of ourselves by the way we dress." And Moira's outfits scream, "Look at me, bebes!"
Cameron Crowe, Schitt's Creek super fan
The documentary assembled a number of celebrity fans of the show, including Will Arnett, Carol Burnett, and Paula Abdul. A surprise addition was Cameron Crowe. Who knew the director behind films like Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, and Jerry Maguire was a Schitt stan?
"It kind of feels like the show has built [itself] in the perfect way," Crowe said at one point of the grassroots evolution of the show. "Nothing happened too soon, and the love that started to come in was really well earned."
Later, he remarked, "Every line's classic. It's so well written, but they take the time to give you the moments between the lines, too, and that's good."
More gushing from Crowe here: "Schitt's Creek is joy. It's the easiest thing to take for granted and the hardest thing to get right... I think time is gonna be very, very good to this show. It already has been. Just wish it would go longer."
Night of 1,000 Moiras
One evening at the Trade gay bar in Washington, Dan, Murphy, Hampshire, and Reid witnessed a "Night of 1,000 Moiras" when attendees dressed in their favorite Moira drag in celebration of the newly minted gay icon. The show delivered many watershed moments for LGBTQ storylines on television over the years, and the cast saw firsthand that impact on viewers.
Figure skater Johnny Weir, another celeb fan of the show, believes the community latched onto Schitt's Creek because the presence of LGBTQ characters "isn't questioned, it isn't a big deal, and that's what makes it so great."
"Writing David as a queer character was just something that I wanted to do," Dan said. "I didn't do it to make a political statement. It's just who he was in my head, and I was shocked by how novel it seemed to people."
In addition to the Moiras, the cast and crew relayed stories they heard from various viewers, like how one watcher came out to his family using David's "I like the wine and not the label" line from season 1, or a letter Reid read aloud to the cast from a group of moms with LGBTQ kids that brought everyone to tears.
"We're not teaching [the audience] a lesson," Dan clarified. "We're showing them what life could be like."
The cast were in tears during the final table read
From the first table read for the final season, the cast were shedding tears for the characters they were planning to send off.
Dan had a lot of trouble reading through David's vows from the wedding episode. As he got to the part where he says, "I've never felt love like I do when we're together," the emotion became too much. "I can't read it," he exclaimed through tears. Looking around the table, he realized just about everyone was in tears, as well.
"We don't watch each other shoot every scene," O'Hara said of that moment. "But in the table read, when you read the script, you're there to watch every character do their scene. That was killer."
Perhaps none was more killer than when the final line of the script was read aloud for the room and everyone applauded: "We watch the car continue down the road and into the distance. End of series."