Sarah Levy On The Legacy Of "Schitt's Creek" And The Joy Of Working Alongside Tim Rozon Again
"It really felt like I took a little piece of Schitt's Creek with me."
If you're a Schitt's Creek fan, then chances are you know Sarah Levy as the optimistic and adorable Twyla. Now, just a year after saying goodbye to the show, Sarah returns to TV on the brand-new series SurrealEstate, and she's actually taken a little piece of Schitt's Creek with her as she stars as Susan Ireland opposite Tim Rozon (aka Mutt) as Luke Roman.
To celebrate this spooky and fun new series, Sarah sat down with us to take a look back at Schitt's Creek and its Emmy Award–winning run, while also looking ahead to SurrealEstate and what fans can expect. Here's everything we learned:
THEN: You've said before that Twyla from Schitt's Creek started out pretty different from who we saw her as in the pilot. How was it seeing the evolution of her character in the beginning?
The original character of Twyla in the pilot presentation, as I've said, was sort of a sad and depressing character. I actually had nothing to do with the evolution of what that character turned into. When I first read the pilot of Schitt's Creek, as we know it now, Twyla became a different type of character, and I was really grateful for that. Although it was really fun playing the old version of Twyla as well — just this unhinged and on-the-verge-of-tears-at-all-times character — I think they luckily saw her going in a bit of a different direction. You know, I've never actually asked [the writers] why the change happened. I am going to do that.
When did you find out that Twyla was secretly a multimillionaire?
Oh my gosh! I had heard when the writers were writing the sixth season that there was a potential storyline of Twyla winning the lottery. But I had been hearing potential storylines for six years for other characters, too, and when they are at the beginning and working everything through, there are so many ways and directions a character can go. So I would hear bits and pieces from the writers over the years.
When I heard the lottery idea, I sort of took it with a grain of salt and said, "That would be amazing if it happens, but I'll wait and see if it actually does." So it wasn't really until close to the second-to-last episode, Season 6, Episode 13, where I actually got to see it in writing, which was amazing.
NOW: How did you get involved in SurrealEstate?
I auditioned for it. It came to me and I put myself on tape for it. This was about last May, and then, two months later, I got the call that I got the part. At first, for a split second, I couldn't even remember what the show was because we were in such a bizarre time with COVID and everything, so I feel like my mind was just somewhere else. I didn't meet anybody before or have any callbacks. It just kind of went from zero to 100, but it was so exciting.
So you didn't have a chemistry read with Tim Rozon before filming?
Yeah! I don't know who was cast first, but I do know that when I got the job and we were kind of in negotiations, I got a text message from Tim saying, "I hear you're in talks to play Susan. Just so you know, I'm playing Luke." I had no idea, at that point, who was going to be playing Luke Roman, and it's an extremely important character for me especially, because I work with that person a lot.
So when Tim texted me, it was like a big sigh of relief. He's just the loveliest. It's like he's a figment of our imagination because he's so nice, adorable, and talented. Also, just watching everything he's accomplished has been amazing. I mean, you know this, but Wynonna Earp was such an incredible show and had such a wonderful fanbase. So I'm hoping that they will be just as kind watching Tim and I on this show.
I remember Tim telling me that you were on set, in a bubble, filming when the 2020 Emmy Awards were happening and Schitt's Creek was just winning everything. That must've been wild!
That was the craziest thing. I don't think anybody thought the Emmys were going to turn out the way they did for our little show. So, yeah, I was in Newfoundland. My first day filming SurrealEstate was the next day. I was watching the Emmys unfold on television, and I could not believe what was happening. I had been in Newfoundland for two weeks before that because we had to quarantine, so I wasn't able to go back to Toronto to be with everybody. I mean, I think in a perfect world, if I had known what would have happened, I would've tried to make it happen.
I was sitting there just screaming, to the point where, towards the end of it, I thought I was going to lose my voice, and I had to work first thing in the morning. It was so overwhelming. I was bummed I couldn't be with everybody, but watching it unfold on TV was such a thrill.
THEN: How was it working with Tim on Schitt's Creek? Did you stay in touch after he left the show?
Working with Tim on Schitt's Creek was amazing, and as you know, he's such a good guy. We'd always kept in touch and shoot each other texts and "Happy birthday" messages. He owns two unbelievably successful restaurants that everybody should go to: Garde Manger and Le Bremner. So anytime we're in Montreal, he would have us come, and he's in the kitchen shucking oysters and serving. He's so hands-on. It's been so wonderful to stay in touch, watch everything he's been able to accomplish, and become such good friends.
How has it been watching the Schitt's Creek cast now go off and do other projects?
It's bittersweet. I'm so happy for everybody. Annie [Murphy] has the amazing Kevin Can F**k Himself, Jen Robertson is on Ginny & Georgia, Emily [Hampshire] just shot this haunted show with Adrien Brody, Noah [Reid] is off doing really exciting projects, and Daniel [Levy], you know, has got a billion things. It's so incredible to watch everybody go on to do wonderful things that they're passionate about.
Annie and I were just in New York together, and we were actually talking about this because every time we see each other, we're like, "Oh, just stay with me forever. I just want to act with you all the time." We've all been through so much together, and everybody grew so much while filming that I think it bonded us even more.
NOW: How was it reuniting with Tim on SurrealEstate?
It was kind of right back where we left off. Especially with Tim being number one on the show, it's a very important job in order to set the tone, and he did such a beautiful job. It was such a pleasure working with him again.
We kind of fell right into the Luke-and-Susan dynamic right away. Luckily, the writing was so good and allowed us to create this dynamic and banter back and forth. I think it helped so much that we did know each other before. If we didn't, we probably would have had to work on it or have lunch together to figure it out and get to know each other. But because we had such a history, we could take jabs at each other, and it worked so well for the dynamic.
It's so fun that you and Tim happened to end up back together for your first project after Schitt's Creek.
I got a text from Annie saying, "I'm so jealous! I'm jealous you guys are working together. Take me with you." It really felt like I took a little piece of Schitt's Creek with me. It's like when you graduate high school and move on to university, but one of your best friends comes with you.
THEN: What was your favorite Twyla scene to film?
Oh gosh, there are so many. My scenes with Annie were always some of my favorites. Alexis and Twyla's heart-to-heart conversations were always really special. I loved having scenes with just the two of us, and we really love working together. Annie is the best.
Also, the Jazzagals moments were so much fun, and learning those songs and singing live was amazing. It really felt like real performances, and all of those women were wonderful women to work with. It's one of those projects where there are so many wonderful scenes that happened, it's so hard to choose just one.
One episode I was pushing really hard for that I love was the Twyla makeover episode. I was like, "Just get me out of these sneakers at least once."
Did Twyla's costume basically stay the same for six seasons?
Yes! The same running shoes for six years. I'm not even kidding. They were these blue ugly running shoes, and I had been harassing our writers for like three years at that point to give me something else. I just wanted to be in a dress and some heels. Meanwhile, Catherine [O'Hara] and Annie were always in the greatest outfits.
No joke, at the end of the show, our wonderful producers and my lovely brother [Dan Levy] and dad [Eugene Levy] said to everybody that we can take something, like a piece of clothing or whatever. I thought that seemed unfair because I didn't want any of Twyla's clothes; I really loved Annie and Catherine's. So I went in the truck, and our lovely wardrobe team let me take some fabulous stuff from Catherine and Annie's wardrobes that they didn't want.
NOW: Do you have a favorite Susan scene from the SurrealEstate pilot?
I have two favorite scenes from the pilot. There's a scene with Tim at the batting cage, where we are just getting to know each other, and it's such a nice introduction to this character, for me, and really peeking into who she is.
Another scene was in the hospital with this wonderful actress named Jessica Clement. It's a little insight into a part of Susan's life that she's not very open and honest about and tries to keep below the surface in her everyday life. That's kind of the first glimpse that we get to see of something brewing under her surface. It's so hard to choose, but I think those two are my favorite because we start to get to the core of who Susan is.
Our cast is so incredible and so funny, so any scenes where we are all together are just amazing. The tone of SurrealEstate is so unique, so there are horror moments, but some really funny moments too. We were encouraged to have some fun, and as the season goes on, you see that more and more.
Since you filmed during the pandemic and you had to be more isolated, how was it bonding with the cast?
None of us had met, except Tim and I, before the show started filming. We had no chemistry reads and we had no in-person table reads. It was odd. So our production team and our directors were very aware of how important the cast relationship is to foster in person. So they let us play around on set, which was fun, especially when we were all in the same room. Not having a table read was a big thing because at those things, you usually talk before and after with your fellow cast members, so not having that and doing it all over Zoom was wild.
THEN: How was it working so closely with Dan and your dad on Schitt's Creek?
It was really incredible. I've seen my dad work ever since we were kids. So I was used to seeing the way he works, but I had never really experienced how Daniel works firsthand until Schitt's Creek. It was impressive to watch him blossom into this showrunner that I always knew he was. Just this incredible force of talent that he's had ever since I can remember. So to watch him in that role was incredible.
Also, I felt so proud to watch them together. It was really interesting because they have very different senses of humor. They're both incredible and hilarious in their own right, but they have different styles of comedy. So to see them give and take with each other and compromise on certain things that should be left in and certain things that shouldn't, and the timing of everything, was so special. It was really cool to see the same experience through the two different lenses.
And just the added effect of watching Schitt's Creek go from a small show to one that everybody watches and adores.
Exactly! I think we're all still scratching our heads with what happened. It's almost like a dream. I don't think anybody every dreamt that it would become as successful as it has. I think the show even ended before it catapulted into what it's now. So there was never really any pressure from the outside world to make the show something it wasn't. We were really just making it together, it was over, and then this incredible success happened.
I'm so honored to have been on this journey, and with my brother and dad, too. I think we're all just beaming with pride over how many lives it has changed and how many people it has helped. We get messages all the time from people, and the outpouring of love for it has truly been life-changing.
NOW: How was it working with creator George Olson on SurrealEstate and helping to create the character of Susan?
Working with George is incredible. He's so open, giving, and curious. He really cares about our input, which is so great and rare to have on a show. He and I had a long conversation over the character of Susan, and we emailed back and forth quite a lot in the beginning.
When we were creating Susan's look with our hair and makeup team, there was a split second where we had her in a very short bob wig. It was not how I pictured the character initially, but of course, I was open to it if everyone else thought that was the way to go, and we took pictures of me in this wig. George and I ended up having a long conversation after that because he wasn't sure that was the look he thought of for Susan, and I told him that was my instinct too.
So he's always staying open to suggestions, comments, and concerns. Also, any scene or script where I felt like maybe Susan wasn't feeling like Susan, he would go over it and he would rewrite some things. I felt very fortunate and very lucky to be able to have that.
Melanie Scrofano also came in and directed two episodes and appeared in one. How was it working with her as a director?
Working with Mel was SO fun. It was the first time I'd ever met her. I'd heard so much about her, and I think she's so incredible and she's so wonderful on Wynonna Earp. I was so excited to meet her. It was interesting because I wasn't meeting her as an actor, I was meeting her as a director. Only once before on Schitt's Creek had I worked with a younger female director, and because Mel's an actor as well, she has a lot of insight and can speak to us as an actor.
We had so much fun in those episodes Mel directed, and she really pushed me to lean into the comedy. I was a little nervous about doing that beforehand because I didn't want to be too out of genre. I would have these moments and she would come up and go, "Do it. Do it. Just do it. Just try it, and if it doesn't work, you know, we'll see what happens. Lean into it. You're funny, so use that." It opened this creative door for me.
Also, seeing Mel and Tim together was a treat in itself. They are chaotic together in the best way. Just poking each other and their shorthand is so strong — stronger than Tim and I's [shorthand] — so it was really fun to watch them together.
THEN: What's your favorite behind-the-scenes memory from filming the Schitt's Creek series finale?
One of my favorites was when the wedding was taking place and the Jazzagals sing "Precious Love" and "Simply the Best." It was a very emotional day because it was our very last day on our sets. They were about to be taken down for good, and everybody knew it was the beginning of the end. I think a lot of us had been in denial, or pushed our feelings down a little bit, before then. So the Jazzagals had to perform these songs at the top of filming that scene so they could capture the songs clearly.
We were in that beautifully decorated town hall set, and it was such a bittersweet celebration. Everybody was dressed to the nines in beautiful tuxedos and gowns, and the entire crew was standing around as well as our cast, and we started singing. Everybody just broke down. I started crying, and I looked over, and my dad and my brother were crying. I could almost cry just thinking about it now because it was such a special moment and it was the moment where we all knew that this was the end.
When we finished filming that scene, we had a big party on our sets. Everybody had champagne. We still had to film half the season, but because we were saying goodbye to these sets that had been our home for six years, it was really tough and special.
NOW: What's your favorite behind-the-scenes memory from filming SurrealEstate?
One of the behind-the-scenes moments that stands out — which wasn't necessarily the most fun moment, but I can look back and laugh at it now — was a scene where I get soaked in water. I'm cold most of the time, and we were shooting in Newfoundland. It was mid-October and it was already pretty cold there, and it was at like 3 a.m. It was freezing, and they basically hooked up a hose to drench me with, and the water hit my body and literally took my breath away. Everyone behind the monitors was laughing because my face must have been in such shock. I would love to see what it actually looked like because I couldn't breathe, it was so cold. It was the longest 10 to 15 seconds of my life. But I can look back now and laugh about how cold and awful it was.
THEN: Do you have a favorite fan response to Schitt's Creek?
I think the things that touch me the most are the parents that reach out on behalf of their kids, and they're talking about how the show has really made them see their children in a different light and accept them for who they really are. Also, seeing teenagers and people of all ages say that this show gave them the courage to come out to their parents and their friends. We've also gotten messages from people who were struggling with depression, and that they found the show and felt like they now see these characters as their friends. I've never been a part of something that has had an impact like that before. I don't think I'll ever really know the scope of it, even. All the messages that I receive on an hourly basis from people around the world is mind-blowing.
I always think about that moment in the Schitt's Creek documentary where Noah reads the letter to Dan from all the moms in the LGBTQ group.
It is one of the most touching moments. That's one of the moments that always stands out to me, too. I mean, to see these handwritten signatures on that letter is beyond.
NOW: And finally, what are you excited for fans to see in SurrealEstate?
I'm excited for fans to see, first of all, Tim and I in a whole new situation with a new dynamic and relationship with each other. I'm also excited for them to meet our wonderful cast and go on this ride. Also, I can't wait to see the fans learn more about our characters episode by episode and the types of hauntings that we encounter. This show is so incredibly creative, and each episode is so strong and different. You never really know what you're going to get.