Over the years, Toronto has quietly become a major player in film and television, to the tune of a $2 billion production spend in 2017—an all-time high for the city, which has been nicknamed Hollywood North. And if you use cultish adoration as your measure, one of its greatest exports is Schitt’s Creek, a quirky comedy about the Roses, a wealthy family that is forced to move to a middle-of-nowhere town after being defrauded by its financial manager.
The show—which shoots at Toronto’s Pinewood Studios—is a family affair, created by Best in Show star Eugene Levy and son, Daniel Levy, who also play father and son in the series, and co-starring Eugene’s daughter, Sarah, as Twyla, the friendly diner waitress. (The series’ matriarch is played by Canadian comic legend and Eugene’s fellow SCTV [Second City Television] alum Catherine O’Hara.) Daniel took over as showrunner since Season 2, and praise for the comedy has been consistent, with Vulture calling it “a Canadian gem of a sitcom” and Vanity Fair wondering, in its January 2019 issue, why it overlooked the series for so long. (“Yes, Schitt’s Creek Really Is That Good,” read the headline.)
Schitt’s might have remained a Canada-only sensation, but in 2017 Netflix began airing past seasons of the show, which was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Company and is produced by both CBC and Pop TV, with international distribution by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. And now Schitt’s Creek is one of TV’s unlikeliest hits. On Pop TV, its linear ratings have doubled since its 2015 premiere. It’s also the first Canadian show to be nominated for the best comedy prize at the Critics’ Choice Awards. Riding the momentum, the cast last fall embarked on a U.S.-Canada tour called “Schitt’s Creek: Up Close & Personal” that continued through last month and featured a stop at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
Daniel took over as showrunner in Season 2.
Caitlin Cronenberg for Adweek
Last month, with the show in production on its sixth and final season, Eugene and Daniel took a break from filming at Pinewood to chat with Adweek about watching their “little engine that could” become an international phenomenon.
Adweek: Film and television production in Toronto has been booming. What’s it like to shoot in that hub?
Eugene Levy: This town is as busy as it’s been. There are some years when it’s very hard to find a crew because just about every crew member who’s working is on a job. The fact that we’re shooting this show in Toronto is really quite amazing. We’re employing a lot of Toronto people, and it’s nice to be able to contribute to the town that gave me so much.
I started my career here and did a lot of work here in Toronto for seven years of SCTV, most of which was shot in Toronto. That the show ended up in Toronto is really delightful for me.
Daniel, what role does Canada play in the show, and what does that mean for you as a Canadian actor and a showrunner?
Daniel Levy: We are an entirely Canadian production, minus our dear Chris Elliott [who plays town mayor Roland Schitt], so it goes without saying that Canada is coursing through the veins of this show on all levels. There is a kindness to Canada that I think can be felt in the show, and I’m drawing upon my life in Canada for a lot of stories.
The show has had tremendous success, not just in Canada but outside of it as well. What’s that experience been like, to watch it really explode?
E.L.: We used to dub this “the little engine that could.” It’s pretty remarkable in our eyes, and we were developing a nice fan base. But, honestly, I think in the last couple of years, it has really exploded in terms of awareness. When the show started to air on Netflix, people could actually get it in much bigger numbers.