Dan Levy 'Leans Into Joy' On 'Schitt's Creek' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders It's Tuesday. Sam talks to Dan Levy about the comedy series he co-created with his father, actor Eugene Levy. They discuss why Dan has always had to pay his own way, choosing to make his character on "Schitt's Creek" pansexual, and what he doesn't miss about working as a host for MTV. And, uh, Beyonce may have come up, too. Email the show at samsanders@npr.org or tweet @NPRItsBeenAMin with your feedback.
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Dan Levy 'Leans Into Joy' On 'Schitt's Creek'

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Dan Levy 'Leans Into Joy' On 'Schitt's Creek'

Dan Levy 'Leans Into Joy' On 'Schitt's Creek'

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From NPR, I'm Sam Sanders. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Today, we're talking about a TV show and character and an actor making something transformative. I really do believe that TV can be transformative. TV shows can create these worlds where we see things we haven't seen yet and tell us that, yes, those worlds, those realities, they can be, and maybe they already are. TV helped us except gay people and lesbians and the queer community before they were widely accepted. They introduced us to the idea of single mothers or atypical family structures or black presidents and lots of other things before those things were widely accepted. My guest today is showing us a character that is, for a lot of us, a thing that we've also never seen before - something not yet widely accepted, someone who is pansexual.

That guest is Dan Levy. His show was called "Schitt's Creek." It's on Netflix and Pop TV here on the U.S. and on the CBC in Canada. The character Dan plays, David Rose - David's maybe the first pansexual character I've seen on TV ever. He is attracted to men and to women and trans people and gender-fluid people and nonbinary people - all kinds of people. Dan made the show "Schitt's Creek" with his father Eugene Levy. You've probably seen Eugene Levy in movies like "American Pie" or several Christopher Guest movies, which are all hilarious - talking about "Best In Show," "Waiting For Guffman," "A Mighty Wind." Eugene actually stars on the show with his son Dan Levy. Any who, the fifth season of "Schitt's Creek" starts this month. The show was all about this very rich family who all of a sudden is very, very poor - so poor in fact they have to live in two adjoined motel rooms in a small town. All right, that's enough to get you started. Here's me talking with Dan Levy in person in LA.


SANDERS: I have to speak to you first about a thing that I saw in your Instagram feed, probably like a week or two ago. I creep on all of my interview's Instagrams before the interview...

DAN LEVY: I'm scared.

SANDERS: ...Because that's where you get the real stuff.

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: You were in Vegas recently, and you won $3,000 on a slot machine.

LEVY: Yeah. Well, a friend of mine and myself collectively did. We were sort of sharing one of those double-seat sort of slot machines where you get two people sitting, so we can both play.

SANDERS: Was it a themed machine because there's themed machines?

LEVY: "Wheel Of Fortune," it's the only slot machine I play.

SANDERS: There's a Britney Spears machine out there in Vegas.

LEVY: There's a lot of - there's like strange '80s movies that I couldn't remember - like, was reminded because they had a slot machine - sat down at the booth and got a "Wheel Of Fortune." And suddenly it's 3,000 bucks, and there's an attendee from the...

SANDERS: Oh, they come up to you when you do it?

LEVY: Yeah, I think anything over $1,100, someone comes up to you, and you have to like - it's like income.

SANDERS: Did you feel like the belle of the ball? Were you like model waving to the whole casino?

LEVY: I was stunned. My friend was screaming.


LEVY: Granted, she had had an edible.


LEVY: And I was like in a state of shock.


LEVY: And we ended up going to the the bar at the hotel that we were staying at.

SANDERS: And blew all the money.

LEVY: We got $50 whiskies on the rocks, celebrated and immediately left Las Vegas.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah, because the thing is you can't take that money you won and gamble it again.

LEVY: Oh, no, it's not going back into the casino. Are you crazy?

SANDERS: Can't do that, yeah.

LEVY: That's exactly what...

SANDERS: What are you going to spend it on?

LEVY: I have no idea - life, rent.

SANDERS: Talking about Vegas, this place where there's so much money and so much excess, it is interesting to think about you in Vegas and compare that experience that you had there to the experience that your character has in "Schitt's Creek" because it's all about having no money.

LEVY: Having had money but now having no money.

SANDERS: Having had money but now having none.

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: It's such this juxtaposition. Like, how hard is it for you to get in the headspace of the character that you play on that show? This is the son of rich parents who used to be rich. The accountant was doing some screwy stuff. They lost the money. They have to live in a motel.

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: How do you get there?

LEVY: Well, I think there's a big difference between - because, I mean, in my life, I have led a comfortable life. My parents have - my dad has managed to succeed at his craft. So, you know, it's not like I was struggling in my life. But one thing that - I think the big discrepancy between, you know, people who have grown up with families who have money and what I'm playing on this show is the choice for these parents to give their children everything. And that was sort of where my path really diverted from these characters because, you know, at 15, my parents sort of dropped me off in front of a Gap Kids and said don't come home until you have a job application.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: So it was...

SANDERS: Not even the real Gap, the Gap Kids.

LEVY: No, Kids. Well, I chose Kids because I didn't want to deal with people my own age. I was too anxious at the time. Like, I can deal with parents and kids. I don't want to deal with people from my class and school.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

LEVY: They were adamant that I earned my own money, that I know the value of a dollar, that I never take for granted the experiences that happen in my life. And as a result, I have been, you know, working from the time it was legal to work and have been paying my own way ever since, so...

SANDERS: Which is good.

LEVY: ...Which is how it should be. But there are so many people out there - families who have - who are drowning in money, who fix problems, who spoil, who - there's just this culture of wealth now, where it's almost like the children become status objects for the parents. So if the children have lots of money and go on expensive vacations and, you know, are bought expensive homes, they are essentially sort of these weird appendages of this - which I think is a strange thing and something that I found very fascinating, which is why I ended up writing this show.

SANDERS: And you wrote it with your dad. So like...

LEVY: I wrote it with my dad, yeah.

SANDERS: Were you inspired by seeing spoiled rich brats in life?

LEVY: Well, it was, like, seven years ago. So it was around the peak of the "Housewives" (ph) and the Kardashians...


LEVY: And...

SANDERS: Oh, it's still peak housewife for Sam Sanders.


SANDERS: I mean, it'll never go away.

LEVY: Listen. It's only on an upward trajectory.

SANDERS: (Laughter) That's right. That's right.

LEVY: But I remember at the time having such an intimate understanding of how these people lived their lives, to the point where I'm like, do I - how - this is taking up space in my brain. And, like, no offense to all of these people...


LEVY: ...But you know, I think these reality shows really allowed the masses to feel like, in a way, they're living vicariously through these people or it's aspirational or whatever. And I felt like we had now this whole sort of world to play with, a world that most of us now know exists and sort of know the inner workings of. So if we were to take advantage of that in terms of just a core premise and say, well, what if one of these families, families who seem to alleviate the problems and the burdens of family drama by just throwing money at issues and buying gifts as solutions instead of actually sort of working out the guttural sort of, like (laughter)...


LEVY: ...Day-to-day of how it works as a family dynamic - that could be a really interesting sort of world to play with.


LEVY: This family has lost everything, and now they have to just live with the basics.

SANDERS: Yeah, in this town called Schitt's Creek...

LEVY: Right, which was purchased...

SANDERS: ...Which the family bought.

LEVY: My dad on the show bought it for me as a joke because of the name.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: We thought it was very funny. The family had no intention of ever having to move there.

SANDERS: Yeah, and they have to move there and stay in two adjoined hotel rooms.

LEVY: Two adjoining...

SANDERS: Motel...

LEVY: Motel rooms - they'd kill for it to be a hotel room.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: And, you know, for us, from the very beginning, it was always intended to be an exploration of family values and what is really important at the end of the day when all the money is gone and when all the materialism is sort of stripped away. What's left? And what is - what do you really need to get by as a family? And ultimately, I think the answer is love.

SANDERS: Always.

LEVY: Always.

SANDERS: Always the answer, love. When you - so you went to your dad with the idea. Was he like, buh (ph), or was he like, yeah?

LEVY: Well, he was very excited (laughter).


LEVY: He was very excited.

SANDERS: Had y'all worked together before?



LEVY: I think that's part of the reason. I think growing up - in Canada, I got a job at MTV very early on, and I worked there for about eight years as a...

SANDERS: You were a personality. You hosted stuff.

LEVY: I was a host. Yeah. And we ended up doing some stuff here with MTV. We worked for "The Hills." We did their "After Show..."

SANDERS: "The After Show."

LEVY: ...For a long time. But it was still based in Canada. And I was hyper-sensitive to the label of nepotism going into that experience that I didn't tell anybody that I was who I was or who my dad was.

SANDERS: When you were doing your stuff with MTV.

LEVY: When I was at MTV - at least for the first half, so four years.

SANDERS: Really? You think folks knew?

LEVY: Whether they did or didn't, they didn't say anything. And I think most of them didn't.


LEVY: And it allowed me to find my footing and realize whether I had it or not.

SANDERS: And you did.

LEVY: And I - I mean, I did in the sense that I was continually employed.


LEVY: So...


SANDERS: Which is a feat in this economy.

LEVY: ...I wasn't messing up that bad.


LEVY: And then once I felt like I had my footing and I had a voice of my own and that people were responding to what I was saying on television for me, I felt more comfortable to sort of let him in. And we worked a little - we did a few little sketches for MTV at the time.

SANDERS: How nice.

LEVY: And then when I came here, having left MTV, I felt like, A, the idea that I was bringing to him was strong and that I was - I knew what I was talking about. And I felt like I could bring...

SANDERS: Well, because you had watched these reality shows and also had - "After Show" was about some of these reality shows.

LEVY: Oh, yeah. I mean, if I were to sort of, like, connect the dots through my sort of strange...


LEVY: ...Weird career on television, I'm sure it would - it all sort of led to this.


LEVY: But I knew that I could sort of stand my own ground with him and that I wouldn't be taking advantage or that I wouldn't be sort of coming to him, relying on him to get me work or get me something. I mean...

SANDERS: You could both do the heavy lifting.

LEVY: We could both be in it together. I mean, I'm not going to lie. He definitely helped in terms of opening doors and getting meetings.


LEVY: But it was the idea, ultimately...

SANDERS: And it was your idea.

LEVY: Well, it became our idea...

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LEVY: ...But it started as mine, sure - that ultimately got us on television. And it really sort of - we sat down and started talking. And, you know, it was an idea that I thought could use his sensibility, his comedic sort of sensibility, what he had brought to the Christopher Guest movies that he had co-written with Chris. And we started working on it. And his process was very different than mine. It was...

SANDERS: How so?

LEVY: He's incredibly thorough. And at the time, I didn't have a process.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: So it was just generally different.


LEVY: But it was - I mean, working with him behind the scenes and then on camera has really been the greatest master class in comedy and acting that you can have. I mean, you can't pay for that kind of...

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LEVY: ...Experience. So yeah, it has not gone - I've not taken a single day for granted.

SANDERS: Yeah. And so, like, you have this idea. You and your father write this, create this. But then also, your sister is in the show too. This is like a family affair.

LEVY: (Laughter) Yeah.

SANDERS: And my whole thinking in prep for this interview - I was like, I can't imagine any world in which I went to work every day with a parent and a sibling. I would go...

LEVY: It's wild.

SANDERS: ...Crazy. Do you like it?

LEVY: Sure.

SANDERS: (Laughter) You have to say that.

LEVY: And here's the thing. Even when it - even when things - I mean, working with family - I mean, my sister and I get along really well. And we get to see each other on set, and she'll come in a couple times a week. And that's been great. I mean, working with my dad every day, it's one of those things where you have to almost make a conscious effort to try to react differently in situations where there's discrepancies or where you have disagreements because the reaction would be like, can you just...

SANDERS: I hate you, but you've got to sit with, like, other people.

LEVY: (Laughter) Yeah. And also, you know, you have to almost draw a line for yourself. But at the end of the day, we both have the same end goal for the show. So all - any sort of conflict or discrepancy or disagreement will be resolved because whoever has the better idea that serves the show the best will, you know...


LEVY: ...In a way, win.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

LEVY: And also to sort of look back at this from sort of, like, a meta standpoint - to have a, you know, six or seven or however long the show goes...


LEVY: To have that kind of chapter of your life that you've gotten to share with your family that's not only in the memory bank but also documented...

SANDERS: Documented.

LEVY: ...Is something a lot of people don't get. So...

SANDERS: It's a scrapbook.

LEVY: It's a scrapbook.

SANDERS: I love it. So I'll, you know, tell friends and family what I'm preparing for in the show. Everyone that I talk to who - I'll say, I'm going to interview, you know, one of the stars of "Schitt's Creek." And they're like, oh, my God, that show...

LEVY: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Like, it is - are you - like, the fandom is real. Like, the people that like this show love this show.

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: What is - what do you think that's about?

LEVY: We're lucky, I think. We have really passionate, smart, caring fans who feel the show in their bones. I think it's a combination of the show just being quite joyful...


LEVY: ...Trying to send a message of love and acceptance. And I think that message being sort of put out into the world - it's, in a way, provided some kind of...

SANDERS: Respite. Yeah.

LEVY: ...Lightness or escape...


LEVY: ...For 21 minutes and 50 seconds...


LEVY: ...Or however long you want to binge it for - a way to sort of take your mind off of what's happening and lean into joy for a little bit.

SANDERS: All right, time for a break. After that break, dear listener, Dan talks about his character's pansexuality and his early work acting in Lifetime movies. BRB.


SANDERS: I want to dig into your character a little bit, David Rose, on the show. This is...

LEVY: Yeah, he's a sweet thing.

SANDERS: I know. I really do like him.

LEVY: Just tries his best.

SANDERS: Would you like to hang out with him in real life?

LEVY: I don't know.


LEVY: He's a lot.

SANDERS: Describe him for folks that haven't watched the show yet.

LEVY: David Rose is an incredibly privileged human being who has never really found his voice and, as a result, has sort of created a persona for himself that is dependent on an aesthetic, his clothes, what he wears - an entirely black and white wardrobe of highly architectural clothing...


LEVY: ...And just as prickly a personality.


LEVY: And in moving to the town, David has, in a way, found comfort in the anonymity of living in this place and has allowed himself very, very slowly to open up and reveal his wants and needs to people - slowly and carefully and surely.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

LEVY: And yeah, I think his - he's a pansexual, so he's been able to explore all sides of the community...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

LEVY: ...In "Schitt's Creek"...



LEVY: ...And has eventually, you know, found love. And I think that has really changed his whole outlook and made him realize that he doesn't have to be as protective, that he - that loving someone, that finding love in your family and finding love in a partner can allow you to feel safe in this world.

SANDERS: Yeah. I love the way that you handle pansexuality with this character. It is not the central defining thing about David Rose. It's just there. And there's this beautiful moment in which his character comes out to one of his partners as pansexual. And the word pansexual isn't even used.


EMILY HAMPSHIRE: (As Stevie Budd) So just to be clear, I'm a red wine drinker.

LEVY: (As David Rose) That's fine.

HAMPSHIRE: (As Stevie Budd) OK, cool. I only drink red wine.

LEVY: (As David Rose) OK.

HAMPSHIRE: (As Stevie Budd) And up until last night, I was under the impression that you, too, only drank red wine. But I guess I was wrong.

LEVY: (As David Rose) I see where you're going with this. I do drink red wine, but I also drink white wine. And I've been known to sample the occasional rose. And a couple summers back, I tried a merlot that used to be a chardonnay, which got a bit complicated.

HAMPSHIRE: (As Stevie Budd) Oh, OK. Yeah, so you're just really open to all wines.

LEVY: (As David Rose) I like the wine and not the label. Does that make sense?

HAMPSHIRE: (As Stevie Budd) Yes, it does.

LEVY: (As David Rose) OK.

SANDERS: So in that scene with you was...

LEVY: The lovely actress Emily Hampshire, who plays Stevie Budd on the show. She's a dear friend and really was quite wonderful in that scene.

SANDERS: That's really good. Was that your idea?

LEVY: Yeah, I wrote that section of...

SANDERS: That's great.

LEVY: I think it's - I don't know what episode it was.

SANDERS: It was in the first season?

LEVY: Yeah. It was an analogy that...

SANDERS: Episode 10.

LEVY: Yeah - that came to me that I thought was very much a way of communicating his sexuality that, again, didn't come with some kind of lesson, or it wasn't heavy-handed.

SANDERS: And not academic. I think...

LEVY: Exactly.

SANDERS: ...You hear the word pansexual, and, like, you're like, what does this mean?

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: It sounds harder than it really is.

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: And I think the way that you tackle it in the show made it really understandable.

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: And it didn't, like - it wasn't you trying to not be that as a character, which was saying, let me break this down for you real simple.

LEVY: Exactly. And I think that sexuality right now is in such a wonderful state of...


LEVY: ...Flux. And all we can do with one another is try to inform people as to what everything means. There's so many, you know, different terms. There's so many - there's a whole vernacular now...


LEVY: ...That is - that we're having to sort of understand. And it's all for the best, but I think we have to just approach this sort of new territory with the idea that everything is - as long as you're coming into the conversation with the best of intentions. We can't create a judgmental environment. We have to be...

SANDERS: Got to let them in.

LEVY: ...As open and accepting and malleable when it comes to, OK, this person doesn't quite understand who I am.


LEVY: I'm going to tell you without...

SANDERS: Preaching to you.

LEVY: ...Being offended...


LEVY: ...Or without, you know, making you feel bad because, ultimately, we should all be sharing in this process.


LEVY: And when people feel included...


LEVY: ...In the conversation, they're far more willing to cheerlead.


LEVY: I think a lot of people sort of stand on the sidelines because they - they're scared of...

SANDERS: They don't want to get it wrong.

LEVY: Exactly. But I do feel like if we can all come at it from a place of just optimism and the best of intentions...

SANDERS: That's the thing - assuming the best intentions.

LEVY: ...Hopefully that can...


LEVY: Because the only reason people have had to take these stands is because somewhere down the line, someone decided to define sexuality as one thing and then splinter it off into two things. You know, if that were never in the equation - if sexuality was just what it was...

SANDERS: And it wasn't always a binary thing. We forget that, like...

LEVY: ...We would never be in this situation...


LEVY: ...Because labels are what have led to bigotry and intolerance and people feeling judged or people being persecuted. It's because someone has labeled someone else as different.

SANDERS: Yeah. Did you know from the start that you wanted your character to be pansexual?

LEVY: I did.


LEVY: I hadn't seen pansexuality represented on television...

SANDERS: Nor have I.

LEVY: ...Before. I mean, I'm sure it had been. But I hadn't - I wasn't aware. I thought it was interesting territory to explore for the character and for the show.

SANDERS: And you aren't burdening this character with message, all caps. I think a lot of times when you see a first on TV in any capacity, there can be a desire to have that person be a brand ambassador and have them give respectability to this community or something. I don't see that on his character...

LEVY: I think...

SANDERS: ...Which I appreciate.

LEVY: Thanks. I mean, I think there's two ways of going about it. And I think it really depends on the message you're trying to send and, ultimately, on the medium. But I think for us - I guess the stance that I took was that I'm going to show a life as it is in the world. It will not be questioned. It will be embraced. But there are some shows, I think, that need to be more educational in the way that they approach sexuality because of who they're speaking to...


LEVY: ...Or because of what they're saying. That just wasn't ever going to be what this was. There was going to be no homophobia. There was going to be no bigotry. There was going to be no...

SANDERS: Magical dream world (laughter).

LEVY: Listen. And you know, I think there's - you know, people have said, well, are you - is that a responsible thing? But at the end of the day, it's a choice. It's a choice that I made, and it's a choice that...

SANDERS: It's also a fictitious show. You can do it.

LEVY: It's a fictitious show. I can do it. And I also - you know, we've gotten the most incredible feedback from families across the world who have watched the show. And I think because of the fact that they aren't put in a position where they're forced to make a judgment, where parents are accepting of their children, where a small town is not raising an eyebrow to two men falling in love with each other...

SANDERS: After one of them fell in love with a woman - or both previously - yeah.

LEVY: After one of them has fallen in love with a woman - it has opened people's eyes and, in a way, made them look at themselves and say, well, why am I having this problem when these people...

SANDERS: Don't have a problem.

LEVY: ...Don't have a problem? Why am I having this conflict with my child when it's so much easier...

SANDERS: Just to love.

LEVY: ...To love? And that has been the feedback that has really been - that has brought me to tears because for that message to be sort of, like, going out there into people's homes and for people to be - for families to be repairing relationships because of what they're watching in our show is truly incredible and very humbling.

SANDERS: Do you hear from pansexual people?

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: What do they say?

LEVY: I - a lot of them have just - are really just excited that there's someone who represents them on TV, that they watch a show where they can finally turn to their parents and say...

SANDERS: Hey, look (laughter).

LEVY: ...This is it. This is who I am.


LEVY: But yeah, again, the major feedback predominantly over social media is just that it's not - they're not being taught a lesson, that people are not - it's not - we're not spoon-feeding sexuality...


LEVY: ...To people. So...


LEVY: ...They like that it's sort of casually represented.

SANDERS: One thing I notice about all of the characters is that they have really perfected this sense of comedic timing, which is beautifully on display because you're not doing laugh tracks. You're not coming with, like, music and scoring. So you'll just, like, deliver this amazing joke and let it just sit there with you. But I - my question is, like, your comedic timing in the show is on the same level as your father's character, and he had - has been doing this stuff for decades. What did you learn? I mean, did you learn stuff from him in terms of just, like, being comedic on screen?

LEVY: Well, first of all, that's a wonderful compliment.

SANDERS: I mean that.

LEVY: No. The character - I don't know where he came from...


LEVY: ...But he - it just happened. And it's funny because I was writing those scripts up until the night before we started shooting our very first...

SANDERS: Really?

LEVY: ...Day. And it wasn't until that night that I sat down to learn my lines that I was like, oh, God. I have a scene with Catherine O'Hara and my dad tomorrow...


LEVY: ...And I don't even - this is my first time acting since a Lifetime movie that I did with Mischa Barton.

SANDERS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You can't just drop that bomb and not let it explode.

LEVY: Listen.

SANDERS: What was this movie (laughter)?

LEVY: I can't remember the name. It had something to do...

SANDERS: (Laughter) You can't remember the name of your own Lifetime...

LEVY: It was - there were two names - one in Canada and one in the States.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: It had some - I think one of them was...

SANDERS: Say it.

LEVY: I think it was called "Cyberstalker." Anyway...

SANDERS: Were you the stalker?

LEVY: I mean, yeah.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: It was a very bizarre film.

SANDERS: You know I'm going to watch this tonight.

LEVY: You really will regret that.


LEVY: You will, halfway through, really wish you had that time of your life back. So yeah, I sort of showed up...

SANDERS: That was your - yeah.

LEVY: ...On the first day.

SANDERS: That was your experience, whereas, like, your father and Catherine O'Hara had been in improv for a long time...

LEVY: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Movies for a long - they just had this depth experience.

LEVY: Of course. And, I mean, they know what they - I mean, they're incredible character actors.

SANDERS: And they know each other 'cause they've worked together before.

LEVY: They know each other. They can - they have an innate sort of gift to read a script and to extract a character from it. I had a very loose idea of what I wanted to go in with. I knew that he was really guarded and that he was using sort of a very sort of hard shell to protect himself. And when we sat down, I really do feel like - I attribute a lot of him to Catherine and my dad and Annie in those first few scenes where we started to be a family.

SANDERS: Did your father give notes on set - like, you didn't do it like this? I know what I'm doing.

LEVY: Well, it's funny 'cause we did shoot a presentation pilot a little bit before we got the green light to do a series. And I sort of did a version of David then, and he was very soft-spoken. And in the show, he can tend to be a little like - he talks sort of in the - like, there's a judgment that exists...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah (laughter).

LEVY: ...In the back of his - and I remember my dad sort of coming to me saying, I don't know if the mics are going to pick up that kind of voice.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LEVY: But I didn't know anything about mics at the time (laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah. But there was this essence of - which I love - like, almost an essence of, like, Tim Gunn but even more condescension.

LEVY: Oh, yeah, with, like, a combination of Meryl Streep in "Devil Wears Prada" and...

SANDERS: Why is no one ready?

LEVY: Yeah. Her whole approach was that, like, really powerful people speak softly to force people to listen.

SANDERS: Force you to listen. I love it.

LEVY: So...

SANDERS: All right. One more break. When we come back, some stories about the many times Dan interviewed celebrities for MTV, featuring one of my favorite Beyonce stories. All right. BRB.


SANDERS: So, Dan, I want to go back to your work as an MTV host. Do you miss that?


SANDERS: (Laughter) Why not?

LEVY: No. I never felt comfortable hosting TV.

SANDERS: Why not?

LEVY: Never. No, no, no, no, no. I would be really nervous. I - depending on the person who came in - if I really liked them, I would get nervous. And if I really didn't like them, then I would get nervous. Yeah. It just never felt right. It never - I'm a more - I - yeah.

SANDERS: I do love the beauty of never having to show my face. Like, one, I'm fidgety...

LEVY: But you're so good at your job.

SANDERS: Your check's in the mail.


LEVY: But it's true. I mean - and also, I think - you know, we were doing this on live TV, and it was very performative.

SANDERS: And there are time constraints, which is crazy.

LEVY: Incredible time constraints.


LEVY: A lot of, you know, people come in with mandates from publicists where you have to hit X, Y and Z. And also, not being able to have a - sit down and have a conversation like - if I were given the opportunity to chat like we're chatting now, it would've been a totally different thing because I find this to be very sort of fulfilling. But on MTV, it's like - you're asking, like, so who are you dating?

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: That's amazing. Wow. Whoa. You - your album's great.

SANDERS: And it's not great.

LEVY: And it's fine.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Who was your most favorite and least favorite celebrity interview in the - or can you say?

LEVY: Funnily enough (laughter) - the great thing about - actually, the great thing about being on MTV is that a lot of people came in. A lot of people came through the doors. And in certain situations, people that you never thought you would have the kind of fan reaction to, you got. Tori Spelling came in to the show at one point.


LEVY: And I am, have been, will always be a "90210" fanatic.

SANDERS: All right.

LEVY: And she came on. And for some reason, some kind of repressed something kicked up in me. And my glasses fogged.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: I started sweating. I couldn't talk properly.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: I had no idea what was going on. And the, like, wave of, like, nostalgic fandemonium hit me...


LEVY: ...So intensely that I just fell apart.

SANDERS: Was she like, oh, my God?

LEVY: I don't know. At the time, I thought, like, that went well. If I were to watch it back, I don't know.

SANDERS: I also love that you've coined the word fandemonium. I'm into that.

LEVY: Did I - I feel like...

SANDERS: You said fandemonium.

LEVY: ...Us Weekly...

SANDERS: Oh, really? OK.

LEVY: ...Probably put that out a while ago. But...

SANDERS: I'm into it. I'm into it.

LEVY: And Adele was a great one.

SANDERS: Oh, but what level of Adele...

LEVY: And Rihanna was a great one.

SANDERS: Wait. Stop.

LEVY: Yeah, twice...


LEVY: I interviewed Rihanna. Yeah.

SANDERS: But what level of Rihannaness (ph)? Was she like as big as she is now?

LEVY: "Umbrella" era. No, it was like...


LEVY: It was - I - it had been eight years, I think, since I left.


LEVY: So it was...

SANDERS: Early Rihanna.

LEVY: I mean, she was still...

SANDERS: A force.

LEVY: There were hits.

SANDERS: There were bops, slaps.

LEVY: Slaps.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: She was great. Adele I had actually seen in London...


LEVY: ...Or heard in London. Her first album "19" - had heard it in London, came back, got the job at MTV, heard she was touring with "19" in a very small venue in Toronto, sat my team down at MTV and said, we need to bring her in. And we need to have her sing. And they said no because at the time, we were only putting on, like, Sum 41 and, like...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: ...Pop punk stuff. And they didn't know what it was.


LEVY: And I said, OK. You have to trust me on this.

SANDERS: She's good.

LEVY: I'm quitting if you don't bring me...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: ...Bring her in.

SANDERS: Give me Adele.

LEVY: She came in. We did the interview. She performed to a room of, like, 60 people.


LEVY: You could hear a pin drop.


LEVY: It was - and I knew in that moment - we all knew in that moment that she was going to go on to be legendary.

SANDERS: And she's a good interview, too.

LEVY: Lovely and humble and completely enthusiastic about her success...


LEVY: ...You know? It's like it doesn't ever feel like she's taken anything for granted.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

LEVY: And that's the best kind of celebrity.

SANDERS: I love it.

LEVY: That's the - you know, people that you can sort of share in their excitement, like...


LEVY: Yeah, it's happening. It's big. You got tons of money now.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: What are you going to do with it?

SANDERS: Yeah. It's also my thing with Adele - who I love. At some point, when people rise to prominence on breakup songs and songs of despair, I feel like, personally, I want them, at some point, to make the switch and make an album about being rich and happy and married and having a kid.

LEVY: Maybe that's what the next one is.

SANDERS: It better be because, like...

LEVY: Because who knows when that next one is going to come?

SANDERS: I'm like, are you happy now, Adele?

LEVY: Probably very happy.

SANDERS: You've been gone from that man for years.

LEVY: She has a kid and...


LEVY: ...A big, old house.


LEVY: She's doing great.

SANDERS: I want, you know, like, spirit fingers Adele next. Anyway, this has been everything I wanted it to be and more.

LEVY: (Laughter) I'm so glad.

SANDERS: I want to close as we started and talk about Las Vegas.

LEVY: Yes.

SANDERS: If you could put any artist in a Vegas residency, who would it be?

LEVY: Beyonce. How much do you think Beyonce would have to get paid to do a Vegas residency?

SANDERS: Also, how many shows...

LEVY: Like Jeff Bezos money.

SANDERS: They'd have to give her Amazon.

LEVY: And she would be at Caesar's Palace...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: ...For four years...


LEVY: ...Coming out with, like, $400 billion.

SANDERS: Oh, totally - because, you know, that there's, like, Beyonce stans that would just go to 15 shows in a row.

LEVY: Me - I would be there. I would be there every weekend. There'd be a shuttle service...


LEVY: ...From Los Angeles.


LEVY: I mean, I saw her in Atlantic City when she did the residency in Atlantic City.

SANDERS: (Whispering) Her best shows are when it's just her.

LEVY: Well, I...

SANDERS: Formation was better than On The Run II.

LEVY: Unfortunately...

SANDERS: You missed Formation.

LEVY: I missed Formation.


LEVY: And that was the...


LEVY: ...Only...


LEVY: ...Show that I have missed.

SANDERS: Girl, Formation was beyond.

LEVY: I know.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: I don't need you to tell me. I know.

SANDERS: She walks on water (laughter).

LEVY: I watched enough clips over Twitter and Instagram and YouTube.

SANDERS: She literally walks on water in the show.

LEVY: I know the water part.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

LEVY: I - you know, there's probably a DVD out at this point. And I'll buy it and really regret it. But even in On The Run II where you're only getting half of her...


LEVY: That half is better than anything else out there.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yes.

LEVY: And I looked over at one point. And Annie and Noah, who - Noah plays my boyfriend on the show, and Annie plays my sister - were like mouths agape, in a state of just shock...


LEVY: ...Because to watch her perform...

SANDERS: It's superhuman.

LEVY: ...Is to witness something surreal.

SANDERS: I saw her in Baltimore on the Formation tour - and literally, the most beautiful moment that I've ever seen in my musical history. So, like, the audience at a Beyonce show is really - you can define it. It is gay men...

LEVY: Yep.

SANDERS: ...Women...

LEVY: Correct.

SANDERS: ...And women that bring their straight men with them.

LEVY: Yes.

SANDERS: And so there was this great woman with a straight man in front of me. She was a white woman. She's living her life, loving Beyonce. But the man, the husband, is not into it. He's just sitting there, drinking his Coors Light. But this was just after Prince had died. So at a certain point, she begins to do a tribute to Prince. And she breaks into this perfect rendition of "Purple Rain." And as she's singing "Purple Rain," you see the guy be like, oh.

LEVY: Slowly get into it.

SANDERS: Yeah. And then she hits the chorus. He grabs his Coors Light, stands up and goes, woo!

LEVY: (Laughter).

SANDERS: And you saw the moment where she got him.

LEVY: Where he was converted.

SANDERS: It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

LEVY: She will get everyone.

SANDERS: Eventually, she'll get us all.

LEVY: It's only a matter of time.

SANDERS: Yes. Send her to go solve the shutdown.


SANDERS: She can bring folks together.

LEVY: Holy cow. That's a whole 'nother...

SANDERS: Whole 'nother story for the next time. Thank you. Thank you. This was delightful.

LEVY: Thank you so much for having me.

SANDERS: Oh, my God, yeah.

LEVY: What a pleasure.

SANDERS: Come back for next season, too.

LEVY: Done.

SANDERS: Thank you, sir.

LEVY: Thank you.


SANDERS: Thanks again to Dan Levy. Seasons 1 through 4 of "Schitt's Creek" are on Netflix right now. I've been bingeing. You should as well. The fifth season of that show starts this month. And listeners, as always, today, tomorrow, any day, share with me the best thing that's happened to you all week. That's for our Weekly Wrap on Friday. Just record yourself, send the file to me at samsanders@npr.org. You may hear yourself there in the show on the radio, all over the place. All right. Till then, thanks for listening. I'm Sam Sanders. Talk soon.


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