Daniel Levy has spent a lot of time pacing around his house. The co-creator, star, writer and director of Schitt's Creek has anxiously awaited the premiere of the series finale for his show, his baby.
"All I've been doing is pacing around my house with, like, bated breath waiting for people to see it and hoping that people like it," Levy told E! News.
In place of traditional series final fanfare, Levy and the Schitt's Creek team are raising money, and as of press time, Schitt's Creek Gives Back has raised more than $190,000 for Food Banks Canada and Feeding America. Levy called the fundraiser, which has surpassed the original goal "a great send off for the show" and a testament to the fans.
"You know, I think that the beauty of the show is that it's never been bigger than it is, and it's quite telling that the last episode is airing without fanfare that had been originally planned for it. We were supposed to have big events, we were supposed to go and talk shows. Obviously, none of that's happening. What stood in its place now is a fundraiser that's raised a substantial amount of money for people. So, it feels, in a way, so right. The show was never intended to be a success, so to go out with people in their homes craving, comfort and joy, it just feels very right," he said.
Schitt's Creek was always the little show that could—until it did. Over the years, it saw a steady increase in popularity thanks in part to streaming on Netflix. In its fifth season, the show broke through at the Emmys with nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Catherine O'Hara, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Eugene Levy and Outstanding Contemporary Costumes, and entered its sixth and final season with more eyeballs on it than ever before, something Levy was well aware of for the first time.
Below, Levy gets candid about the show, its impact on fans and the touching series finale callbacks.
Let's start broad: Did you accomplish everything you wanted to with the show?
I think I accomplished more than I ever set out to with this show. I don't ever think you can anticipate the kind of relationship that this show has formed with its fans and the kind of philosophy that it seems to have ignited in people in terms of just spreading kindness and love and joy. It's far surpassed any of our expectations in that regard. And then in terms of the storytelling, I had visions of what I wanted the finale to be. And then as we were shooting it, I just kept being hit with these waves of emotion because it was so much greater and so much more meaningful than I could have ever hoped. I think that's all you can, can wish for when it comes to just making those choices on how you want to end something. You know, it's a daunting task. [Laughs.]…It's a particularly daunting task when you've never had the pressure of people watching your show before and suddenly in this last season it felt like more people were watching than ever before, so to really disregard any expectation and continue to focus on what was really going to services our characters and our show and cast out the weight of the expectations of people and press and all those things that come with people suddenly watching your show. But no, I was so thrilled with it all and I feel very content.
I'm still pacing, [Laughs.] waiting for the episode to air and waiting for people to see it and hoping that people like it because I think in the past...we really made an active choice not to listen to the fans, not in a negative way, but rather I think the minute you start making a show that is aware of your fanbase, the minute it stops being your show. It starts being something else. So, this last season was probably the first time that we obviously had to consider what would make fans feel satiated. What would make fans feel like they got everything they possibly could out of the show, while at the same time, hopefully proposing some other ideas that they didn't see coming? It was a daunting task, but I knew when we were shooting that wedding that there was magic in the air. And that sort of gave me a sense of calm, because there was something so special about that day. I knew that in order to create that kind of energy in the air, the pieces were in the right place.
Have you been able to take stock and look back, at what you accomplished with the show and how it touched audiences?
I don't think I've taken, like, a conscious step back and thought about it because I feel like...it's never been really about me. It's been about proposing an idea and seeing that idea catch fire with our audience. So from time to time when I am told that, that people have written things… those are the moments when I get to stop and realize the impact that the show has had on people, but I just don't think it's very helpful to be too aware...Then you're flirting with a strange sense of, like, self-entitlement. [Laughs.] It's like, you know, "I took an afternoon to think about my impact." No, that is not the vibe. Maybe it's the Canadian in me. But do your work, and if good comes from it, that's great. I don't think you can be too aware of the good because it's not necessarily all me, it's other people. It's a collection of people. It's a team of people that I couldn't possibly take credit for.
So, I am very proud of the impact that the show has had in terms of the work that our team has put into it. That's been really amazing. I think to get to sit back and watch the success of our actors and seeing cast members on our show getting recognized on the street and hearing from fans about their thoughts on the hair and makeup departments and the costumes and the production design. That to me has been the most rewarding, outside of just the lives that have been touched by the show, is getting to watch a group of people be celebrated on the world stage and be really proud of them for the work that they did because this team was dealing with a very small budget. They managed to take the first seven seconds of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's budget and turn it into something that has really meant things to people. And that only comes when people are giving 110 percent of their time and energy. So, yeah, it's been very emotional for me over this past year, as I'm sure most of my cast members will attest to.
The finale had so many emotional moments, like Alexis booping everyone on the nose to show her affection, but it didn't linger in sentimentally for too long. That's always been one of the show's strong points. How do you achieve that balance?
You put together a really f--king stellar cast, that's what you do. I can't speak more highly of a cast than I have this of this show. You know, that was Annie. I'd love to say that we've scripted all of that, but so much of the details and the dimension of the show come from the impulses of the actors and also come from the freedom that they were allowed, as they should be, to explore who they are as characters, both in terms of dialogue and who they are as physical beings...When Annie [Murphy] asked if she could write "A Little Bit Alexis," we said, yes. It's why I asked Noah [Reid], "Do you want to take a stab at interpreting ‘The Best'? Or do you want us to bring someone in?" I think it's so important to trust and put value in your actors. And I think that has paid off as a whole in such magical ways. So, yeah, I think a lot of those details are impulses that the cast had. And that's why there's such a warmth to the show because it really is a team effort.
Was it easier to do the goodbyes in character because you were also saying goodbye in real life?
It was harder because you're not only saying goodbye to the people in your life, although most of them I will have as friends and friend-family for the rest of my life, but you're also saying goodbye to your own character, and you're stepping out of the shoes that you have laced up for years. And that, I think, was what caught a lot of us off guard as well, just the poignancy of saying goodbye to the people that you have inhabited for six years. So, yeah, the wedding was an intensely emotional scene to shoot. And it took an entire day and it was our last day on our sets. So we were not only saying goodbye to each other, celebrating David and Patrick, but we were also saying goodbye to the Rosebud Motel sets, we were saying goodbye to the Cafe Tropical set, we were saying goodbye to the town hall set in the most celebratory way, which I think made it all the more special.
How long did you know what the ending would be, the reveal of the town sign now featuring the Rose family?
Yeah, it's been around for a while. We thought what a great way to end it and what a symbolic sort of representation of the fact that this family will have always left a mark on this town. It just felt so right. And I think from a storytelling standpoint, it just adds that Schitt's Creek little bit of humor that sort of undercuts the emotionality of a moment. So, it was important that we have a little laugh right as we as we go out.
When I heard the Jazzagals start singing "The Best"…and then to have Patrick sing to David, something that would've mortified him at the beginning of the series, it was all beautiful.
I think a lot of that last episode was looking back and connecting the dots between the first episode and the last, between who these characters were and who they became. And I think that's why we had Alexis saying I love you to everybody. She was a character in the very first episode who was willing to get on a helicopter and abandon her family [Laughs.] in the town. And now she is the one proclaiming her love to everybody throughout the whole episode. And then obviously, the little Mariah Carey moment in the vows was just felt so right. And the Jazzagals calling back to "The Best" and then also "Precious Love," which was playing in the barn at the end of season two...So, those little callbacks, we had a long list of details that we would be interested in, as a writing team, of revisiting and we tried as best we could to sort of give little winks and nods to the details of the show without obviously making it too heavy handed. The idea that the entire town came together to save their wedding just felt so symbolic of what this town did for the family.
I asked Annie and Catherine this, so it's your turn: Did you do anything special to say goodbye to David Rose?
Well, we have a tradition with the show of I bring an expensive bottle of champagne into the wardrobe truck and we gather cast and crew, whoever is around at the time, and we pop a bottle of champagne and have a cry and reminisce. We did that on our last day and it was great and then I went with Noah and Andrew Cividino who was co-directing the episode with me. We went to a bar at the very end of the day and had some drinks and a toast and it all felt very right.
Was anybody's final line hardest to nail down?
No, because I think all of our final lines were, 'I love you.' So, I couldn't imagine it being anything else. And then my dad's last line being, 'We're ready,' felt so—it spoke to the show in such a specific way.