Daniel Levy finds his groove as accidental sex symbol
Daniel Levy, of CBC's Schitt’s Creek, had a pretty fierce year in 2016.
While most of the world grumbled about last year being the worst ever, Daniel Levy had a pretty fierce 2016. Let’s review: Levy scored two Canadian Screen Awards for writing and producing CBC’s hit series Schitt’s Creek, which also airs in America on Pop and in the U.K. on Netflix, just to name a few countries. A Canadian starring on an international successful Canadian program? Yep, miracles do happen.
“Professionally, I can’t complain. I’m employed — and I’m being paid to do what I love,” the 33-year-old actor tells 24 Hours. “Politically, it’s a different story obviously!”
Even his father, Eugene Levy, was surprised how well Daniel adapted to being a showrunner. “In the beginning, I honestly didn’t know whether he would hang the acting chops to sustain a character,” Eugene told the CBC. “But I trusted him, I had confidence in him and right out of the gate, he came through with a character and performance that just stunned me. He’s way ahead of the game. I just back off and let him do his thing; get out of his way.”
Good thing too because Levy’s star has ascended to new heights: the former MTV co-host of the After Show has evolved into a thinking man’s sex symbol on both sides of the border by the gay and straight community. Naturally, Levy grimaces at the sex symbol moniker but shyly accepts the reality with a laugh.
24 Hours caught up with our favourite bespectacled artist to chat about his character’s groundbreaking pansexuality, competing against his famous dad at award shows, and why coming out wasn’t a big deal.
What can we expect in season 3, which debuts Jan. 10 on CBC at 9 p.m.?
We’re focusing more on the characters and peeling back their layers to find out why they act the way they do. Season 1 and 2 were more of a setup of how this rich family moves to a small town without money. The audience will be allowed into their lives and histories a lot more. We’re putting different characters together and in different situations than we’ve ever seen. It’s a cool season.
Your show seems to be a hybrid of a network and cable show, which is pretty rare these days in TV.
When we were putting the show together, our main goal was just to tell the story the way we wanted tell it so we wouldn’t be disappointed over the reaction to the show if it had been negative. TV is in flux right now: cable [and streaming] are pushing boundaries and power is in the hands of the creators; while network TV is ball and chained to a lot of advertising, and production notes. So the fact that CBC has given us the freedom, it’s very cool.
You must be psyched your show is syndicated across the world, too.
At the end of the day, I think we’ve tapped into something with our family on the show that the audience can relate to. During my MTV days, there was a specific demo that watched the show, but with Schitt’s Creek, there isn’t a core demo. I get 10- to 70-year-olds coming up to me on the street. The Rose family is our big draw because we can tell stories for all age ranges. Plus, other than audiences wanting to see how the rich live, they really want to see them fall in today’s culture — and we’ve got that in spades!
How happy were you with all the love Creek got at the CSAs?
As a Canadian, I know how to tough we can be on ourselves — especially when it comes to the arts. It’s a hurdle. To be recognized across the board was incredibly validating. We’re just grateful that people love the show.
Can you imagine ever beating your dad for Best Actor?
Winning a Best Actor award would be cool but that means, if I’m nominated again, I’d be up against my father, and unless something crazy happens, I don’t have many expectations that will happen. Just to be nominated in the acting category was a big thing for me because I started out wanting to act. I put my acting aspirations on hold so I could focus [on the behind-the-scenes aspects of my career] so my audition skills are rusty. Luckily, I got to cast myself in this [laughs]!
Why did you make your character David pansexual?
When I was sussing out characters, it just felt like a good fit for him. We didn’t want to make a big deal about it; but the depiction of his sexuality has been a really great thing for me: to tell a story of a town with a cast of characters that have absolutely no judgment. To be able to tell that story, and hopefully leading by example, it’s been amazing to hear feedback from the audience. The idea of sexuality, in my life, is not a big deal. However, to have fans come up to me to talk about their own personal issues, you realize, in those moments, the power of TV. David came out on the show by way of a wine analogy: ‘I have sampled red and white wines ... and occasionally rosés! [Laughs].’
What was your coming out like?
My family was completely open and accepting. I’ve been gay since I was 19 and it’s never been a secret.
What is it like working with one of the best acting ensembles on TV?
It’s been a master class in acting every day to watch my father, Catherine O’Hara, and Chris Elliott do what they do. They’ve been so generous with their time. I remember on the first day of Schitt’s Creek, I said: ‘What did I get myself into? We have to try to steal scenes from these comedy legends?!’ I’ve also been lucky to work with the likes of Tina Fey [on film Admission] and other great actors.