It’s hard to imagine Schitt’s Creek without Catherine O’Hara in those amazingly ridiculous wigs and outfits, but that’s exactly what we would have gotten had Eugene Levy not been able to convince his longtime friend and co-star to join him and his son in creating the sleeper hit. As revealed in Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell—which aired directly after Schitt’s Creek’s series finale on Pop TV—O’Hara originally declined Levy’s invitation to join the cast.
“It’s so stupid,” O’Hara says in the documentary. “Really, it’s lame to talk about not wanting to do it in the beginning. How stupid would I have been not to have done it?”
Here are some highlights from the rest of the farewell special.
“When we finally put it together and realized, ‘This is the show,’ it seemed like it had good bones, as they say,” Eugene Levy recalls of spending weeks doing character development with his son, Dan Levy, before getting to work on the pilot script. “But when we finally cast it, that’s when we realized, ‘Wow, we’re on to something really good here.’”
Part of that casting process was asking O’Hara—who he first starred alongside on Second City Television in the late 1970s—to play the role of former soap star Moira Rose in the short pilot presentation. “She’s always, like, a first choice,” Eugene explains. “She was a first choice with the movies that [Christopher Guest] and I did. I mean, number one name. ‘Let’s get Catherine.’”
“‘It’s just 15 minutes,’” O’Hara remembers Eugene telling her. “‘Then, even if it sells, I won’t bug you about doing the role.’” But when the show sold, the Levys came knocking. “We had to go back to her and say, ‘Remember that show that we shot that was 14 minutes? Do you want to do that now for 13 episodes?’” says Dan Levy.
“I said, ‘No, I don’t think so. I’m kind of busy… doing nothing,’” O’Hara recalls. But Dan was not to be deterred and asked his dad to push one last time: “I said, call her back…We’ll go one year at a time. And if it’s not gonna work, it’s not gonna work. And he called her, and she said yes, and the rest is history.”
And once she committed, O’Hara dove into creating the Moira Schitt’s Creek “frans” now know and love. “I thought, ‘Rich lady? I don’t want to just look like a cliché rich lady.’ So I went online and I found Daphne Guinness,” O’Hara says of finding inspiration in images of the English socialite and designer. Adds Dan Levy: “She came to me with some references in terms of how the character would look, and she was thinking of having this sort of accent.... I remember finding it all quite dazzling.”
“The wigs weren’t in it. And the vocabulary wasn’t in it, you know. That’s what I got to add,” continues O’Hara. “I just asked if I could wear lots of wigs, depending on my mood. It works for fashion reasons, it works for hiding or revealing what I’m feeling, it works as a protective helmet. So it’s just too much fun.”
Moira wasn’t the only character to undergo a transformation after the pilot presentation. Sarah Levy—Eugene’s daughter and Dan’s sister—recalls how the role of Twyla completely changed by the time they filmed the first episode.
“She was very nerdy and introverted and there was a sadness to her,” she recalls. “The transition between that and the Twyla that exists now is just a sunnier woman. Just this little ray of sunshine.”
Before getting cast as Alexis and Jocelyn, Annie Murphy and Jennifer Robertson weren’t having the best of luck in their chosen profession. Murphy admits she hadn’t worked in two years before getting the chance to be a little bit Alexis.
“The universe was really screaming in my ear, ‘This is not for you!’” she says. “And literally the next day I got an email for an audition for a show called Schitt’s Creek.” It was similar for Robertson: “The day before I found out I got the part of Jocelyn, I filled out an online application to stock the shelves at Petco,” says the actress. “But you needed to operate a forklift, and I thought that was a bad idea in general.”
Leading up to the Schitt’s Creek auditions, “I was getting, like, audition anxiety to the point of, like, if I walked into an audition room I would break out in hives, like full-body hives, so I told my U.S. agent, ‘I can’t audition anymore. I’ll put myself on tape...’ And he dropped me, and that’s fair. I totally, totally get it,” says Hampshire. “But then my Canadian agent kept me and she said, ‘Just go in. They’re Canadian, they’re nice.’ I just remember—this is so dumb and I hope this is like a dream that didn’t actually happen—I just remember rotary dialing an imaginary phone,” she says of her audition. Spoiler alert: Per the rare footage of Hampshire’s audition that followed, it was definitely not a dream.