Schitt’s Creek‘s Emily Hampshire is practically giddy that I “f*cked up” our phone interview before it even began. She tells me so after I explain how substituting just one digit led to me dialing into an astrology hotline, and she ‘fesses up to being half an hour ahead of schedule and still forgetting to phone in for the chat.
When we finally do connect — to chat about dirty laundry, her Tide Super Bowl commercial with It’s Always Sunny star Charlie Day, and the ending of her wildly popular comedy series Schitt’s Creek — it’s tough to resist getting sentimental. Whether you’ve just recently hopped on the show’s bandwagon, or been a fan since Annie Murphy’s first “Eww David,” the series’ imminent finale feels like a looming reminder that nothing good is meant to last.
Creator and star Dan Levy has always had a plan for the Rose family, an eccentric quartet of characters thrust into small-town life when their fortune is swindled by a corrupt business manager. We’ve cheered on Moira Rose’s accented antics, sympathized with Johnny’s every-man struggle, envied David’s sweater-game, and laughed at Alexis’ extensive list of international boyfriends, but we’ve also seen them grow, mature, and ground themselves in the friendships they’ve cultivated for the past six seasons.
But no character has gone through a more inspirational, self-realizing arc than Hampshire’s Stevie Budd, a sarcastic, bitingly-funny motel worker who served as the audience’s “in” to this bizarre family of billionaires in the show’s first few seasons and has morphed into a role-model of sorts. Stevie is a fiercely loyal friend and a painfully honest business partner who’s finally striking out on her own in the show’s swan-song season, searching for her purpose and tapping into what brings her a sense of fulfillment. Her journey is an exhilarating comedic goldmine, and we can’t help but root for her. We chatted with Hampshire about saying goodbye to the show, the Super Bowl spotlight, and the lessons she’s taking with her when she leaves Schitt’s Creek.
I’m sure you get this a lot but I’m unbelievably sad that the show is ending. I know it’s not your fault, it’s Dan Levy’s, but still …
Yeah, it is. And I always tell people when they’re so sad, I’m like, “It’s harder on me.” I got paid to sit behind a desk and play Sudoku. I lost a really good job. So yeah, it’s Dan’s fault. But actually, now that I know how it ends, I think he did the right thing.
You’re good with how things wrapped up then?
I really like it. It’s admirable that he stuck to his guns. He always knew how he wanted to end the show and he ended it in such a great way that really respects all the characters and the fans. It was really important to him to end it right.
You’re starring in Tide’s Super Bowl commercial this year. Is the Super Bowl a big deal in Canada?
It’s the Super Bowl. It’s the biggest thing everywhere. I know that the commercials are the thing because that’s why I watch the Super Bowl. Actually, at the beginning of this whole journey, I felt like I had to hide the fact that I’m not really into sports. But then I was trying to tell [Tide] and [they’re] like, “Oh, we figured that out when you called the uniforms costumes.”
Well, in honor of that, can you air out any dirty laundry about the Schitt’s Creek cast?
Oh, god. People always want to know, “Do you guys improve on the show?” Because of Catherine [O’Hara] and Eugene [Levy], people think it’s improv. We didn’t, it’s all written, and it’s written so well that you don’t want to improv. But after the first season, the more everyone got to know everybody, the writers would start to… you’d see something show up and you’re like, “Wait a second. That’s my life.” It’s like, “Annie wears natural deodorant and sometimes it just doesn’t work.” [Dan] put that in the show. Then I read a script and oh, there’s a whole thing about Eugene seeing my dirty pictures. That didn’t come out of nowhere. The throuple didn’t come out of nowhere. So, there’s some dirty laundry. It’s not all just from Dan’s mind.
Stevie ended on a high in season five with her performance in Cabaret. Were you worried about where the character could go from there?
Yes, exactly that. But then I realized, “Oh that’s exactly Stevie’s journey. Where do you go from that?” After Cabaret, she can’t just go back behind the desk like it never happened. She’s changed and she’s grown [but] hat is next for her? So, obviously, she’s trying things… like Larry Air.
It’s not going well.
No, not good. Sometimes, like the Wizard of Oz, it was always there right in your own backyard. So maybe she has to go through all the kitten heels and sh*t to find out that she fits best in her Converse.
With Stevie coming into her own as the show’s ending, what’s it been like for you to explore this new side to her character?
When I signed onto the show, I really thought I was just going to be the sarcastic girl behind the desk. I thought my part was just going to be delivering towels so the growth that she has had is so shocking to me but in the greatest way. Most characters grow outwardly and they accumulate things but Stevie started [with] this hard shell that you’re just peeling away and peeling away over the course of the [show] and you find out, “Oh my God, there’s a real girl in there.” It’s something I haven’t done before, a reverse kind of character growth where you let yourself just be seen.
How do you close the door on Schitt’s Creek? Is that something you have to get used to as an actor, letting go and moving on from your characters?
I feel like the show has changed my life. And not just in the way of my career. It changed my life completely. I remember season one, we did this scene about the wine and I didn’t know what pansexuality was and I was like, “What’s the third wine? I don’t get it. What is that?” Five years later, I’m definitely pan. You don’t close the door on that in a way. I’m leaving with so much from Stevie. I got to live that life. That is what I like about acting. I’m not satisfied with this one life. I want to live all of them. And you don’t leave those experiences behind.
Actually, the next show I do, I want to take a cue from Dan. From the beginning, he had this mandate where there will be no homophobia on Schitt’s Creek. It just doesn’t exist there. And the people of Schitt’s Creek will never be the butt of a joke. And I thought that’s such a genius move because, if you want to speak about a cause, you’ll show somebody being bullied or something and you’ll change things. But it’s so much better to just show a world as it should be; to lead by example. Schitt’s Creek doesn’t have that and it’s fucking great. Nobody misses it and it works just fine without it. If I were to do my own show, I would want to create a world like that where the characters [can] just be who they are. I believe the future of the world is that that’s all really normalized and I think it begins with visibility and with showing the world as it should be, as opposed to kind of trying to teach a lesson. At least, that’s the lesson I learned from [Schitt’s Creek]. It’s better just to be that thing that you want to be.
Did you get to take any mementos with you from set?
So you know the giant painting of the deer behind Stevie’s desk?
Oh, the stag?
Yeah. The stag. It’s the size of the entire set. I took that. So basically, I took a wall. And it’s now in my 500-square-foot Toronto apartment, which is a two-bedroom. It has an office and so that is in my office, just wedged in there.
So you’ll kind of always be the girl behind the desk.
Yes, exactly. I love it.
‘Schitt’s Creek’ airs Tuesdays on Pop at 9:30pm EST, and you can watch Emily’s Super Bowl Commercial with Charlie Day below.