Daniel Levy exploring animation, thriller and rom-com worlds post-'Schitt's Creek'

TORONTO — Daniel Levy is navigating new waters post-"Schitt's Creek."

The Toronto-raised co-creator and star of the hit CBC sitcom, which is up for a leading 21 Canadian Screen Awards this week, is working under a three-year overall deal with ABC Studios, a part of Disney Television Studios. The gig announced in September 2019 has him developing and producing scripted projects for the studio.

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Levy says he's picking and pulling some ideas he used to jot down in a journal when he had rare downtime during the making of "Schitt's Creek," which ended its sixth and final season last year and swept the 2020 Emmys comedy categories with seven wins.

"Fortunately I'm now in a place where people are really interested in those ideas, which is a stark contrast to when I started and nobody cared. So it's been fun to be able to actually see things move," the actor-writer-producer, who was also the showrunner of "Schitt's," said with a laugh from Los Angeles.

"I've been dabbling in the animation world, I've been playing with the concept of what would a thriller look like, I'm hopefully going to be putting a rom-com together for myself. That's always been a dream, to write a romantic comedy for me, because Hollywood certainly isn't. And really exploring all the areas outside of what I had been doing on the show."

Levy said he's never considered himself to be a comedy writer but rather someone who just happened to write a story that was funny.

"So the idea of exploring different genres has always been of great interest," he said. "But I think inevitably there will be some some humour and some heart to all of it.

"And I think when you've seen the kind of impact that some of the stories that we were telling on 'Schitt's Creek' can have on the world, it does make you realize that it's important to continue to tell those stories and to make sure that any project that I do from here on out is saying something constructive."

"Schitt's Creek," which aired on Pop TV in the U.S., followed the formerly wealthy Rose family as they grew accustomed to a more humble life in a motel in a small town. Viewers and critics praised its inclusive and joyful storylines, including that of Levy's character, David, who identified as pansexual (someone who is open to all sexual orientations or gender identities).

"'Schitt's Creek' was never heavy-handed in the stories that we were telling about the LGBTQIA+ community, but they were meaningful because of that sort of ease," said Levy, who is openly gay.

"And so I think it's just about telling stories that mean something to people, that allow people to see themselves where they don't often see themselves. And I think, at this point, it's also been a real mandate for me to use whatever success I have to leverage the voices of other people around me who need to be heard."

Many "Schitt's Creek" fans are hoping for a film featuring the Roses, who are also played by co-creator Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara and Annie Murphy.

But "as of now, there's nothing going on" on that front, said Levy.

"I think it's important to take some space to allow people to kind of miss you," he said. "I would hate to wrap up the show and then within a year come back with something else. That kind of feels oddly misleading."

The Ontario-shot series "has been and continues to be the greatest experience of" Levy's life, he said, adding that reuniting with the team "is obviously something that I would love to do."

"But quality has always been paramount, and I simply won't do anything that's not as good as it can possibly be. So until that idea comes into my head about what to do next with these people, we're just not going to do it."

Levy is also getting the CSA's Radius Award, which honours Canadians who are making waves globally.

The trophies are being presented this week in a series of livestreamed presentations on the website and social media channels of the Academy Of Canadian Cinema & Television. Levy said he recorded a video for Thursday's main event.

The CSAs are "incredibly meaningful," said Levy, because they've honoured every department of the "Schitt's Creek" from the beginning, before the show blew up globally on Netflix.

"I've kind of made it my mission to make sure that everybody knows how Canadian this show is throughout the past year and a half of promoting it, and I'm incredibly proud of the efforts of our Canadian cast and crew and what they've managed to do with this show and how far they've managed to take it," Levy said.

Levy, who recently made his hosting debut on "Saturday Night Live," said he wants to use his platform to help create opportunities for others and "really pay it forward so that we can continue to open those doors for diverse storytelling and also opportunities."

He also wants to use social media to help others, as he recently did with the University of Alberta's Indigenous Studies Program. Levy encouraged fans to follow in his footsteps by enrolling in the school's free online Indigenous Canada course and donating to the program.

"It does feel like at a point, if you're not using a platform of that kind for something other than a selfie — which don't get me wrong, I have done and will likely do in the future — it's a waste," Levy said. "It's an incredibly isolating experience if you don't use your success to help people."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2021.

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