Ew, COVID: A Chat with Dan Levy

A screen capture of a Zoom meeting with two participantsOn March 16, Pitt Program Council hosted Dan Levy, co-creator and star of the Emmy winning television series about a quirky small town, “Schitt’s Creek,” for an hour-long conversation via Zoom.

Junior chemistry student Quincey Johnston, Pitt Program Council’s executive board director and lecture director, facilitated a lively conversation with Levy, spanning his recent “Saturday Night Live” hosting debut to his unconventional path to success.

Speaking from his hometown of Toronto, the chat opened with talks of pandemic life and the temptation of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, to which Levy said with his characteristic smile and clasped hands, “Please don’t.”

Levy, a self-proclaimed stickler for COVID-19 safety rules, has used the past year to work on upcoming creative projects in the animation, documentary, movie and television spaces. Over the course of his Pitt talk, he gave tips for young writers, expressed his love for Pittsburgh escape rooms during the filming of Pittsburgh-based “Happiest Season” and answered live questions from the Pitt community.

During a time where students are missing pre-pandemic life, Levy struck on two timely topics: kindness and self-care.

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One audience question focused on normalizing LGBTQ relationships: “When in your life did you make that decision to relinquish your mind of obsessing over ignorance and bigotry and move forward to live in the world you want to live in?” Levy, who is gay and whose character in “Schitt’s Creek” (spoiler) marries his boyfriend, answered that he made a conscious choice to use “Schitt’s Creek” to create an environment where “you’re giving people no choice but to watch what life could be like if everyone was just supportive of one another” and to harness the power of kind storytelling. His decision to flip the commonly used narrative of uneducated small townspeople and omit any bigotry or hate on the show was his way to project a kinder world.

The topic of the upcoming University-wide Self-Care Day, happening on Wednesday, March 24, also arose with a question about how Levy would spend the day if he were a Pitt student.

While reflecting on the stress of wearing multiple hats such as costume design, production design and being in the writer’s room, Levy talked about his own struggle with anxiety. During a work period of little to no sleep which manifested in the inability to move his neck, he said he realized, “I’m not going to be of help to anybody if I’m not okay.”

Now, he’s found that checking in with himself, off-loading tasks when he can and cutting a day short have been effective ways for him to manage his mental health. His central message: prioritize your mental and physical health above all else.

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