Ahead of the Schitt’s Creek finale, Megan McLachlan chats with Dan Levy and Noah Reid about TV’s “Little Show that Could”, its LGBTQA legacy, and what it’s done for the Pop TV network.
Schitt’s Creek has a familiar premise seen in other fish-out-of-water comedies. It’s a rich family being uprooted from their luxurious surroundings and dropped into a quirky, podunk town—and of course the town changes them for the better.
But Schitt’s Creek is a different kind of show for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it makes fun of both the Roses and the wacky townsfolk, never making it seem like one is better than the other. It’s also a series where a same-sex couple exists and never has to deal with a “Very Special Episode” to address the discrimination they face for loving each other. These qualities, and its comedy with kindness, have made it a Rose unlike any other on television.
Pop TV’s cult darling has gone from having small-town notoriety to making it all the way to the big leagues, with four 2019 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Comedy, Outstanding Comedy Actress (Catherine O’Hara) and Outstanding Comedy Actor (Eugene Levy). That might be thanks in part to a little push from Interflix, I mean, Netflix, which streams past seasons, but it’s still through and through a Pop TV series in its platform and also its big heart, small-budget message.
Before the Schitt’s Creek finale, I had a chance to chat with Dan Levy (David Rose) and Noah Reid (Patrick Brewer) about the end of the series, the biggest challenge the writing room faced, and how series creator Levy hopes the series is received years from now.
Awards Daily: You two have such amazing chemistry. How soon did you know you had that chemistry? Was it in your your initial script readings together?
Noah Reid: Oh, god. We didn’t do a chemistry read at all, did we, Dan?
Dan Levy: Uh, no, we didn’t. I guess you came to the first read-through of that episode (Reid’s first episode — Season 3, Episode 8 “Motel Review”). I think a lot of it was having the ability to control a situation to a certain extent on my part. I wrote a character that I was very clear about in terms of who Patrick was going to be and hopefully what the long-term goal would be for him. And I think in having that kind of clarity in the casting process, it just was very clear to me that Noah was the only option for that. We knew each other socially before that, so I knew there would at least be some kind of familiarity. Although the whole concept of their love story was that they were strangers. So worse comes to worst, we did have that cushion of unfamiliarity to buffer those first few episodes. We were very lucky in the sense that it just worked.
NR: Yeah. I could do this all day. I could listen to you talk about this all day. (Laughs)
AD: This show is groundbreaking for so many reasons, but this was the first time I’d seen a same-sex couple together on TV where you really want them to get together. So many times, TV shows stick same-sex couples together without any chemistry. But you allowed this relationship to blossom and for fans to root for them. You guys are like Ross and Rachel to me, and I think that’s really groundbreaking.
DL: Thanks. It’s both a wonderful thing and a kind of heartbreaking thing, just showing two guys falling in love with each other. I think that just goes to show how much more farther we need to go. It shouldn’t be groundbreaking. It should be commonplace. But I suppose you need to continue to tell these stories, and I’m grateful to be a part of that conversation that has helped to change the way characters are seen on TV in our own small little way.
AD: I think of the show as like The Little Engine that Could. But it has really caught fire. Was there a specific moment where you were like, Whoah, this is bigger than we thought? Personally, I remember seeing Noah’s “Simply the Best” moment trending on Twitter, and I thought, Oh, this show is blowing up.
NR: That was a pretty significant moment for me, for sure. And for someone like me, you’re not following the analytics or the ratings or any of that stuff. You see the stuff online and you’re like, Great, people are watching the show. You don’t really have a sense of how many or who those people are until something like that. All of the sudden it’s like, we’re really into this in a big way. And now that song has become so many people’s wedding “First Dance” songs. I get that message all the time. It’s pretty remarkable. That was a pretty big indicator of where we were at and where we were heading with this one.
AD: What do you think it is about this show that really resonates with fans? It has a premise that we’ve seen on other shows, but this one is different.
DL: Kindness is a very difficult thing to mine comedy in. I think it can go awry very quickly. If you favor the sentimentality of kindness, it can read sometimes a little maudlin. If you try to tell a story about kindness and you’re not actually kind, it reads a little empty. I would say one of the biggest challenges we had as a writing team was constantly balancing the comedy with the emotionality of the show and making sure that any time we had a tender moment or we had a dramatic moment or a moment of gravity or substance, that those moments were earned—and not just earned, but balanced and alleviated by comedy. It never felt too heavy-handed. The great success of the show from a storytelling standpoint for me has been just how we’ve managed to ride that fine line without ever having fallen off it. I think in dark political times, to have a place where people can go that is antithetical to what we see in the news and what we see out our windows every day, a place where people can go and feel safe and supported and encouraged to be better people, it makes sense that people would have an emotional reaction to a show that provides that for them. I certainly know that television has meant a lot to me in the past and has really shaped the way I look at storytelling and people and social dynamics and character studies. For the team, it was really important that we were unwavering in that belief, that this show and this town was going to be be a safe place for people.
AD: Noah, you came into the series later. Did you ever expect Patrick to become such an integral part of the cast when you started, and have his own distinct journey as well?
NR: You never quite know what you’re getting into. It’s such an unpredictable medium that way, television is. When you’re auditioning for something, you don’t have much of a concept of where it’s going and very little information to go on. I don’t think I could have anticipated that it would turn into something so meaningful to so many people. I didn’t put a lot of thought into where it was headed. I think that just makes the reward even sweeter, of where this has gone. Where I am now, I’ve passed three bus-stop ads of us kissing in front of the motel. Knowing what that has meant to so many people, it’s become such a beacon of light. And feeling like I’ve had some sort of small contribution to that, it’s pretty amazing. I think we have a long way to go as a people, but these little moments make it feel like something positive is happening. That’s the sweet spot. It feels pretty incredible to be a part of.
AD: Dan, what has it been like to say goodbye to the series and characters with your real-life father playing your father. Does that make it feel additionally bittersweet to close the chapter on this series?
DL: I mean, I was a bigger mess than I am now. There’s been some distance fortunately for everyone. There hasn’t been a day up until very recently where I haven’t been working on this show. Even when I wasn’t directly working on the show, I was thinking about the show, I was conceptualizing the show, I was figuring out how to promote the show in new and dynamic ways and get people watching. When you spend seven-plus years of your life creating something and really taking every possible creative fiber in your brain and putting it into that, there’s naturally going to be a big hole where that energy would go normally. A lot of that was saying goodbye to the characters and people, but also saying goodbye to a world that originally only existed in my head. I had the great privilege of seeing that imaginary world come to life and exist in the real world. And that to me has been so magical and surreal to experience, and so moving to be a part of, to understand this opportunity that had been given to me and the platform that had been given to me and what the show did with that platform.
It’s overwhelming ultimately to think about all of the different facets of what the show became. But nevertheless, to have that kind of separation, it’s not a loss. The show will magically be around us for the rest of our lives. It’s one of those touchstone career moments. In that way, there’s a lot of comfort. I do think the show has gone far beyond April 7 when it ends. This is a kind of show that might have a long-lasting legacy, the kind of show fans might revisit every couple of years when they’re feeling down. Yes, it’s tremendously bizarre to say goodbye to something like that. The great thing about it is that we’ve all come out of it like a family unit. So I don’t have to worry about not having cast and crew around. We’ve enmeshed ourselves in a way we can’t detangle.
NR: That’s the silver lining of this whole not-going-back-to-work. We’d be going back to work in about two weeks. I’m waiting for that moment in April when I realize we’re not shooting right now.
DL: Although given this whole coronavirus, we would have been in real big trouble. Our show’s budget was so small, I don’t think we would have actually made it through if we would have been hit by this.
NR: There you go. To all the people who are like, Why? Well, we knew the coronavirus was coming. (Laughs)
AD: Do you envision any one-off adventures for the Roses down the road? Why end so soon?
DL: The funny thing is, it’s not that soon. It’s six seasons, 80 episodes of television. The funny thing is is that it really just struck within the last year, so a lot of people, because they just binged it, they feel like the show is quite young. I’m not saying it’s old by any means, but we’ve definitely been around. Eighty episodes of TV is a lot of content. I don’t get a lot of pleasure out of the content that’s quantity over quality. The shows I love gave their all from start to finish. They were specific and thoughtful from the beginning to the very end. I wanted to be a part of the legacy of TV that people want to go back to. If you overstay your welcome, people don’t go back to your show. They get over it and move on. I’d rather be a show that people go back to than a show that expired a little bit and turned people off.
AD: I keep thinking about how this show came along at the perfect time, with a synergy between streaming and social media that really allowed it to grow. There are so many references to “Interflix” this season. Is Moira’s trajectory with the network an homage to the one Schitt’s Creek experienced with Netflix? Sans crows of course?
DL: Oh! No. I didn’t really put that together, but now that you say it.
AD: You’re not a campy movie, of course.
DL: It is quite amazing to piece together the story lines sometimes. Sometimes we end up writing things that are subconscious. Maybe in a way it was a nice nod to that extra streaming platform that helped us. But I think the beautiful thing with Pop TV is that they had given us this start many years before Netflix. The great story is that while Netflix has definitely helped us, another great story that should be getting told is how the show along with Pop helped put a small network on the map. I like the fact that we’ve been able to help lift a smaller network and allow it the platform to acquire other shows like One Day at a Time. It’s continuing this legacy of positive, socially-conscious TV. That to me has been a really special thing, too.
Schitt’s Creek seasons 1-5 are streaming on Netflix. The Schitt’s Creek finale airs on April 7 at 9 p.m. on Pop TV.