Growing up, Schitt’s Creek co-creator and star Dan Levy sought to do his own thing, never intentionally leaning on comedic legend father Eugene Levy. “I grew up watching SCTV and when I was in high school, the Christopher Guest movies were the coolest thing. But I started up in Canada at MTV where I wanted to build my own brand there,” said the junior Levy at the Friday afternoon panel for Pop’s first scripted series Schitt’s Creek, debuting on Feb. 11. While at MTV Canada, Dan Levy co-hosted MTV Live and co-wrote, produced and hosted The After Show which was a critical hit and spawned various incarnations.
“Whenever I asked if he needed help with anything, he would always say ‘I got it’. I asked, ‘Do you wanna run lines?’ He would say, ‘I got it.’ So, when he came to me to work on the show, my heart was palpitating over it being a father and son project,” exclaimed Eugene Levy.
In Schitt’s Creek, former SCTV alum and Guest cinematic canon buds Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara star as Johnny and Moira Rose. He’s a mult-millionaire, she’s a former soap star. They lose their money and have but no choice to live in a Podunk town that they bought as a joke: Schitt’s Creek, the exact geographic location Dan Levy says, “We’ll never know where it is.” Levy stars as their son, newcomer Annie Murphy as their posh daughter and Chris Elliot as the local yokel who is such a fan of Moira’s work, he asks her to smack him in the face — a trademark the soap star was known for on her show.
In terms of landing Elliot, Eugene Levy told the former Late Night With David Letterman writer and co-star at the panel, “I went through the entire actor’s directory looking for you because no one else was available.” Originally the Levys wanted Elliot for a script reading, but he couldn’t commit. When the actor they chose to perform Elliot’s role paled during a table read, “Eugene called begging me to do the pilot,” said Elliot.
Unlike the Guest movies, which Levy was a co-writer on, Schitt’s Creek isn’t improvised in its entirety and then transferred to script. “We are a totally written show, and we take the script down to the rehearsal floor and there are usually changes — things that we thought worked on the page, but not in the reality of doing the scene with the other actors on the set,” said Eugene Levy.
With the show being produced by UK-based ITV, the Levys are enthralled with the creative freedom they have. “We’ve been left to do the show the way we want to do it; we’re not told by broadcasters to move in one direction or the other,” said Eugene Levy.
When the question was raised about the Levys knocking small town life, the panel went on defense. “We’re not making a joke of it being a small town. It’s like Mayberry. The family is the joke of the town, not the town,” said Eugene Levy.
Added Dan Levy, “The natural inclination was to have the town’s people wonder who the Roses are. The folks in Schitt’s Creek are very open-minded people.” Asked whether Schitt’s Creek resides down the road from Petticoat Junction, Eugene Levy said in his trademark deadpan cadence, “Ahhh, Nope.”
The panel’s conversation concluded on an interesting note with Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara mentioning that sketch comedy is a young person’s game. “My passion for sketch comedy has dissipated throughout the years,” said Eugene Levy who feels completely at home with the 30-minute scripted comedy series he’s working on with his son.
“What excites us is just dong something that has a gravitas like creating a real world with real people and having laughs come out of it, but we’re never going to lose sketch comedy. It’s always going to exist in our work in some form,” added the senior Levy.
Added O’Hara, “Sketch comedy is great to do in your 20s and 30s. It’s a great training ground to learn scene structure. And you’re so opinated at that age about the world, you can just mouth off about anything whereas when you’re older, you control what you say.”