Eugene Levy is a familiar face to comedy lovers everywhere. The character actor has shined in over 50 movies including the American Pie franchise and films from beloved filmmaker Christopher Guest. Now Eugene is stepping into a new role, a television series created with his equally hilarious son Dan Levy, called Schitt’s Creek. We asked him how the project came about and what it’s like to be on-screen married to Catherine O’Hara again.
Tell us about your initial inspiration for Schitt’s Creek?
[My son Dan] came to me with the idea of, number one, wanting to work with him on a television show, which was an idea I was thrilled by, and number two, he had an idea of a wealthy family that kind of loses everything, and how that affects the dynamic of the family.
We started with that and, as I said, he came to me not only because I was his dad, but because he really wanted the show, as he was thinking about it, to have the same kind of tone and personality as the comic documentaries that I had done with Christopher Guest, where they are based in a reality and the comedy speaks through the characters. That’s what Daniel wanted for Schitt’s Creek and I said, “You came to the right guy. That sounds exciting.”
Is it more like a dream come true working with your son on a project, or is there typical family drama?
Honestly, it’s a dream come true because this is the first time we’ve worked together. I’ve never worked with him on anything. It was very important for him to prove, as he was growing up in whatever he was doing, that whatever he was doing was on his own. He wasn’t coming to me, his famous dad, to try to get things done for him or help him. Believe me, when he was doing school plays and things like that I would go to him and say, “Listen, do you want me to run lines with you?” And he would always say, “No, I have this.” So when he came to me with Schitt’s Creek, it was something I never thought would ever happen.
What’s it like working with Catherine O’Hara on a television show after all the films you’ve done together?
It’s the first television show I’ve done with her since SCTV, and it’s great. We’ve worked on projects together, like a few of the Christopher Guest movies where we played a couple, and we played a couple in some animated movies as well.
She’s great. She’s one of the brilliant character actresses. She is so funny, but she is a good actress and great improviser. She improvises through character. Her approach to the work is the same as mine is—let me know who I am and I can give you what you want, but you let me know who I am and I can make it come to life through my character. And she’s like a chameleon when it comes to character work. She becomes the person she’s playing.
Do you have a favorite role you’ve played that stands the test of time?
I don’t have a favorite ONE. I’ve always loved different roles for different reasons. Obviously American Pie holds a special place. It was life-changing for me, but it was also a character that I absolutely adored, while I got to work with a bunch of very talented young actors in those movies. If they made 20 of them I’d be back making 20 of them because it was just too much fun.
Waiting for Guffman is up there as well because it was the first movie I did with Chris Guest. There’s a novelty to and an excitement about that. I loved the character Mitch Cohen I played in A Mighty Wind. It was kind of a dangerous way to go for a comedy, but we went with the sentimental storyline with Mitch and Mickey, and it worked wonderfully. There are things I absolutely loved and if they came up again I’d have no qualms with [doing them again].
Modern comedies—does one stick out as a favorite to you right now?
To be honest I’m not a big TV watcher on a regular basis. But the great comedies to me are on cable right now. Envelopes are being pushed in different directions. Veep is a really funny example. The Comeback with Lisa Kudrow was very funny, as is Episodes with Matt LeBlanc. Louie C.K., too. There are really funny things happening on cable that really catch my attention. I also used to love Party Down before it was taken off the air. The networks will eventually have to go that way if they want to compete.
Why should DIRECTV customers watch Schitt’s Creek?
You won’t find another half hour quite like it. The characters are infectious—they really get to you. We play the show with such a reality to it that when people watch the show, they totally get involved in the characters. Personally, I’ve seen the show a thousand times now and I never get tired of watching an episode again, because I never get tired of watching this cast. It’s a very funny show that’s totally engrossing.
Don’t miss Schitt’s Creek Wednesdays at 10/9c on Pop TV (Ch. 264).