Press: Before ‘Schitt’s Creek’s’ holiday special, Dan Levy on the show’s queer intimacy and right-wing fans

It’s been a good year for “Schitt’s Creek,” a situation comedy about a formerly wealthy family living in a small-town motel. Its reputation and audience have continued to build with memes and GIFs and the old word-of-mouth, rising to a rapidly sold-out “up-close-and-personal” appearance in September at the Theater at Ace Hotel and another last month at the Hollywood Roosevelt. (A North American tour begins Jan. 20 in San Francisco.) New episodes of the Canadian-made show air in the U.S. first on the basic cable network Pop TV and later slide onto Netflix, where many latecoming converts doubtless have been made.

When the CBC series began, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, who play Johnny and Moira Rose — and whose work together goes back to “SCTV” and forward through a number of Christopher Guest films, including “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind” — were the main selling point. (Some will have come for Chris Elliott as mayor Roland Schitt.) But Eugene’s son, Dan Levy, who plays son David Rose and co-created the show with his father (and continues to run it) has emerged as a star in his own right, as have Annie Murphy as sister Alexis and Emily Hampshire as motel proprietress Stevie Budd.

They’ll all be present Wednesday, along with every other “Schitt’s” character of note, when Pop airs the series’ first holiday special, a beautifully wrapped package full of laughter and tears. Written and co-directed by Dan Levy, it’s built around a delicate, deeply felt performance by Eugene Levy, whose Johnny thinks it would be nice to have a Christmas party, as the specter of richer Christmas parties past troubles his mind. (It’s worth noting that Levy, in an episode very much about the meaning of family, is surrounded by his own — daughter Sarah Levy plays town waitress Twyla.) It gets right to the heart of what the show is about: To paraphrase another Canadian, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone and you realize that what you had wasn’t what you needed at all. Though, in “Schitt’s Creek” style, there is a sharp kicker to cut the sentiment.

I spoke with Dan Levy backstage before the Ace show about how far the series has come and where it’s going next. Season five begins Jan. 16 on Pop.

Your live show sold out in no time.
We’ve slowly but surely built a really loving fan base, and I think this last season, the fourth season of our show, was the most emotional and sensitive and tender. As a showrunner, I know you don’t just get that; you have to earn it.

Did knowing you had that fan support let you go that extra step?
In a way. I think it was also just looking at our cast and what they’ve proven they can do in terms of the brilliant duality of balancing of funny, funny content, funny lines, with emotional moments that can play just as true as the comedy does. It was always an intention to continue to pull back the layers. And like in any kind of relationship, the more you know about people, the more tender it gets, because you care more. I think this fourth season struck an emotional chord with people that in a way substantiated their belief in the show. Considering how our subject matter can be quite polarizing, we’ve received just the most overwhelmingly positive, joyful response. Say what you will about social media, but it has been wonderful in terms of our show.

Some of the most touching feedback I’ve received has been from right-wing, religious-based people who have never understood queer culture. – Dan Levy