“I had to ask Dan what pansexuality was, I didn’t know at all. Cut to five years later, definitely pan!”
Although her fan-favourite role as sarcastic, deadpan motel manager Stevie Budd on Schitt’s Creek is coming to an end next month, Emily Hampshire doesn’t feel depressed – LIKE THE REST OF US – she feels excited to have been part of history.
Since its 2015 debut, the Canadian series has been hailed as one of the greatest comedies on television thanks to the ensemble cast and numerous viral moments, such as the Grammy-winning dance-pop anthem A Little Bit Alexis and Moira’s future Oscar slash Razzie nominated performance in The Crows Have Eyes 3: The Crowening.
More importantly, the show has received widespread acclaim for its portrayal of pansexual character David, played by creator Dan Levy, as well as for how his sexuality is simply accepted and there are no expressions of homophobia in the storyline.
“From the beginning Dan was like, ‘There will be no homophobia on Schitt’s Creek, it just doesn’t exist there,’” says Emily, who then reveals that she discovered her own pansexuality through the iconic wine scene from the first season.
“I looked at Dan, and I was like ‘What am I?’ I like a person, and I genuinely don’t care what the equipment is as long as we’re happy,” she admits. “And he was like ‘Do you watch the show? You’re pan!’ Cut to five years later, definitely pan!”
We caught up with Emily to discuss the sixth and final season of Schitt’s Creek, how the series is leading the way with authentic LGBTQ+ representation and how we can all be better allies to the trans and gender non-conforming community.
I’ll start off with the most important question: what can you tell me about The Crows Have Eyes 3: The Crowening?
[Laughs] Have you seen the trailer?
I actually think it is the funniest thing we’ve done on the show, and it’s not even on the show. I love a committed joke… and they made a trailer. I can’t get over it, I watched it a million times.
I can’t decide what my favourite Schitt’s Creek moment is – The Crows Have Eyes 3 or A Little Bit of Alexis.
What I love about the show is iconic moments like that, like A Little Bit Alexis, and the moments that stand alone outside of the show too. I really want Annie [Murphy] to do a music video for that, how great would that be?
It was shafted at the Grammy Awards.
Oh yeah, for real. And Annie wrote that herself with her husband and that makes it even cooler.
I love that. It was one of my most played songs on Spotify last year.
I love it. And Noah’s [Reid] song is on Spotify too! His music tour is selling out like crazy, and Dan [Levy] gave us all music opportunities on the show but Noah was the one who was an actual singer before. But it was so cool to get to do something like that on a show, and get to create it yourself. He let all of us take ownership of our musical numbers on the show. Like for Annie, she was like, ‘Oh, can I try writing it?’ and Noah wanted to do the arrangement for The Best and while I didn’t write or arrange a song, he let me do Maybe This Time in my own weird way. But we all know how lucky we are to have been given that opportunity.
So, Schitt’s Creek is ending at the height of its success. Why do you think the sixth season is the right time to bow out?
It was Dan’s decision and now that I know how it ends, I think we all agree that it was the right decision. It really does end respecting the characters so much, and respecting the audience. Dan always planned to end it the way he did, and this was the story he wanted to tell. The show only became popular in its last season, but what’s great is that usually you don’t get to know when you’re ending a show, you just get cancelled. And so to have the opportunity to go out the right way… that’s a privilege. We all genuinely like each other a lot so getting to do the tour has been the greatest thing, because I think we all would have been severely depressed to just end it and not be together as a group anymore. So getting to do that has been a good weaning off of our co-dependent relationships. I, and I think everyone, respects the decision, because it’s a hard one, especially when it’s becoming popular. Everyone was offering Dan all kinds of amazing things to keep doing it, and I think it speaks to how much he cares about the characters and audience and wants to do right by them.
How sad was it saying goodbye to Dan, Catherine [O’Hara], Eugene [Levy], Annie and the rest of the cast?
It was weird, and a testament again to how great these characters are. We were so sad when… oh, I almost told you the ending! I need to make sure I don’t. I think what was the most heartbreaking thing was the relationships. When you end a show, there’s an ending to relationships in the storylines, and those require an in-the-world ending, and that was heartbreaking. Of course, while the rest of the cast was crying before we shot our last scene ever, I confidently say, ‘‘I don’t get emotional on the ending of a show, it will hit me when we’re supposed to be starting the next season’ and then two seconds later I was fucking bawling. So it was definitely sad, but I think sad in that way the audience will be when they see how the show winds down, with its big heart that it doesn’t have to sacrifice for its humour, it’s just real and your heart is going to swell and break, all while laughing.
Schitt’s Creek has been praised for how it’s handled sexuality, especially David’s pansexuality and his relationship with Patrick. What is it about the show that has managed to portray sexuality so perfectly?
This blows my mind. From the beginning Dan was like, ‘There will be no homophobia on Schitt’s Creek, it just doesn’t exist there,’ which I thought was odd because if I was writing a show and wanted to express the importance of inclusivity, you’d usually have a character you care about get bullied for being different so people can empathize and see how wrong that is and you learn the lesson. But Dan’s mandate leads by example, it doesn’t exist here in Schitt’s Creek and it works really well, nobody misses it. And I think what makes the show so popular, is that especially now in America, I think everybody would want to live in Schitt’s Creek. It doesn’t sacrifice its heart. We get letters all the time from parents who say, ‘I was worried my son would never find love, and to see David and Patrick has helped.’ It’s helped people come to terms with their sexuality, kids have come out to the parents after watching the show. The show’s reach goes from my agent’s eight-year-old kid to grandparents, so it’s bringing the conversation up. I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, and I thought I was so open-minded. When we did that wine scene I had to ask Dan what pansexuality was, I didn’t know at all. Cut to five years later, definitely pan! I looked at Dan, and I was like ‘What am I?’ I just like a person, and I genuinely don’t care what the equipment is as long as we’re happy. And he was like, ‘Do you watch the show? You’re pan!’ I was reading a message board, because I like punishing myself, and this was after I publicly got engaged to a trans woman. Somebody wrote, ‘Stevie is gay? I didn’t know Stevie was gay,’ and then the next person said, ‘No, I think she’s just into the wine not the label.’ I thought it was so cool that somebody was referencing the show. Although I have to be honest, when I go shopping for wine, I do pick by the label, because I don’t know wine.
Last year you wrote on Instagram about how significant that scene was for you. How important is it for the world to become more aware of all these different terms on how we identify?
I personally think there’s nothing more important. If you realise that inclusivity, then you realise all inclusivity. I have a lot of trans and non-binary friends, some of my most significant relationships —both platonic & romantic, have been with people who don’t conform to the gender binary and I believe now that it’s cis people’s obligation to make that visible and normalise it. My dad had trouble accepting my previous relationship, he’s not a bad or hateful person, he’s just lived in a small town and is of a generation that hasn’t been exposed to the gender spectrum we now know it to be. But if MY dad, who has a daughter on one of the most progressive LGBTQ+ positive shows ever, has a hard time being supportive, imagine a teenager in a small town trying to broach feeling like they were born in the wrong body to their parents who just want their kid to be what they know of as “normal”, that just breaks my heart. My ultimate dream though is that one day people being at any point on the gender spectrum is so normal that to think back to the gender binary days is like when we thought the world was flat and that the idea that our gender is based on what you have going on between your legs is just RUDE. It bothers me when people think you’re only a “woman” if you resemble a cis woman; that you need bottom surgery or a birth-pussy or penis to qualify as your authentic self. I just don’t think being a cis woman or man HAS to be the goal, in the same way that being in a heteronormative relationship is no longer the only #goals, the goal should be feeling and presenting as your authentic self, whatever that looks like for you. And I think that’s why I care so much about trans and non-binary issues and visibility, because to see my friends go through so much to make how they present to the world match who they are inside, is to me – a privileged white cis woman who has struggled to get out an honest, ‘I don’t like that’, ‘I don’t want to’ and ‘that’s not how I feel’ etc – one of the most inspiring and admirable feats. Authenticity is also just what I am most attracted to in a person.
It comes down to a lack of mainstream representation. Do you feel like there’s enough pansexual and fluid characters on television, or do we have a long way to go?
No, I don’t think there’s enough representation of the whole spectrum, so I think there’s a long way to go but I also think we’ve come a long way. If you watch the new The L Word, Leo Sheng is a trans man on the show, and they don’t talk about it, they don’t make it about that, and I love it so much. And Hunter Shafer! I can’t even begin to talk about how much good I think she’s doing for trans women by just unselfconsciously being her beautiful self on on that show [Euphoria] because I’ll start balling. I’m doing a remake of a how from the 70’s and my writing partner and I have updated one of the main characters to be played by a trans woman and then… NOTHING ELSE CHANGES. She has the same relationship, career aspirations and storylines as the original character who was a cis female. And when she starts to talk about having babies no one bats an eye at the talk of going to get her sperm because I think it’s important to bring that vocabulary into the mainstream for it to become normal. I didn’t know many trans people before meeting my ex, so I had to learn that it’s HER sperm… and it’s awkward at first to reprogram your brain but the more you do it, it does become normal. And so, I really think that’s the important thing, visibility on television. On my Instagram, my picture is my pronouns – she/her. I’m a cis woman, and that should be normal, that people put what their pronouns are so that it’s normal for other people. I think that visibility is everything.
You answered my next question. You don’t see many cisgender people, especially high-profile stars, like you, putting their pronouns on social media platforms. Do you think we should normalise this?
Yes, the woman who changed that was my co-writer, Neila. She’s trans and we have started to do these little Instagram Live’s asking questions about gender and we do those together so you get the perspective of a cis woman and a trans woman. I learned things, like when you’re talking about someone in the past, you refer to them by using their current pronoun preference and I didn’t know that. There needs to be some education, as you’re not going to just know that, and that’s okay. I think what’s great is that people who want to be allies want to learn that, and to be kind and human and respectful. The reason I put my pronouns on my social media was because of this tweet that someone put out to all trans women and it said, ‘If you could have one day without cis people, what would you do?’ and almost everyone said, ‘Wear a bathing suit.’ It fucking broke my heart, because what a non-dream dream to have. To wear a bathing suit… Everyone has their own bathing-suit body issues, but to be worried about being outed after people see scars from your top surgery or a bulge in your bathing suit, I saw that and it upset me. I continued reading and people were asking how to be a better ally, and one of the things was to put your pronouns on your profile, even if you’re not trans or non-binary. Just put your pronouns up.
Final question: what have you personally learned from Stevie over the last six years?
Honestly, so much. I didn’t know Stevie was going to do what she did in the show, I really thought I was going to be the girl behind the desk, the sarcastic whatever girl, who brings David his towels. I didn’t know she was going to grow this much, but weirdly in reverse feel like Stevie started off as this closed-off thing, and you’re peeling back the layers and realising there’s a real girl inside. I feel like the biggest thing I’ve learned from her, and I admire about her, is she’s what being a good friend is. She’ll always sacrifice herself for David, because that’s who she is, she is self-sacrificing. I think that’s what she’s learning now this season. The song Maybe This Time is originally about, ‘Maybe this time I’ll find a man and he’ll love me,’ but for Stevie it’s more like, ‘Maybe this time I’ll win, maybe this time I’ll become the person all these people around me think I can be.’ I think that’s been her journey, and I think through this I’ve learned how to be a better friend.
The sixth and final season of Schitt’s Creek airs every Tuesday on Pop TV.
Photography Anthony Giovanni and Edwin J. Ortega
Styling Edwin J. Ortega
Makeup Elie Maalouf
Hair Diane Dusting
Dress on cover Vassallo Atelier
Purse on cover Behno
Earrings on cover Leciel Design