Tom Daley
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Threesomes, Marriage, Kids: Schitt's Creek Depicts a Modern Gay Couple

Schitt's Creek

This interview contains spoilers for the latest episode of Schitt's Creek.

With all the LGBTQ stories on television these days, a queer relationship with a happy ending still feels weirdly surprising. After decades of tropes and tragic endings, viewers seem to be holding their breaths, waiting for one of their favorite characters to cheat or get left at the altar or randomly die moments after declaring their love.

It's one of the reasons why Canadian comedy Schitt's Creek went from underrated cult favorite to breakout hit over the last few years. In this series about a family of socialites stranded in a small town after losing their fortune, the central love story of David Rose (Dan Levy) and his business partner and fiancé Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid) has seemed commonplace and trailblazing at the same time: a same-sex couple living a quiet, happy life in a town that deliberately ignores homophobia, bickering with each other about wedding planning one day and exploring whether they'd be into a threesome the next. They're entirely "normal," white and cisgendered and nothing as groundbreaking for representation as the couples on Pose or Euphoria, for example — but it's also a fully-realized gay romantic comedy that we haven't quite seen on television before.

Season 5 saw Patrick come out to his parents in an episode that avoided tragic stereotypes and resonated deeply with queer viewers, followed quickly by a proposal. Throughout the sixth and final season, we've watched them navigate the road to marriage, discuss the possibility of having children, and discover awkward truths about each other, as anyone would in a long-term relationship. In this week's episode, when it appears the Rose family may finally get the chance to leave their small town for New York City, David and Patrick face their biggest challenge yet as they clash over what their future will look like — raising unpleasant memories of all the queer TV couples that came before and didn't make it.

Ahead of this latest episode, The Advocate talked to Schitt's Creek star/showrunner Dan Levy and co-star Noah Reid about David and Patrick's relationship, Patrick's growth since coming out, and their thoughts about the series finale.

Schitt's Creek

The Advocate: There's an attitude about romance on television, especially queer romance, that happy relationships are boring and the only way to make them interesting is to wonder, "Are they going to make it? Is something terrible going to happen?" Then there's Schitt's Creek, which put up giant billboards showing that David and Patrick's story wasn't going to end that way. What challenge did you want them to face instead, and why is that important?

Dan Levy: Well, the story is not over yet. Obviously on the road to getting married, there are ups and downs that live within our show — there will be some in the coming few episodes. But I also don't have a lot of interest in creating will-they-won't-they tension. There have been shows that have done that really well, and I don’t need to throw my hat in that ring.

As a gay person writing a gay relationship on TV, I was so tired of watching characters get torn apart by circumstance, or their own histories, or all of the terrible and very real realities that exist within the community. I just wanted a love story that lasted, that I didn't have to worry about. I'm so triggered generally whenever I see queer characters falling in love on screen or in television, because my experience with watching those characters is that it either ends in death or deep sadness or depression.

I wanted to try to tell a story that was never going to be in question, and that viewers who were watching these two would never have to doubt their loyalty to each other. I think we do the same thing with Johnny and Moira's marriage, and all of the relationships on the show. There was just a desire to watch people succeed.

Schitt's Creek

That said, there is a kind of cliffhanger in this week's episode where everyone's excited about New York, and then Patrick looks at David and there's so much happening in that moment. Noah, could you talk about what's going through his head?

Noah Reid: I think that with any kind of potential big change in life comes a certain amount of apprehension. I joined the show midway through the Roses' journey and so did Patrick, and the circumstances for him are not exactly the same for them. They've felt compromised and stuck in this town, and have had to work really hard to get out of that mindset and embrace where they are and try to better themselves, and for many years have been trying to figure a way out.

It's different circumstances for Patrick — he's found his way in, and has really found a part of himself in this community and in that family. Any big change could certainly stir up some big feelings of, "Oh boy, what does this mean for all of us? How does that affect us going forward?"

That tension aside, Patrick has a lot of comedic moments this season. After his coming out episode in Season 5, it creates a sense that he's happier and more comfortable with himself, which we don't always get to see on television. For both of you, was that on your mind when you were putting this season together?

NR: That's a great observation. Dan, you can speak to the writing elements of that, but from a performance standpoint, there is a comfort level that you start to feel with Patrick in those surroundings. Moments like with Johnny watching the baseball game, the wisdom teeth stuff, all of the baby conversation — those things are definitely from the mind of somebody who's very much feeling themselves and feeling comfortable within their world and their community, and in their relationships.

DL: There was a very specific and conscious effort to track every character's growth. We sit down as writers and I ask myself going into each season, what does each of our characters need, what do they want, what could be an interesting challenge — but generally speaking, where is their head at, and where are their confidence levels at? Because that really informs story, and it informs the dialogue. 

When it came to Patrick, there's no more secrets for him. He is living a fully realized, completely out and authentic life now, without fear, and without having to spend part of his life being someone for people that he actually isn't in his life in Schitt’s Creek. 

The honeymoon period of planning a wedding (whether some consider it a honeymoon or some consider it something else!) was really fertile ground to play with Patrick's newfound confidence, not just in himself, but in his place in the family. The great thing about Patrick is that he doesn't let David get away with a lot, unless it really matters to David, and then he'll let him have those moments. Getting to watch that character and write that character navigate this very precarious path to marriage was very fun for us, and really exposed an easy side of Patrick that we might not have seen as consistently in the past.

Schitt's Creek

NR: Also, I feel like with Season 6 Patrick, there's not quite so much putting on the happy face all the time — the element of his character that wants everybody else to feel comfortable, and how best to facilitate that. Occasionally there are those little moments, like in the Escape Room where he's full-blown Competitive Pat. And when he gets the spray tan, his authentic level of disappointment, maybe a season ago he might have felt he needed to rein that in for the benefit of other people. When you're comfortable with yourself, you have less of a mask to put on.

For David's storyline this season, we were always expecting him to be over the top about the wedding, and he certainly delivered on that front. But both at the beginning of the season and the end, a real issue he’s struggling with is that his sister is leaving. He doesn't get excited about New York until Alexis suggests sharing an apartment together. Could you talk a bit about how those relationships overlap for him?

DL: David is a character who has really found a life for himself in this town, but is also still very much habitually preoccupied with what he thinks he wants, and how he should be. That's just part of his character and something I never wanted to let go, because you can't just completely resolve a person. That's not how we operate as humans. 

Playing on David's insecurity about what to do and what it all means was really important, in showing his conflict and also reminding the audience that this is a character that had a life before this town. Even though that life was potentially not as fulfilling to him as his life in Schitt's Creek is now, it meant something, good or bad. To be given the opportunity to potentially go back there, I think like most people in his situation, it's met with a level of anxiety and also excitement. What could that new life look like, now that I have a fiancé? It was a really necessary conundrum for David to find himself caught up in, because I think it will go on to speak a lot about his character in the coming episodes.

Schitt's Creek

Is David's newfound closeness with his family and all of them going to New York a big part of that conflict?

DL: Yeah, I think when you hear something like that, it can't not make you question everything. The surprise that Johnny ends up finding this small investment company, and that [Rosebud Motels] is slowly coming together, really caught people off guard. It's that sense of, oh wow, people are making decisions. People are making decisions in haste, people are making decisions out of passion, people are making decisions out of ego. The fun thing is playing that out over the last few episodes and seeing where the dust settles on all of it.

Without giving too much away, you've said before that you always knew how the story was going to end. How does the final episode compare with the vision you had in your head at the beginning?

DL: I have a very clear vision for the show, but the beautiful thing about it is our cast and crew have been able to take that vision and elevate it to levels that I never thought possible. The great thing about our last episode is that it is a perfect representation of what our team could do. We have all departments working at 110 percent — you have hair and makeup, you have wardrobe, you have production design, you have an incredible ensemble of actors, you have a DP [David Makin] who's done such beautiful work in that episode. Yes, it was exactly what I wanted it to be, but then was lifted by this team of people who really carried it home in such a beautiful way.

NR: The shooting of that episode in its various parts was certainly one of the more emotional experiences I've ever had on a set. You could feel a sense of what Dan's talking about, this communal sense of pride that everybody had in their work. Some of the crew members and most of the principal cast have been working on this show for six years or even longer, and that's a long period of time to invest into something.

That sense of ownership and pride and contribution was palpable when we were shooting that last episode, and it's something I'll never forget. It was really alive. I've never been to blockings that were as high potency as those ones were.

Schitt's Creek and David and Patrick's relationship has laid important groundwork for queer couples on TV being treated the same as any other couple. When we get to a point, hopefully in the near future, where this is the norm and we don't have to deal with negative stereotypes anymore, what kind of stories do you want to tell?

DL: I want to do exactly what I did with this, which is to tell stories about people's lives that are hopefully compelling and funny. As groundbreaking as this story might be, or so it's been said, it's really just a story about two people who are falling in love. What made that story work and resonate was the simplicity of the love story itself. Yes, it's two men that are falling in love and that's incredibly important from a representation standpoint on television, but I also think it's a testament to the strength of our writers.

Capturing those moments of the early days of falling in love with someone is why Romeo & Juliet is still being read — not that I'm comparing our show to Romeo & Juliet, but love is a universal language. I know from the letters I've received from people, it was Patrick singing "The Best," it was David's lip sync scene, it was these moments that really had nothing to do with anything other than two people in love, that were affecting change in people's homes and opening the eyes of parents who hadn't been treating their children with the kind of respect that they should have. It was the love that really catapulted those two to a level that was of some significance socially for people.

Even in the new project I'm working on now, it's just telling meaningful and compelling stories, and not being easy, and not being lazy. Taking the time to make sure the stories you're telling are of substance, that the characters have something to say, and that they speak to a wide audience, that people of all different walks of life can tune in and take something from the experience. That's a model that I hope to apply to everything that I work on.

Schitt's Creek airs at 9pm Eastern on CBC in Canada and Pop TV in the United States.

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