"We found our footing tonally quite early on, and I attribute a lot of it to the cast," said Dan Levy, who co-created of Schitt's Creek with his father, Eugene. "You're lucky if you're able to find your footing in terms of people finding their characters within the first season or the first two seasons. And I really feel like looking back at that first season, our cast was so strong right off the bat. These characters were so real and lived in from the very first episode. So I feel like, in a way, our lovely cast has set the tone from day one."
"As much as we script the show, as much as we lay out a foundation for the show, there is always room for better ideas. There's always room for collaboration. And I think that really adds the personal, sort of intangible magic to the show, because everyone has a stake in it," Dan Levy said of the collaboration process. "So in terms of writing, we can only take credit for so much, because a lot of it also comes from our lovely cast. And I think that's what makes it work. I think always leaving the door a little ajar for a better idea is helpful."
Moira Rose's iconic pronunciation of the word baby -- or in Moira's world, bebe -- may now be one of Catherine O'Hara's character's catchphrases, but it came about almost entirely by accident. "I think the first time I [said baby] it was kind of by mistake, or just goofing around, and then a few people laughed, and it made me happy to say it that way. So yeah, I just stuck with it," the actress said.
"I've always sort of approached David as if all social cues and norms were taken away from the day-to-day existence. Like, if you could just physically react to irritants in the way that you really wanted to, what would your face look like? How would your body language be?" Dan Levy explained. "So that's really where he came from. And now he's starting to slowly infiltrate my actual life, because now I've been asked on multiple occasions by people why my face is looking like I'm so upset in the middle of a conversation, and I realize that I'm showing it more than I did before I met David. So he's gotten me in some trouble."
Alexis' animated wrist and hand acting was something Annie Murphy decided on after she was inspired by the way socialites tend to carry their handbags daintily slung over their upturned wrist. "And so one night I was like, 'What if there was no handbag?'" Murphy recalled. "And I just flipped my wrist over and added another wrist to the mix, and then just kind of ended up with this pathetic little situation, which stuck."
While the joy the cast gets from working with each other is obvious, there is one aspect of the job that doesn't seem to be on the top of anyone's lists: table reads. "There's a weird aura about table reads, no matter whether it's our show or any show," Eugene Levy said. "Our show is not a jokey show, but there are a lot of laughs in the show. But it's just hard. You really want to see it on its feet. It's hard to sit around a table and just get the gist of what the thing is supposed to be about."
Since Schitt's Creek premiered in winter 2015, it has provided viewers with a much-needed embrace of warmth, empathy, and kindness in an increasingly divisive cultural landscape. "I think we might've been living in a falsely safe state [before], where we didn't acknowledge a lot of negativity," said Catherine O'Hara. "But I think if you do acknowledge the negative, it allows you to really embrace the positive, too, and to go stronger. ... Now there is dark, and we're going really light, too, because it's just as strong, and it's more powerful, ultimately. And it's worth fighting for."
When developing Schitt's Creek, in which he plays a pansexual character engaged to a gay man (Noah Reid's Patrick), Dan Levy decided to make the show a world free of homophobia in the hopes that it would one day reflect the world as it was, and not just as it should be. "In a way, gay people, queer people have been so accustomed to seeing queer love stories met with tragedy, that to put out the idea that this love story would be nothing but a love story, and that we were not going to show the other side -- we were not going to fan the flames of anyone that would question it -- there's a safety, I think, for people," Dan explained. "By creating that safe space, it's allowed people to really feel joy and feel seen, and the response to it has been completely overwhelming,"
While every member of the Rose family has grown throughout the series, there are two moments that stick out to Annie Murphy as the biggest turning points in Alexis' journey. "The point where she rid herself of her attachment to men and pursued her high school education and then college education," Murphy said. "And then on the flip side, I think when Alexis goes in and admits to Ted that she's in love with him. I think that was a big turning point, too, because I don't think that she had ever genuinely felt love before and then confessed it to someone else."
As much has been said about the show's more heartwarming moments -- including Patrick's (Noah Reid) tearjerker Tina Turner serenade -- Schitt's Creek never loses its humor during even the most emotional scenes. "In writing the show, in writing particularly the more sentimental scenes, we always make sure that, as safe as it might feel for these characters, there's always something, whether it's at the beginning, middle or end, that really undercuts the sentimentality with something a little more acidic. And as celebrated as each of these characters are, they're also completely undercut at all costs," Dan Levy said.
Annie Murphy, whose prior credits include episodes of Rookie Blue and Blue Mountain State, said that she's learned a lot from working alongside comedy veterans Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara. "I think what [Dan] and I took from watching Eugene and Catherine work is that as professional as they are all the time, they have this incredible sense of fun," Murphy said. "They're still having so much fun working and trying things and playing around. And I think [Dan] and I benefited from that."
"I absolutely keep learning, or try to keep learning from Eugene," Catherine O'Hara said of her 40-year collaboration with Eugene Levy. "He's professional, he's a gentleman, he's a great writer, he's hilarious, and he keeps giving me jobs, which is really nice of him. I appreciate it."
After Schitt's Creek's first three seasons hit Netflix in 2017, the show's audience quickly started to grow. "We've always had a very passionate fan base to our show, and that just seems to have grown by leaps and bounds in the last year or so. And it's just been really incredible," Eugene Levy said.
While the entire cast is humbled by the show's recent Emmy nominations, including for Best Comedy and acting nods for Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy, "At the same time, we think we should win," O'Hara joked. "I remember Harry Shearer on For Your Consideration, said, 'Well, by the time you've gotten dressed up and you're in a car on the way there you think, well I might as well win.'"
"Usually shows don't get their first Emmy in the fifth season. Usually you're just lucky to be on air by the fifth season. It's truly extraordinary," said Dan Levy, adding how unlikely it is for a show of Schitt's Creek's size to gain the TV Academy's attention. "So to not just get a nomination, but to get four nominations is truly extraordinary. And I think we were all completely stunned, along with some people in Hollywood. I remember reading an article somewhere being like, 'I guess, sure, yeah, wonderful.' And I'm like, 'First of all, that's fine for me to think. Not for you to say.'"
With the show's final season approaching, Dan Levy is grateful to have written nearly all of Schitt's Creek's swan song prior to the increased attention it's gained over the past year. "I knew that we were ending it. I knew how we were ending it. And we had broken most of the season before all of this came to be," Dan said. "So I count my lucky stars that we had thought about this long before the razzle dazzle of Hollywood. I'm glad that we are ending the show with the same kind of purity that we started it with."