Talking schitt with Catherine O’Hara

Catherine O'HaraIt’s always great when you can chat some Schitt with a celebrity, but when that star is an Officer of The Order of Canada and an alumni of the Golden Years of SCTV, that Schitt gets real.

Catherine O’Hara, who has been playing the role of Moira Rose from the popular CBC Television and Pop TV series Schitt’s Creek for the past five seasons, sat down with us for a lowdown on everything Schitt’s Creek.

For those unaware, the hilarious, heartfelt and heavily bingeable television show is a comedy that follows the fortunes (or misfortunes) of a once wealthy family whose financial woes lead them to living in a motel in the tiny town of Schitt.

Catherine is gearing up for the final season of the immensely popular show (coming via 14 episodes in 2020) by heading to Detroit for an up-close and personal session with the program’s stars Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, Annie Murphy, Emily Hampshire, and Noah Reid. They will take to the stage at the Masonic Temple on August 10 to discuss the adventures of the Rose family.

You’re bringing Schitt’s Creek up close and personal to Detroit this month, what happens with those live appearances?
Daniel Levy is the moderator, and basically the Rose family, and Stevie, and Patrick, so, that would be Noah, Reid, and Emily Hampshire, and then Annie Murphy, and Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, and I sit on stage with Daniel as a moderator, and we tell stories that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. We have great clip packages, as they call them, or videos. Whatever. I don’t know what the best word to describe them to people is, but for us it would be clip packages of sort of behind the scenes. Funny material that you wouldn’t see elsewhere. We play a trivia game with members of the audience, and someone in particular sings a great song that you might have heard before from a character on the show, within the show. It’s just really, really fun. We’ve had the loveliest audiences. They seem to be there for each other as much as us, and it’s just a big loving, happy, family kind of evening. It’s been really fun and I hope it’ll be fun for the audience in Detroit.

You guys filmed season six of Schitt’s Creek in June. What was it like on that last day?
The last month was emotional. I think when you shoot the scenes we’re all in, you might be a two person, four person scene, whatever, but you don’t see everyone’s scenes being shot until the show is put together. But, at the table read you get to watch and hear everyone read their scenes, and that was the most emotional for me and for most of us. Just reading those last shows together around the table was emotional. Not horribly sad sad, but just… These were lovely days we spent together, and we’re all really proud of the show, and it was kind of sweet and sad to say goodbye to it. But luckily we have these live shows, so we get to get together. We’ll continue to do that, so we look forward to that, and I look forward to promoting the next season, which will start next winter. But it was sweet and sad. There was a lot of crying, but always a lot of laughs, too, which is good.

Not many shows get to have control over their destiny, but Daniel and Eugene, they’re the ones that made the announcements.
Yeah, they’re smart, and Daniel and Eugene will say this too, Daniel runs the show, and he had this mapped out from the beginning, if we were fortunate enough to get the six seasons out of CBC, and Pop network, and now Netflix. He had it mapped out. He knew where the characters were going, and they are really resolved in a lovely way. Each of the characters is really well cared for by Daniel and the writers. They were fortunate to be able to do it as planned.

Do you remember where you were when you heard that it was coming to an end?
That’s funny. It makes us sound very important. No, but I did hear through a mutual friend a couple years before that, because Daniel discussed it with me. I heard through mutual friends that it was probably going to go to six. If we could, it was going to go to six seasons. I said, “Really? Okay, sure. We’ll see,” and that’s what happened.

How did Schitt’s Creek come about, and when did you get involved in it?
I guess that was about, must have been seven years ago, I guess, six or seven years ago. Eugene called me and said that he and Daniel had this idea for a show, and that they were going to shoot a 15-minute kind of pilot presentation. They were going to just do it on their own, and then see if they could sell the idea. I hemmed and hawed about it a bit because I’m lazy and I’m not sure I wanted to do a series. I wasn’t sure, and because I’m stupid. Then, I agreed. It sounded like fun, and it was great fun. We did this 15-minute presentation of the idea, and then we filmed it. So, I got to be part of it.

Eugene and you go way back to the SCTV days, and that cast seems to have a really unique bond. You don’t see a lot of comedy shows like that. It’s almost like the old SCTV vibe. So, is there something you guys did to keep it fresh and down to earth?
I know we all love and respect each other, and that’s…it’s not like we are plugging our noses to work together. It’s always been fun, and creative, and challenging. I like to try to work with people that I know I have something to learn from, and that would include Eugene and the people that I worked with in SCTV. Credit Eugene and Daniel for putting this group together for this show. Everyone, the cast is so lovely and fun and talented, and the crew is wonderful and, again, fun. I keep saying fun, but it really was a fun job. On SCTV we had a great producer, who trusted us to make the show, and he ran the business and we ran the show. We’re spoiled that way. We got to be as creative as we possibly could be. Eugene and Daniel have run the show the same way. So we all…everyone in the cast, I think, and crew felt respected. When you feel respected and loved, it makes you want to do your best work.

What’s it like working with Eugene? You guys make a great duo.
Oh, it’s awful! He’s awful!

No, he’s sweet. He’s great. He’s a gentleman, and that just makes the job all the more pleasant. He very smart, and talented, and funny, and intelligent, and talkative. He’s a lovely gentleman, and so is Daniel. He’s just…and he takes the work seriously. We both do. We take our comedy very seriously, and we try to make choices for our characters that are organic to the characters, who we believe the characters are. We work in a similar way, I think, so it’s hard to even analyze because it, thankfully, just kind of comes naturally. When I’m with him, I just feel like I’m in the right place when I work with him. He’s a good guy.

The show has a huge fan following, and even some of the fans visited your filming locations. It’s kind of like Corner Gas and Saskatchewan. So, is there a fun fan story that kind of sticks out?
Let’s see. They’re all…we have the sweetest people who watch our show. Eugene told me to sign up on Twitter just so I could read the tweets on the Schitt’s Creek account, and so I did. I’ve never tweeted, but I do read the tweets from people who watch the show, and they are the most loving, kind people in the world. Every one of them, just ridiculously supportive. I mean, you have to kind of get away from it and say, “Okay, this isn’t real life.” This is just a group of lovely people, who for some reason love the show and love us. You can’t take it too seriously, but it is awfully encouraging. They are the nicest people in the world. When we do these live shows, they are there in the room, and they are just so loving, and cute, and fun-loving. I don’t know. I feel lucky to be part of it. I had a very weird fan, and I wouldn’t say fan thing. Never mind, never mind, just a weird story. Forget that. Yeah, I know. A lot of people want to kiss me. That’s a funny one. That makes my husband mad. I mean, I’m not saying its men. It’s like mostly women, I guess. Yeah, it is mostly women, some men. Can I kiss you? Okay.

Moria Rose is over the top, so how much of Moria is inside you?
What do you mean by that? I take that personally. Go on. (Laughter)

How much of her is inside of you?
I guess all of it. It’s all the parts I want to deny about myself. All you have to draw on is yourself and your own experiences, but also people you’ve met. Then, the material. There’s Moira’s history in the script, and then I got to develop the character with Eugene and Dan, and take parts of weird qualities of people that I’ve met in my life and parts of myself. Maybe if I have a neurotic day. I’d say I’m generally not too neurotic a person. I don’t think so, but we all have our bad days.

So, there’s a bit of that, but I so think that Moira believes she’s a people person and believes she has handled this losing everything and being forced to move to this small town and live in this motel with her kids. I think she’s handled it…she believes she’s handled it really well. She never harps on her husband about it, and I think Moira gets, as I hope I would get, how lucky she is to be with her grown children, to spend that much time with them and to learn, in spite of everything she’s done in her life before, learn to be a mother. A good mother.

I was going to say her best quality is her love for her family and the community.
Absolutely, yeah. Well, most of the family. She’s learned to love the community, but I think Moira… well, I know Moira’s been very defensive from the beginning. I believe Moira came from a small town and got out earlier in life, and now she’s very threatened by living in a small town again. How long is this going to last? When am I getting out? So, it takes everything for her not to just weep about it and complain about it every day. She is, in spite of that fear and the armor that she’d put up, she does get how lucky she is to be with her family, and how lucky she is to be with these lovely people in the town.

As a busy actress yourself, how do you fit family and community into your life?
I’m with my family as much as I can be. I’ve always…In deciding what work I might get involved in for my whole working life, my family’s always come first. I have two sons, and when they were babies, I thought what’s the point? What’s the point of having children if I’m not going to be with them, so that was always number one consideration and always will be. Because, I also know that when I am at work, I’m 100% at work. I actually forget that I’m married and have kids. That’s terrible, and I know I’m never really going to focus on the job at hand, which in most cases is being a wife and mother, but when I’m at work, I’m really focused on that. So, knowing that I’m going to be that way, I’ve always tried to be careful about what work I get myself involved in. And I have lovely friends. You know, you’ve got to have a life outside your work. I mean, you’re lucky if you do. I’m speaking as someone who’s blessed in that way. I do get to work and I get to be with my family and friends. Not everyone can do that.

You have 103 IMDb credits to your name. So, is there one piece that stands out?
Do I?

According to IMDB, that’s the number. Is there one piece that stands out as a definitive moment?
Oh, dear. I would have to say Second City and SCTV started everything for me, trained me, and spoiled me, and taught me most of what I know. Introduced me to my wonderful working friends who I still get to work with, Eugene, and Marty Stuart, and Andrew Martin, and yes, lovely. Sorry, not a moment but definitely a job. Probably the most important job I ever got was with Second City, first the theater, and then they led to doing the TV show. That opened the door for all of us, for our working lives. Otherwise, this show, Schitt’s Creek. To be at my age and get to be this silly and have this much fun is pretty cool, for me anyway. I don’t know about for anyone else.

Last question for you. Most of your career has been about comedy, although you do have a few dramatic moments. What is it about comedy that has you keep going and doing it for so long?
I guess being able to laugh at life and at yourself more than at others is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given, as humans. So any chance I can, I have to share that or give that to anybody else, you know, lucky me.

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