Schitt’s Creek is a classic fish-out-of-water story: After they lose their entire video store fortune to the government because their business manager hasn't been paying their taxes, the Rose family—parents Johnny (Eugene Levy) and Moira (Catherine O'Hara) and their adult children David (Daniel Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy)—head to the only asset the government has allowed them to keep: the town of Schitt’s Creek. The cosmopolitan Roses, who had purchased the town as a joke, move into the local motel, where they share two adjoining rooms; they stick out like sore thumbs in their new home.
But at its heart, Schitt’s Creek is a show about family. “We’ve used a fish out of water scenario to help dramatize that story,” co-creator and star Daniel Levy told Assignment X, “forcing them into a motel room and ... examining what it means to be a family and what relationships are and having the time to concentrate and focus on who they are to each other and what they mean to each other.” Here are a few things you might not have known about the hit series.
1. Reality TV inspired some elements of Schitt's Creek.
“It really just started with me being in Los Angeles, knowing that I wanted to write," Daniel Levy told Out in 2015 of the show's beginnings. "I had been watching some reality TV at the time and was concentrating on what would happen if one of these wealthy families would lose everything. Would the Kardashians still be the Kardashians without their money?”
In 2018, Annie Murphy recounted at 92Y Talks that she, too, looked to the Kardashians for inspiration for her character. “I watched a bunch of clips—YouTube clips, because I couldn’t bring myself to watch entire shows—of, you know, Kardashians and that kind of thing” for some of Alexis’s tone and mannerisms, including the particular way she holds her hands, she explained. “When they hold their handbags, they hold their purses [on their arms] with their broken wrist this way,” Murphy said, pantomiming someone holding a bag with their hand hanging limply, palm up. For Alexis, she flipped her wrist so that her hand was hanging palm down (you can see it in action here).
2. Schitt's Creek was a family affair.
To flesh out his idea, Levy turned to his dad, frequent Christopher Guest collaborator (and American Pie star) Eugene. The two had never worked together before; in fact, pre-Schitt’s, Daniel had been adamant about doing his own thing. “People are so quick to judge children of people in entertainment,” he told Assignment X. “I just thought, if nobody knows the association and I’m able to build something for myself, then I can introduce my dad—when people actually respect me for what I’ve done, as opposed to snap-judge why I got the job or what I was doing.”
Why go to him for Schitt’s? As Daniel explained to NPR, he had seen the family-loses-it-all idea “played out on mainstream television and sitcoms, but I'd never really seen it explored through the lens of a certain style of realist comedy that my dad does so well. So I came to him and pitched the idea and asked him if he would be interested at all in just fleshing it out and seeing if there was anything there. And fortunately, there was some interest and we started talking.”
Eugene told The New York Times that he was thrilled to have the chance to collaborate with his son: “My heart was actually palpitating. You could see it over my shirt.”
Eugene and Daniel weren’t the only Levys on the show, either: Sarah Levy, daughter of Eugene and sister of Daniel, also appeared on Schitt’s Creek as Twyla Sands, the lone waitress at the town’s most happening diner, Cafe Tropical.
3. Eugene Levy came up with the title Schitt's Creek.
“It was actually just out of coincidence really," Daniel told Out. "He was having a dinner conversation a few weeks prior, about this theoretical town of Schitt's Creek: You would have Schitt Hardware and Schitt Grocers." When they were researching ways that people had lost their fortunes, they came across stories of people who had bought towns for various reasons and later ended up bankrupt. “We thought, well, what if this family, as a joke for the son's 16th birthday, found this town called Schitt's Creek, bought it as a joke because of the name and then ended up having to live there?” Daniel said.
The show’s name made promotional tours interesting: Not all TV or radio outlets could say it, for fear of being fined for using profanity. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, for example, the name of the show had to appear on screen every time it was spoken aloud.
4. Annie Murphy also auditioned for the role of Stevie Budd.
At a 92Y Talks discussion in 2016, Murphy revealed that she auditioned for both Stevie Budd—the deadpan concierge at the Schitt’s Creek motel where the Roses make their home—and Alexis, the self-centered socialite character she would eventually play. “I’ve never worked so hard at an audition in my life,” she said. “I made my husband rehearse it with me just into the ground.”
In the presentation pilot—which is meant to secure a season order and not destined to air on TV—Alexis had been played by Abby Elliott, who couldn’t continue on the show because of another project. So auditions were held in Los Angeles, where Daniel said they saw “hundreds” of people for the role.
“There had to be some kind of intrinsic likeability to this family, otherwise there’s really no reason to watch—because on paper they’re not very likeable,” he said. “I had been sitting through two days of auditions, and you see these girls come in and they’re dressed like Paris Hilton and they’re playing that part, which was essentially the part that was written on paper. But what I was looking for was what Annie brought in, which was this wonderfully natural likeability to this girl who is so unlikeable, who is so, like, horrifyingly self-involved … It all kind of fell into place, and I called my dad and said ‘I found Alexis, thank god.’”
But Eugene’s immediate response, according to Daniel, was that Murphy had brown hair, unlike the blonde vision of Alexis he had in his head from the pilot. So they had Murphy read for Stevie, because, Daniel said, “I’m not not having her on the show.” When Murphy landed the role of Alexis, she dyed her hair blonde, and Emily Hampshire was cast as Stevie (who had been played by Lindsay Sloane in the pilot).
5. Emily Hampshire doesn't remember anything about her audition.
When she got the audition for Schitt's Creek, Emily Hampshire was living in L.A. and going through a rough time. "I literally had $800 in my bank account, hadn't worked in a year, was getting a divorce," she tells Mental Floss.
To make matters worse, she was also breaking out into hives when she went out on auditions. So when her agent called about Schitt's, Hampshire said she absolutely couldn't go read in person; what she could do instead was put herself on tape. But at her agent’s insistence, Hampshire went in to audition in front of Daniel and a casting director—and it was a memorable experience for everyone involved but her: Hampshire says she doesn't remember any of it.
Thankfully, Levy does. “Emily came in and immediately said, ‘I’m sorry, this is going to be terrible,’” he recalled at 92Y Talks in 2018. “She did it, and it was great, and I remember saying … ‘Why don’t we just try it where she gets a little more kick out of these people. She’s not just judging them, she’s like, enjoying them, too.’ So she did it again, and you can tell when it clicks … and I remember saying, ‘Great, we’re good,’ and she was like, ‘No, it was—oh god, it was terrible, it was so bad.’” Then, she covered her head with her shirt to hide. Hampshire doesn’t remember that part, either, but, said Levy, “I remember it fondly.”
6. Stevie was the audience's stand-in.
“The character of Stevie has always acted as the eyes of the audience," Daniel said during a 92Y Talks in 2018. "She is the person who is going to say the things that the audience is probably saying to each other while watching it. And I think it’s always important to have that one character on the show that you can trust.”
That was something that resonated with Hampshire. "I think what I connected to in Stevie is that she really stands in for the audience in a way," Hampshire says, "and I felt like I just had to watch these people around me and take them in in an honest way and it would be funny."
In the character breakdown she received when she auditioned, Hampshire says that Stevie was described as "being from a small town, and she's very deadpan." But over the course of the show, Stevie evolved. In season 1, Hampshire says, "I don’t think she had any attachment to the motel or to anyone—on purpose. To not be attached or kind of be emotionally invested in anything is a much safer place to be ... she has opened up.” Over the course of the show, Stevie “grows up a lot,” Hampshire says, “and really learns to take responsibility for things that I don't think she ever wanted to take responsibility for."
7. Catherine O'Hara brought something special to the character of Moira Rose.
It was Eugene who suggested O’Hara—his frequent collaborator in Guest’s mockumentaries—for the part of Moira Rose. “I was not going to say, ‘No, that’s not a good idea,’” Daniel told The New York Times. “When he offers up Catherine O’Hara, you take it and run with it.”
And Moira’s eccentricities are all O’Hara’s doing. “We always knew Moira was an actress, an ex-soap star, who became a socialite, chairing major charity events around the world,” Eugene told The Hollywood Reporter. “But Catherine, who always brings something so creative to the table, added a very extreme affectation to her actress character that made Moira so much funnier than we had imagined her.”
O’Hara told Awards Daily that her character’s voice is “kind of a mix of people I’ve met. There’s one woman who’s very feminine and lovely. She just has a unique way of putting sentences together.” Inspiration can come from other sources, too: In the Season 3 episode “New Car,” O’Hara at one point had to use a British accent. “There’s a woman on Sirius radio who claims to be a dog whisperer or pet psychic. Have you heard this woman?” she asked Awards Daily. “That’s basically the accent I’m doing.”
8. Moira's aesthetic is based on Daphne Guinness.
“Catherine came in with a reference, when we first started exploring what the aesthetic of this strange woman would be, and she brought in a picture of Daphne Guinness, who is the heir to the Guinness fortune,” Daniel said at 92Y Talks in 2018. “And she was a McQueen muse, and I looked at it, and I said ‘How do we translate this to television?’ And we thought if we kept it in black and whites and went just far enough, I think we can sort of rein it in.”
Moira’s over-the-top looks (which include a number of wigs that, according to Hampshire, have names) are created by Dan and Debra Hanson. “They shop all year because these characters have to have extremely high-end, designer wardrobes, but [the Roses] don’t have that money anymore,” O’Hara told Awards Daily. “I’ve never enjoyed wardrobe fittings in my life until now!”
9. Catherine O’Hara used arcane dictionaries for Moira’s vocabulary.
Before shooting, O’Hara would look over Moira’s dialogue and trade out conventional words with more unusual bon mots. “I have a couple of books that have arcane and archaic words that nobody’s ever heard, and it’s fun to play with my dialogue a bit and… accessorize with a few of those words,” O’Hara told Entertainment Weekly. Those books included Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words and Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous. Fans delight so much in Moira’s strange vocabulary that someone made a Moira Rose Word of the Day Instagram account.
10. The wardrobe on Schitt's Creek told a story.
“Dan plays a big hand in the costuming, along with the costume designer Debra Hanson, who is amazing,” Murphy told Build. “Catherine and I do hours and hours of fittings before we start shooting. And I’ll come out of the room and Dan will be like, ‘Mm mm,’ and send me back in.”
After joking that that “makes me sound crazy,” Daniel said that “the mandate, from a creative standpoint … was that the wardrobe on this show is able to tell a story that we don’t have to write … We’re constantly reminded of who these people are and where they came from.”
Because the show is on a tight budget, lots of the wardrobe, he said, comes from eBay and thrift stores. Levy told Vulture in 2019 that all the clothes have to come from around the time when the Roses lost their money—and that the most he'll pay for any item is $200.
11. The location of Schitt's Creek was purposefully ambiguous.
Schitt’s Creek is a Canadian production, and the Rose family had a place in New York, but when people ask him where the town of Schitt’s Creek is located, Eugene says that he tells them it’s wherever they think it should be. “We didn’t set Schitt’s Creek in any location or any country, it’s just Schitt’s Creek,” he said at 92Y Talks in 2016. “We honestly wanted the focus of the show to be on this town, and if you put it in a country with real states or put it in a country with real provinces, then things become tangible … it kind of diffuses the focus to me.”
12. There wasn’t a lot of improv on the Schitt's Creek set.
That fact might surprise fans of Eugene and O'Hara’s work on Guest films like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, where the cast works from an outline of the action with no dialogue rather than a traditional script. “[Schitt’s] is completely a scripted show, but we do an awful lot of playing around with the lines when we get to the set,” Eugene told The Hollywood Reporter. “What looked good on paper doesn’t always play when you hear the words out loud. So, we do change things until they end up sounding right.”
“When we get the script, I kind of work on it on my own and play with it then,” O’Hara told Awards Daily. “The Levy gentlemen give me respect, and I respect them and email them with possibilities. I don’t feel the need to improvise because our scripts are great.”
Which is not to say that everything was shot as written: Levy said at 92Y Talks in 2018 that Murphy’s “you get murdered first!” from the pilot episode was improvised.
13. The baseball team in the town where Schitt's Creek films changed its name to honor the show.
All of the show's interiors were shot at a studio, but the buildings are actual structures in Goodwood, dressed to look like Schitt's Creek. According to Hampshire, many of the buildings are on a single intersection. "There’s Bob’s Garage, which is a garage, but we put a sign up, and then the café and the apothecary are stores," Hampshire says. "When we shoot there, we make them into our stores." The motel was, at one point, actually a motel. "It’s been since turned into this basketball boys club sleeping quarters camp thing," she says. "When we go in, it really smells like a locker room."
In the first season, locals set up lawn chairs to watch filming and wandered through shots; by the second season, Eugene told 92Y Talks in 2016, they were “proud citizens of Schitt’s Creek.” The town seems to have embraced its alter ego, as evidenced by the actions of its minor league baseball team. “They had a minor league kind of baseball team there that actually changed their name from the Goodwood Bears to the Schitt's Creek Bears for an entire month,” Eugene told NPR.
14. Chris Elliot made Eugene Levy break constantly.
According to Murphy, Eugene “giggles like a schoolboy” in scenes with Chris Elliot, who played Schitt’s Creek Mayor Roland Schitt. “He’s got my number,” Levy said in an interview with Build. “He’s constantly making me laugh on set … He does it intentionally, of course, and he actually succeeds.”
One scene in the show’s third season was particularly tough to get through and resulted in hours of outtakes: “[Chris] gets in kind of behind me, trying to show me how to hold a [golf] club properly,” Levy recalled. “That’s one of the times I think I laughed the hardest in the three seasons, was trying to get through that scene.” He couldn’t stop laughing and was eventually admonished by the director. (They did eventually get the shot.)
15. When it came to Schitt's Creek, Daniel left no detail unconsidered.
And that includes the wear and tear on the carpets in the motel. “In my head it’s like, ‘We should all know that they don’t vacuum their carpets all the time,’” Levy told GQ in 2019. "These are lived-in carpets. We’re in a motel. If we’re going to vacuum the carpets, which I know has to be done, we also need to scuff them up a bit after." He does all the scuffing himself: "It’s in the details for me, and when the details aren’t executed perfectly, I get a bit … ornery," he said. (But Daniel doesn't bring that energy to set: "It’s crazy how comfortable he is doing this, how calm and confident he is running the show," O'Hara told GQ.)
16. Cafe Tropical's menu was Annie Murphy's favorite prop.
Cafe Tropical’s huge menu is often played for laughs on Schitt’s Creek, and it’s Murphy’s favorite prop on the show. “I wish everyone could see the inside of the menu because it’s very detailed and there’s literally every dish you could possibly imagine,” Murphy said at 92Y Talks in 2018. “There are literally 150 things you could order on this menu, and they’re all described.” The props department couldn’t find a big enough real-life menu, so they ended up creating massive ones in a custom size.
17. Emily Hampshire regularly borrowed Stevie's clothes.
With her Chucks, flannels, and overalls, Stevie easily has the most comfortable wardrobe on Schitt's Creek. It's so comfortable, in fact, that Hampshire often borrows items to wear on her time off. "I always take this one pair of Stevie’s jeans that I love—they’re like the perfect baggy boyfriend roll-up jeans," Hampshire says. "I take hoodies. I actually take Stevie’s Converse because they’re better than my exact Converse for some reason. I always take her stuff, which Dan doesn't understand at all. He’s like, 'What is there to take? Like, why would you ever borrow this stuff?' But for some reason, the wardrobe women, they just find the perfect hoodie or the perfect jean—so I take those."
18. Emily Hampshire got to live a personal dream in Season 5.
When Daniel told Hampshire she’d be performing the part of Sally Bowles in the Schitt’s Creek version of Cabaret, Hampshire was floored. She told Decider that it “was the craziest moment because whenever anyone would ask me, what’s your dream role to play, years ago I said Sally Bowles in Cabaret. I loved the movie and I’m obsessed with musicals. I’ve always told this to everybody I worked with, I want to do this. I even said it to Dan [in the] first season, ‘If we do a musical can we do Cabaret?’ But I never in a million years thought Stevie would be part of it or let alone play Sally Bowles. So I kind of got my dream in the best way possible because I got to do my dream as Stevie and got to express what Stevie’s feeling to that iconic song.”
Hampshire didn’t sing the song in rehearsals because “I [wanted] my first take to be the first time I’m doing it, and to the audience. Because I would naturally be super f***ing nervous, like on so many levels; me as Emily and as Stevie and the expectations of everybody ... In rehearsals they were like, could you me get a level for sound, but I never did it until the first take. And that’s how we did it. From there, we did about three takes of it all the way through. … This was something that I felt like, it’s best in its imperfections. I never wanted it to sound like Stevie suddenly became a musical performer singer. I wanted it to be like Stevie’s heart.”
19. Daniel Levy announced the end of the series in March 2019.
Daniel announced the news on Twitter in a letter written by himself and Eugene. "We are so grateful to have been given the time and creative freedom to tell this story in its totality, concluding with a final chapter that we had envisioned from the very beginning," they wrote. "It’s not lost on us what a rare privilege it is in this industry to get to decide when your show should take its final bow. We could never have dreamed that our fans would grow to love and care about these characters in the ways that you have.” The final season has already aired on Pop and CBC, and will likely hit Netflix in the fall.
20. After production wrapped, Hampshire took something special from the set.
After Schitt's Creek was done filming, Hampshire snagged the stag painting from behind the desk at the Rosebud Hotel and took it home with her. These days, it lives in her home office. "It's in a tiny office," she says. "It's basically the entire office."
21. Schitt's Creek set an Emmy record.
The show swept the comedy category at the 2020 Emmys for its sixth and final season, and won nine awards in total—"the most ever for a comedy in a single year," according to The New York Times. O'Hara and Eugene Levy both won acting Emmys in the comedy category for playing Moira and Johnny Rose, while Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy both won best supporting actor and actress awards for their roles as David and Alexis Rose. The show also took home awards of best directing for a comedy series, best writing for a comedy series, best casting for a comedy series, and best contemporary costumes.