- 25 Dec 20
As part of the The 12 Interviews of Xmas, we're looking back at some of our classic interviews of 2020. Schitt’s Creek was the most talked-about show of the year, sweeping up awards and winning the hearts of viewers worldwide – so naturally we had to sit down with some of the show's key players. If you’re just joining: welcome to the family.
"Rich family goes bankrupt and are forced to move to a town they once purchased as a joke” is one hell of an elevator pitch, but anyone who has been following Schitt’s Creek since the first season aired on the CBC in 2015 will know that the show grew into itself. Often called ‘the little show that could’ by us die-hards, it went from low-budget Canadian production to the first-ever Canadian series to win Best Comedy at the 2020 Emmy awards.
The series follows the Rose family: Johnny (Eugene Levy), Moira (Catherine O’Hara), David (Daniel Levy), and Alexis (Annie Murphy). The pilot episode sees the filthy rich and Kardashian-esque Roses ousted from their tacky mansion and dumped unceremoniously into a roadside motel in a town called Schitt’s Creek, the only thing the revenue agency deems worthless enough for the family to keep. The Roses at first merely survive in their newfound dwellings, getting begrudgingly by while dealing with Schitt’s Creek’s clueless and unkempt mayor, Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott). Along the way, though, the town and its population creep under their skin, and show them that money isn’t everything.
“It’s good pandemic viewing,” says Noah Reid of the show, which has been trending consistently in Netflix’s Top Ten here in Ireland since the beginning of lockdown.
“Definitely having that pat on the back from the industry and then the Emmys is pretty massive for the show, and its legacy. It was sort of a perfect send-off to what has been an amazing six seasons. I’m very proud of it, and certainly as a Canadian very proud to see it breaking all the records. It’s nice to be able to show the world that we have cultural contributions of our own.”
Reid plays Patrick, boyfriend (and later husband) of David Rose (Daniel Levy). The actors have been widely praised for their superb portrayal of a successful and healthy LGBTQ relationship. In one of the show’s more emotional episodes, Patrick sings a heartwarmingly tender version of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ to David. Reid – a musician himself – arranged the cover, and it skyrocketed to popularity.
“I played my album release show at Burdock in Toronto, when we had just finished shooting season 3. Dan (Levy) came to the show, and I’m sure some wheels started spinning in his head as to how music could be incorporated into the series, so he wrote the open mic episode and let me have a pass at interpreting that song. He had a theory that it could be a powerful acoustic ballad, because it’s such a pop anthem but the lyrics are so tender and genuine.”
The scene helped put the show – and Levy and Reid’s fictional coupling – on the map. The final season went on to win seven Emmys, four of them in major categories.
“When I heard that they had been nominated for so many, it was pretty delightful,” said the show’s Location Manager Geoffrey Smither (why yes, we are related), “and we were very excited about all the wins, especially coming right off the top of the ceremony like that. We were particularly happy for Annie Murphy [Alexis Rose].” Schitt’s Creek was Murphy’s breakout role.
The producer of Schitt’s Creek’s first five seasons, Colin Brunton, says: “I was really happy for Annie. And the fact that they broke a record... it was really great to be a part of all that.”
It isn’t every day you get to work with comedy legends, and both Brunton and Smither knew, in part because of the involvement of Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, that the show was going to be a hit.
“They’re both completely salt of the earth, always interested in what you have to say,” says Smither, who recalls the elder Mr. Levy sharing stories with the crew from his days at Second City TV. “It was amazing to be able to listen to this slice of Canadian comedy history.”
“I was also a huge fan of Chris Elliott’s,” adds Brunton, “so getting to work with him was a big deal. The three of them are the proverbial nicest people you’ve ever met.”
Goodwood, Ontario (a 45 minute drive outside Toronto), turned out to be the perfect backdrop for the Rose family’s drama.
“Visually, it was just perfect,” says Brunton. “It was the main intersection of a nowhere-place. The hardest thing was selling the show to people. Like, ‘what’s the name of the project? Schitt’s Creek. What’s the production company? Not A Real Company.’ This doesn’t sound dubious at all!”
Luckily, Goodwood and its inhabitants took a chance on the questionably-named production. The town’s world-class bakery, Annina’s, even provided catering services. A happy discovery, as Annina’s is home to the best butter tarts in Ontario (I can corroborate – I've eaten them). Butter tarts are exactly what they sound like – a Canadian dessert tart filled with butter and brown sugar, and sometimes candied pecans. They’ve been sorely missed by the cast and crew since the start of the pandemic.
“I haven’t had an Annina’s butter tart in ages,” Reid laments. “The last time I was in was the final day of shooting in Goodwood. I stocked up – I got a 12 pack, and took them back home to my parents. I don’t think they lasted the day.”
The town seems to miss the show, too. In an interview with the CBC, Goodwood’s mayor Dave Barton noted that the series had been an economic boost for the town, which has become a tourist hotspot since the final season wrapped.
Both Smither and Brunton have nothing but fond memories of shooting in Goodwood.
“We were doing a night shoot outside a barn in June,” Brunton recalls, “and we had to get this wide shot of the Rose family, but they were getting attacked by june bugs. Dan, particularly, does not like bugs. And you could see this moment where a june bug went right down the back of his shirt, and he did a dance that was a cross between a Kramer entrance on Seinfeld and a lame Dad dance move. It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen.”
“My favourite memories were from location scouting with Eugene and Dan in the first season, when we were choosing the town,” says Smither. “It was always so interesting. There were also many great memories that weren’t cast-related, that were just generally job-related. It was quite a bit of fun to work on.
“That was a big testament to Colin [Brunton],” he continues, “because he put the crew together, and people were very loyal to him. Both Eugene and Dan also iterated many times what great crew they had.”
The family-oriented aspect of the series – both in the narrative of the show and on set – remained solid until the very end.
“All the key people on the crew are naturally warm-hearted, nice people,” says Brunton. “We had a ‘no assholes allowed’ rule. You stick to that, and you get good people. And everyone gets paid well,” he chuckles. “Overall, the best thing is the warm vibe we managed to keep up over the years.”
• Schitt’s Creek is on Netflix. Noah Reid’s single 'Honesty' is now available in Ireland.
• Amy Segal's Schitt's Creek documentary 'Best Wishes, Warmest Regards' is also on Netflix.