Canadian comedy Schitt's Creek is enjoying the most media buzz and fan adoration of its five-season run so far — and the creators of the show are working hard to stay focused on what made the show great in the first place.
"We approach the work exactly the same now as we did on day one," co-creator and star Eugene Levy told The Advocate at a For Your Consideration event at the Television Academy last week. The lighthearted, queer-inclusive series, about the wealthy Rose family who end up stranded in a small town after losing their fortune, is ramping up its annual Emmys pitch and appears to be gaining serious traction. It's featured in Vanity Fair's Emmys issue alongside major contenders like Barry and Game of Thrones, and regularly makes top 10 lists of shows you need to be watching.
"It's nice to know the show is being recognized with other mainstream shows in television," said Levy, who plays family patriarch and town owner Johnny Rose. "We're Canadian, so it's nice to know that we're up with the big guys."
Costar Catherine O'Hara said the response from fans has been overwhelming as the show heads toward its sixth and final season, currently filming in Toronto. "We've been doing this tour, 'Up Close and Personal,' and our audience are the kindest people in the world, and it's way too encouraging. But then you have to go back to work and go, 'OK, forget that. Let's just do what we've always done, right from the beginning.'"
The previous season of Schitt's Creek took the show to a new level of popularity, particularly with LGBTQ+ viewers, as the four main characters continued to grow in their relationships and their connection with the town. O'Hara's iconic character Moira Rose directed a surprisingly emotional production of Cabaret for the community theater, while her son David (played by co-creator and showrunner Daniel Levy) got engaged to his business partner Patrick (Noah Reid), who came out to his parents in a heartwarming episode that brought many viewers to tears. Meanwhile, socialite daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy) blessed us with her insanely catchy single "A Little Bit Alexis," which quickly became a viral internet meme and real-life gay bar anthem.
"I still pinch myself about getting the part in the first place," Murphy told The Advocate. "So now six seasons in, having the show gain the momentum that it's gained, people are still finding out about it and it's brought a lot of people a lot of happiness. I feel really lucky to be a part of it, and it's going to be a really sad goodbye in a few weeks."
Daniel Levy told The Advocate he was proud of the final season and the ending he has planned for each character. "It was a really big undertaking to wrap everything up and pay tribute to the show and the characters and also honor the audience as well. I feel like to have committed for six seasons, that's 80 episodes of television that people have sat down and watched, and that's time out of their lives."
Growing enthusiasm for the show has added some new challenges, however. Eagle-eyed fans watching his personal Instagram account noticed a particular day on set where all the characters were gathered for an event, setting off intense speculation that season 6 will feature David and Patrick's wedding. Levy declined to comment on that, aside from saying he never expected his social media posts to get so much attention.
"I will say that in the final season of any show, there are going to be some moments that bring everybody together," he said, fighting back a grin. "We have a couple really nice big ensemble scenes this year."
On a more personal level, queer fans have celebrated David being openly pansexual and in a healthy relationship, and Patrick getting a coming out story that rejected painful stereotypes — something that Levy takes very seriously.
"It was celebratory and filled with love and support. And Noah Reid, who plays Patrick, did such a beautiful job with those scenes, and the actors who play his parents. As a gay person, there was so much expectation that I put on myself as well. I think when you talk about or explore someone's coming-out experience, you really have to be as authentic as you possibly can, because so many people are going to have gone through something similar or be looking to it as some sort of point of relation. It took me a long time to write it because I wanted to get it just right and honor that experience for the characters and the people at home."
O'Hara told The Advocate there was never any doubt that Moira and Johnny would be supportive of their son's identity. "There's no question of being kind to someone and respecting someone. I know that it's really important to Daniel, and it's there, and we've heard it's affected people and given them hope. It's just the way it should be."
"It's love — relationships are relationships," Eugene Levy added. "There's no distinction between whether it's a straight relationship or whether it's a gay relationship. Daniel, from the very beginning, set out to make David a pansexual character and thought that was a very daring, positive choice for a television series six years ago."
The welcoming nature of Schitt's Creek and its importance to fans are particularly meaningful to the cast as Pride celebrations get underway across the U.S. and Canada.
"I'm so lucky to be a part of this show that celebrates love and acceptance," Murphy said, "and to me that's what Pride is all about, being who you are and loving who you love. Unfortunately, judgment still comes into that, but I'm grateful to be a part of a show that takes the judgment and prejudice away and just lets characters be who they are."
"It's a celebration of who we are and what we stand for, and what we're continuing to fight for," Daniel Levy said. "For the past six years I've missed the Pride festivities because I've been shooting the show, and this year's no different. I was asked to be a part of LA Pride this year, and I couldn't do it because we’re going to be in Toronto. I'm looking forward to next year, where I have the whole month to celebrate. But in the meantime we're going to try to get back in the parade in Toronto, and I'm going to try to go out and do as much as I can.
"It's such a lovely time to celebrate with everybody. At this point, given what we're going through politically, to be out with people who are just there to love one another — it's necessary."
Schitt's Creek airs on CBC in Canada and Pop TV in the United States, and the first four seasons are available on Netflix.