“Other shows should follow suit and present the world and humans as the best that we can be.”
How does one write an introduction for an icon such as Catherine O’Hara? For the uneducated PELICANS who only know the actress and writer as Moira Rose, lead star of Sunrise Bay and The Crows Have Eyes 3, we’ll provide a bit of backstory.
In the 70s, Catherine built a reputation as a legendary comic with roles on Canadian sitcom Coming Up Rosie and sketch comedy series Second City Television, the latter of which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing.
In the years that followed, Catherine became known to mainstream audiences with roles in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and as various kooky characters in Christopher Guest’s mockumentary cult comedies.
Five years ago, Catherine reunited with her comedy partner Eugene Levy on Schitt’s Creek as eccentric family matriarch Moira Rose, for which she has received widespread acclaim and an Emmy nom for Outstanding Lead Actress – the first of her career.
Although the series is currently at its peak, both critically and commercially, it was sadly announced earlier this year that its sixth season – which premieres 7 January on Pop TV – will be the last outing for the Rose family.
We caught up with the comic genius to discuss the last season of Schitt’s Creek, why other shows should “follow suit” with how they depict LGBTQ characters and how The Nightmare Before Christmas became a holiday staple.
Let’s talk about The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s been 25 years and it’s still watched religiously by fans. Why do you think the film has stood the test of time?
I don’t know! I’ve tried to figure this out. But it’s a beautiful movie, and the art of making that movie, I think, is really hard to appreciate, that kind of stop-motion animation. And we were going through stages in San Francisco, and I don’t know how many rooms I went through with five people around a table, and they’d be moving the figures. And each character would have, I don’t know… 100 heads? So it’d take maybe ten heads to make them smile, and if you think of all of the characters, the townspeople, the amount of work, the hours, the years that go into doing that. And to do it so beautifully is so impressive and stunning, almost impossible to appreciate. The final result was a great story that flows, a movie with human beings in it. It’s hard to appreciate the artistry that it is, so beautifully made, and the music is so beautiful.
Did you know it was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Oscars?
That’s great! And it’s also something about Tim Burton’s characters. He’s so caring for his lead characters, and they’re usually outcasts, or feel like outcasts, and they just want to be loved and appreciated. He cares for his characters.
When you were making the film, did you have any idea that it would become a Christmas staple?
No, of course not, no idea. I’m not that bright! I knew I liked it and I was glad to be a part of it, but I had no idea. But Tim Burton and Danny Elfman are such a freaky, perfect team. They are, that music is especially so harmonic at times, and it’s a great way to watch a movie.
There have been constant reports of any kind of sequel… I have to ask, would you reprise your role as Sally?
Oh, of course, yeah! I can do some vocal exercises now.
Live-action remakes are a bit of a thing now… Would you come like to see Sally come to life, and would you do it?
Oh, I don’t think they’d cast me, I’d be Sally’s mother now [laughs].
There’s a lot they can do with technology now…
That’s right, they can do The Irishman thing on me like they did with [Robert] De Niro.
While we’re on the topic of reboots… Home Alone and Beetlejuice. Feel free to shut me down because you’ve most likely been asked hundreds of times over the past 20 years. But if they asked, would you be n board?
Of course I would! I hear about them every once in a while… maybe they’re happening. And they did make three or four Home Alone movies, just with different families, and you could just continue making that story forever with different families. With Beetlejuice, I hear about it every once in a while, I see it in a magazine or online or someone laughs at me about it, but I would love to do it again, another version of it. And I have very fond memories of it, and not because of working with Tim, but I met my husband on that movie, he designed the set.
I read somewhere that they were going to do a Beetlejuice sequel set in Hawaii…
Don’t quote me on that…
You know it’s on Broadway though? They made a musical of it and it’s a really fun show. The guy who plays Beetlejuice… wow, the stand-up comedy. And they really fleshed out my role, the beauty/beast character is even better on stage.
Ooh alright, okay. What makes you say that?
It was fleshed out, it made me realise watching the live-show that I didn’t have much reason to be there. They really fleshed out the relationship between the husband and Delia. I was the stepmom in the movie, but there wasn’t much said about it. You were given the facts and that was it. But she’s trying to get close to Lydia in the Broadway show, and she’s a life coach. She’s a life coach trying to use psychology she’s learned out of a book to try and connect with this young girl, and she’s just missing. But the woman who plays her, I’ve forgotten her name, is really fascinating, really funny.
I need to talk about Schitt’s Creek. I will admit, I was one of those people who discovered it on Netflix sometime last year…
Thank god for Netflix!
It’s ending at the height of its success, which a lot of people aren’t happy about, including myself. Why is the sixth season the right time to bow out?
It’s self-inflicted. Daniel and Eugene [Levy] mapped out the stories, and hoped to have at least six seasons to be able to complete it. And so it was always in their minds for that to be the story, to have the evolution. And the characters are really well resolved, and well taken care of by the end of the sixth season. The show is made in Canada, CBC makes it, and it was very well promoted there. If Canadians didn’t hear about it, it was no fault of the network. And then we aired on Pop Network, which was a fresh network in the US and it was great, but not until it was on Netflix did it get out there to the US and then to you ,and then to even people in Australia and India. I think because that happened in around maybe our fourth season, it was a little bonus that the show was being seen, but it doesn’t change the story that they’d already mapped out. And we started our last season, this past Spring, and yeah…
How did it feel to say goodbye to the show?
I don’t think it’s really hit me, but I’ve cried a lot. I cried a lot, we all did at the last table read because you don’t shoot every scene, but at the table read you get to hear all the lines, with everyone reading. That was a killer. I was weeping, I had to go back to shooting in the afternoon and Moira went through a lot of make-up! But I don’t think it’s normally until March that we go back to shoot in Toronto… But the great thing is we’ve been doing these live shows, Schitt’s Creek Up Close and Personal, and we sold out in lots of cities in North America in the last year and a half. And I would love to bring it over there.
Schitt’s Creek has such a big fanbase here in the UK and Moira has become a massive fan-favourite, especially with gay men. What do you think it is about her that resonates with LGBTQ people?
Well, they’re the best kind of people.
Because of her wardrobe and theatricality, she could be considered as a drag queen. Do you agree?
[Laughs] We often take questions from the audience in the live shows and one of them was, ‘Are there any other drag queens on the show besides Moira?’ I don’t know what it is about that kind of character, but I love playing her. She believes she has so much potential in the world, and people are not seeing it, and they need to see it! I don’t know if anybody did it over there, but over here we had so many Moira and David and Rose family costumes for Halloween. It was crazy.
I’ve seen a few. Oh, and I wanted to say congratulations on receiving an Emmy nomination for Moira. It was about bloody time!
It’s so great for the show to be nominated. It’s just a bonus to what was already a happy experience. We did not expect to win, not for a second, and we had such a great time. If you expect to win then your evening gets killed, but if you go with the correct attitude it’s really fun.
The show has received a lot of praise for how its handled their queer characters, how their sexuality and identity is never presented as an issue…
As it should be!
Do you think other television shows should take note of Schitt’s Creek for the way it depicts the LGBTQ community?
Of course. Daniel has created a world that he wants to live in, that I want to live in. It’s ridiculous that we live in a world where we don’t know how to respect each other and let each other be. It’s crazy. Other shows should follow suit and present the world and present humans as the best that we can be. It doesn’t mean you can’t laugh, that you can’t be funny in light ways and dark ways. It’s all still possible when you respect and love each other.
It’s refreshing as many television shows and films have dramatic coming out stories, where the character faces an obstacle, perhaps being ostracised from their family. But what’s amazing about this show is it’s like, ‘David is pansexual, fine.’
Yeah, absolutely. I love how they handled Patrick’s character. Because of how many stories you see that are traumatic, where parents don’t understand and get angry and hurt, it’s almost like you’re trained to think that the characters are not going to understand. But that episode where he came out to them… so beautiful.
I sobbed my heart out.
Oh me too! I cried. I cried at the table read!
And the episode with the proposal…
It was killer! Or when Noah sang Simply the Best in the art gallery. I cried every single time looking at Daniel as David. To see him be loved by this good good man was just killer to me. I could not… Noah would start singing, I cried so much I had to turn my back to the camera. There are so many takes where I turn my back to the camera as I knew Moira was supposed to be crying like that… but it killed me. I had Kleenex behind me, trying to get my face back in order to play the scene. I didn’t want to kill the take by blubbering. It was just so beautiful to see that kind of open love.
I know I’m probably asking the impossible here, but what would you say are your top five moments from Schitt’s Creek?
Oh dear! Well, Patrick singing to David. I loved the scene with Daniel where we had to fold the cheese because it was the first scene we did alone together, and it just gave you a glimpse into their past life and how Moira had never cooked. But then we had the scene after that where Moira talked about how she used to know how to do things, and it was David’s first time hearing that she could do these things. That time we had together, I loved that. Top of the list would be ever Rose family scene with Eugene, Daniel and Annie [Murphy], playing a family that was alien to each other at the beginning but grew to know and love and appreciate each other. It was never perfect, which I loved. Let’s see, what else… When I watch the show, there are just little moments that make me so happy, but sometimes it’s because of the emotional baggage because you remember what was happening that day and what you were laughing about.
What about Moira filming The Crows Have Eyes 3?
[Laughs] You know, I liked doing that and it was so scary. I was really nervous, because it was Moira trying to do something stupid well, the funnier it is. I really tried to do that stupid dialogue the best I could. I did it with all the conviction I could muster in the world. And whenever you do a scene where you’re off-stage or performing, and everyone in the crew is just watching, you want to pull it off for everyone. And we hadn’t discussed whether I’d do a crow voice or not, but I decided I had to! And it was just insane, the whole thing, being put up in that stupid nest. And I just went and did ABR for a scene in the sixth season in which you see Crook from the movie, and that made me laugh, because it’s so ridiculous how I’m in a lab coat out in field with my assistant. It really made me laugh.
I would honestly go to the cinema to see Moira Rose in The Crows Have Eyes 3.
They sold my wardrobe for charity online, and it sold out in a couple of hours.
I’m not shocked at all.
One of David’s sweaters disappeared.
The sixth and final season of Schitt’s Creek will air 7 January on Pop TV – watch the hilarious trailer below.