Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy have a long history as friends and collaborators.
In fact, it was more than 40 years ago that they first met at the Second City improv and sketch theater in Toronto. Sharing a brilliant comedic chemistry, they would star together on SCTV and in some of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries, including Best in Show and A Mighty Wind.
Still, O'Hara didn't say yes immediately when Levy invited her to join the cast of Schitt's Creek. He wanted her to play former soap star Moira Rose, the flamboyant matriarch of a family who, having lost a fortune, is slumming in a rundown motel in a small town they own — their only remaining asset.
"I said, 'I'm scared to do a series — even with you, Eugene. And I trust you. I love you,'" O'Hara recalls. She admits she's always been leery of long-term acting commitments.
But Levy, who plays Moira's husband, Johnny Rose, convinced her to step into the role for a 15-minute presentation made to sell the series. He cocreated the show with his son, Daniel, who serves as showrunner — and also plays Moira and Johnny's son, David Rose.
Try it, Levy said. No strings attached.
It was a clever move. O'Hara had such a great time making the presentation, she agreed to stick around after Schitt's Creek was picked up by Canada's CBC and Pop in the States. The series, now in production on its sixth and final season, also airs on Netflix.
O'Hara praises both Levy men for giving her a voice in the creative process, working with her to create a gloriously larger-than-life character that she loves to play.
"They allow me to speak in a way that makes no sense to anyone," O'Hara says with a laugh. "They allow me to change hairdos and wigs on a whim, and I have the best wardrobe in the world.
"It's not limiting in any way," she adds, "and Daniel comes up with the best storylines and great opportunities to be silly and funny and sad and funny."
Who knew back in the day, when O'Hara first met Levy, that she'd be working with him and his son — and his daughter, Sarah Levy, who plays Twyla Sands, a waitress at the town's only restaurant — all these years later?
Jokingly insisting that she knew, O'Hara declares (in an all-knowing tone), "'You will have a son,' I said to Eugene, 'and you will have a daughter, and you will want to work with me until the end of your days!'"
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2019