Daniel Levy on playing a pansexual character on ‘Schitt’s Creek’

TORONTO – “Schitt’s Creek” co-creator and star Daniel Levy is feeling a particular sense of pride as the hit Canadian comedy, about a riches-to-rags family in a small town, heads into its fourth season.

Not only has the CBC show gained an international following, with a presence on Netflix and profiles in major entertainment publications south of the border, but it’s also allowed Levy to present a queer character to a mainstream audience with heart and humour.

Levy’s sarcastic fashion-plate character, David, identifies as pansexual (someone who is open to all sexual orientations or gender identities) and finds himself in a serious relationship with his business partner this season, which premieres Tuesday on CBC.

“Telling a queer story on network TV is quite a special thing for me, so I’m quite proud of that storyline in season 4,” Levy, who is gay, said in a phone interview.

“It’s been amazing to hear, across the board, the response to David.”

David is the son of Moira and Johnny Rose, played by Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, who is Levy’s dad and also a series co-creator. Annie Murphy plays the equally sarcastic daughter, Alexis.

The foursome had to move to the town of Schitt’s Creek and live in a motel after falling on hard times.

In the new season, David runs a boutique general store with his business partner/boyfriend, Patrick, played by Noah Reid. It’s David’s first major relationship on the show after he had dalliances with a couple of town residents, including motel owner Stevie, played by Emily Hampshire.

“In many cases, I’ve had people emailing me saying they had never had a point of entry to understanding homosexuality or pansexuality before, and they have been able to understand their cousins or their brothers or their sons or daughters in ways they never had before, until they met David,” said Levy.

“He was their point of entry. They felt compassion towards him and it cracked open their world when it came to understanding queer people. That’s a pretty special thing. I often underestimate the power of television, because we’re writing these episodes in a room and I’m a gay person, so it’s not really in my mind to think about, ‘What would the people that don’t like or don’t respect gay people think of this?’ That’s not something that I want to waste my energy on.

“But it is quite profound to read responses from people who the character has changed their outlook. Television has a lot of power.”

Levy said “Schitt’s Creek” started with him and his dad writing a season of television “with no notes from the network and putting it on the air and hoping that people liked it.”

If it didn’t connect, they had closure in knowing that they’d done the best they could.

As the show took off and won multiple Canadian Screen Awards, they’ve maintained their approach of taking “the unexpected path” and writing it the way they want.

“In order to keep the world of the show, we like to keep it contained,” said Levy.

“There’s been I guess a lot of celebrities who have watched the show and have expressed interest in being on the show, and as flattering as it is, I think our main objective is to keep the reality of the world safe. If you throw a name that everyone knows into the mix, the fear is that it might take you out of the world that we’re trying to preserve.”

The fourth season is their “most emotionally substantial,” added Levy.

“I think it’s going to be a really unexpectedly sweet season of the show…. It’s our biggest season and I think the richest, emotionally.”

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