Sun. Aug 9th, 2020

Interview: Emily Hampshire (‘Schitt’s Creek’) talks Stevie’s ending and the significance of the show to the LGBTQ+ people

This award season will be unlike any other since almost all of them were pushed back further into 2021. But fear not, because The Primetime Emmy Awards are on the way. Schitt’s Creek has a solid chance to receive a ton of nominations with its series finale earlier this year. The ending of the journey for the Roses as well as other characters has come. The series finale and the documentary about making Schitt’s Creek has touched viewers with its uniqueness and charm. The PopTV original, created by Dan and Eugene Levy, is an intelligent, often moving yet highly entertaining comedy series about a previously wealthy Rose family who are forced to move to Schitt’s Creek – a small town, after losing all their money. 

What is the best and most unique about the series is that the main cast as well as supporting characters have a fair and equal place in the viewers’ hearts. Each role is carefully crafted and brings something original to the storyline of Schitt’s Creek. One of those characters is Stevie Budd played by Emily Hampshire. The Canadian actress is known from the series 12 Monkeys. As a sarcastic motel receptionist who becomes a loyal friend to David, then an empowering businesswoman, she charms and touches the audience. 

I had a chance to talk to Emily about Stevie’s phenomenal character development, how she (and the series) influences the modern society, and the article about Stevie by Zofia that Emily actually read before.

Hello! My name is Zofia and I’m from AwardsWatch. How are you doing?

I’m good, thanks. How are you?

I’m doing good! Happy Pride Month!

Thank you, Happy Pride Month to you, too! 

Me and my wife are trying to watch all of our favorite LGBTQ+ films now. 

Oh, that’s such a great idea. 

Do you have any favorite LGBTQ+ film?

Yes! There is this film… Oh man, I forgot how it’s called. It’s a Swedish movie, Fucking Åmål (Show Me Love). It’s a brilliant movie about those two girls in high school who fall in love. It was actually made a long time ago. It’s kind of special for that time. It’s such a good movie. 

I have to check it out for sure. I don’t think I’ve heard about it, but I’ll definitely check it out now. 

What’s your favorite? 

My ultimate favorite right now is “Carol” by Todd Haynes. I absolutely love that movie. I love Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

Oh, yeah. That’s, like, classic. 

Exactly. So let’s start with “Humpday with Hampshire.” For all of the people that don’t know, you teamed up with The Actors Fund and created a weekly live-streamed talk show on YouTube. Was it your idea or more of a joint brainstorming?

No, it was something that came to me through The Actors Fund. They reached out to my team, and my manager and publicist, they wanted to do something to raise money for people in the entertainment industry who lost their jobs due to COVID. There was a few things on the table and one of them was talk-show. And I think I remember the email going on, maybe it was my publicist to my manager saying: “She should do the talk-show, it will take up a lot of her time, she needs to be busy”. Because when I have to be quarantined at home, I need to be busy. I’m a little bit of a workaholic and it certainly kept me busy. When I first saw The Actors Fund wanting to do a charity, at first I thought – oh, maybe we can be better than raising money just for the actors. Cause, you know, with us actors, you either have a ton of money, or you’re used to being poor. But then I learned that The Actors Fund is not just for actors, it’s actually everyone in [entertainment] industry – makeup artists, drag queens, everybody. And so those are the people who really work paycheck to paycheck and who lost their jobs. So it was a really great thing to do. I thought that maybe we would be doing that for max three weeks. And its’s turned into this big thing. It’s going to be our finale this Wednesday (note from the writer: “Humpday with Hampshire” finale premiered on Wednesday, June 24th, 2020). We had ten episodes, two of which are two-hour episodes. So we basically have three and a half seasons of “Fleabag”. It’s really turned into more than I expected and it was so special.  I also really didn’t think how it’s going to happen, especially with COVID going around. I don’t think any of us thought that the quarantine would actually last that long. It’s been such an interesting time to be doing something like this. I feel really lucky and so grateful that it came to me. 

It’s really amazing, I watched the “Pride” episode last week, and I love how you were fangirling over Laverne Cox. I would most definitely do, too. 

Oh my God! Okay, thank you! I was so moved. Also, the scariest thing,  if you watched it, then I would like you to acknowledge is when I said: “you’re my, like, ideal guest to have on a show, a dream guest (next to Spongebob Squarepants, who came out recently and that was hilarious)” and she’s like: “tell me why I’m your dream guest”. And one thing that would naturally come out of my mouth is – oh my God, you’re so hot. But you know, I couldn’t say that. Although then I ended up saying that. It was so terrifying, cause I don’t usually get starstruck, but I do on this show. I’ve had a few moments like that. Even with Sarah Kate Ellis who is a President of GLAAD. It was that kind of episode where you can say the wrong thing and not know that. Which is scary because I don’t want to offend anyone or say the wrong thing, and all that. And I overprepared, I had about fifty questions for each guest. 

Oh wow!

I only had ten minutes for each guests. Ultimately I got really overwhelmed and couldn’t even ask one. I was really nervous. Also cause I think Sarah is such an articulate and beautiful communicator and speaker. If you ever watch her and google some of her speeches she’s done for GLAAD and stuff, she’s really captivating, I really admire that. So anyway, I got really nervous. Yeah, there’s been a few times on the show. 

That’s really amazing and hey, congratulations on winning Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role or Guest Role in a Comedic Series and for Best Lead Performance in a Web Program or Series! 

Oh, thank you!

Were you surprised after they announced your name?

Well, I didn’t even realize that it was happening that night. I was so wrapped up in the show, it takes a lot of work. And I’ve been so focused on that that I didn’t even realize that it was that night. My co-writer on “Humpday” sent me videos and said – you just won, you just won again! So yeah, I was taken by surprise. I have to say, I did love the experience of having a virtual award show. So much pressure off, I didn’t have to worry about getting dressed, or about my speech. Even though I only did one take of my acceptance speeches cause I knew that if I kept going, it would just get real bad. So I had to cut myself off. 

Congratulations again. I wanted to talk a little bit more about Schitt’s Creek. That was one of the best shows I’ve watched. I was so sad for it to end. I was crying on the documentary that aired after the finale. And Stevie’s performance of “Maybe This Time” was otherworldly! What did you feel when performing that exact scene?

Oh, that, for me, was such a dream come true. More so than a lot of people know. I’ve been an actress since I was around twelve and if anybody ever asked me what my dream role was, it was always Sally Bowles in Cabaret. And then I see the script where Stevie is cast as Sally Bowles in Cabaret and I get to do the most iconic song from that musical as Stevie! Which was probably better than I could have ever wanted and dreamed of for myself.  To do that song as Stevie is such a different and, I think, better thing in a way. Because the original song says, “maybe this time I get a man”, or “maybe this time he’ll love me”. But for Stevie, it was “maybe this time I’ll win”, “maybe this time I’ll be great as everyone around me”. It’s such an empowering song for her and it gives me goosebumps to this day. Also, my favorite part is David’s character that says, “that’s my best friend”. 

Yes! That was amazing. I cried, too.  Back in March, I wrote about Stevie and called her “one of the best written women on television”, which is 100% true and I still stand by it…

Wait, wait a second! You did that article?! 

Wait, you read it?

Oh my God! I reposted that! Oh my God. My manager sends me things and I love that article! I sent it to everyone because it’s how I feel about Stevie. Wow! I can’t believe you wrote that, that’s so amazing. I can’t believe I’m talking to you. 

I’m so happy you read this, that’s so crazy! That’s amazing. But yeah, that scene when she, as Sally, sings from the top of her lungs and you can see tears in Stevie’s eyes. How long did it take you to prepare for the scene in “Cabaret”?

I’ve basically prepared for this the whole season. Well, not the whole season, but a good part of it. I really wanted it to be recorded live. I just love musicals and I’m obsessed with them. There is such a difference between seeing  “Coal Miner’s Daughter” or the Buddy Holly story, or the Johnny Cash one. Those were recorded live and it feels like you’re watching something live whereas something like “Dreamgirls,” for example, was recorded live and they were lip syncing. And Stevie is not supposed to be a great singer or not supposed to be like the Broadway star. It was important to me that that song wasn’t just about doing a song. To me, it’s her transformation right there, in the moment. I feel like I, as an actor, discovered that scene in the doing of it. I didn’t realize how much of an empowering lead that was until I did it. I’m not a professional singer so just learning to sing a song with music? I really wanted to get that stuff so down. I did spend the season just learning  the song and then I worked on how I wanted to perform it. I love that song so much and I didn’t want it to be like any other version of it that you’ve heard. I wanted to find the Stevie in it. That was important to me. So yeah, I took a lot of time.

It was truly amazing. 

Thank you.

I’m also so happy that she didn’t need anybody to “save her” at the end as sometimes happens in a television discourse with female roles. She became this successful woman, a great friend and a part of  a group that loves her. Are you satisfied with Stevie’s ending?

Oh my God, I could not have dreamed of a better ending! What I love about it it that you’d assume that Stevie’s ending will be with her going off to New York, where she becomes a really successful motel owner, and stuff. But I loved the message that you don’t have to leave home or leave wherever you are to be a success. Sometimes you can if you want to. I really feel like to me Stevie’s full circle journey was very much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – “it was always in your own backyard, you always had it in you and you just had to know it and believe in yourself”. I think that, like when she, or any of us, find that confidence in us, we could be anywhere. And then you can be in somewhere like Schitt’s Creek, and appreciate all of it for how great it is. 

I am a huge fan of Stevie’s character development. She goes from a sarcastic outsider to still sarcastic yet so accomplished hotel chain owner. Like I said, it’s one of the best character developments I’ve seen in recent years when it comes to female roles.  I love her bond with Johnny which is Eugene Levy’s character, he becomes sort of a mentor to her. How was it working with Eugene?

That relationship killed me. It’s just so lovely. What was funny was that a lot of people were saying that when the show ended, the fans were crying and they were upset, and I kept thinking – It’s harder on us [laugh]. We lose our friends, we lose these characters. But also what I didn’t realize was that even though these are fictional characters, to me, these relationships are true. There is this quote I love so much, I don’t even know who said it, but it’s “Just because it’s fiction, it doesn’t mean it’s not true”. The relationship that Stevie has with Johnny is a true and real relationship. It’s this kind of mentorship and a father-ship. He’s somebody that’s unconditionally supportive of her, the way she’s never had before. That feels so real with Eugene. It’s funny, I still, to this day, I have to force myself to say Eugene, cause I always call him Mr. Rose [laugh]. Writing-wise, all the surprising things, even that storyline to have – I never knew that was going to happen. When I signed onto the show, I thought I was just going to be the girl behind the desk who says sarcastic things and brings the Roses towels. I never knew that Stevie was going to be everything that Stevie ended up being. And I think it’s in line with the character – that Stevie also never thought she would be all that. 

I had a variety of my favorite scenes. One of them is the one about wines and the labels. I know that it personally helped you with your sexuality and you’re very outspoken about it. I think that Schitt’s Creek did an excellent job with influencing our society. What do you feel knowing that your character is one of the ones that hold such an influence on the outside world? 

It’s funny, because like I said, I’ve been an actor for a long time, and I always thought that what I care about most was playing a great part in a great show. But I never thought of the impact on an audience. And this show has opened up this world! Now I can’t go back to just doing stuff that I don’t think about the impact on the world because of all the letters we get or when we go on tour. The messages from people and how we affected their lives – mother saying that she never knew her son would find love if he was gay, and she sees Patrick and David’s love, and she feels good about that now. Everything we hear from people actually felt better to me than having great part or being in any amazing, really popular series. We were just doing this show for first four years and nobody really cared about it but we loved it and we were still getting those messages from people. Then it kind of blew up and I think it blew up because the world needed a safe space. There is no safer space than Schitt’s Creek, I think. And it definitely comes from the topic, comes from Dan. He had this mandate at the beginning that there would be no homophobia on “Schitt’s Creek”. It just doesn’t exist there. I thought it was such a brilliant decision. I would have never thought of this, cause usually you watch, and if the show is about homophobia being a bad thing, and bigotry being bad, you have this storyline where someone deals with that, experiences it. But how much better it is to lead by example and show a world where [homophobia] doesn’t exist. Everything is pretty great there, nobody misses it. And another thing that feels so great is that I got a few messages after the “Cabaret” episode where a lot of people said that they felt like Stevie being able to go outside of her comfort zone made them feel like they could. It just made me realize that this is what it’s about, being an actor. I think that a lot of the time, I had that after-shame thinking, “I’m not a doctor, I’m not curing cancer, I’m not doing anything important”. But then, especially in times like this, during a quarantine and stuff, people have still found this chosen family in Schitt’s Creek. They’ve been able to have a safe space in a community to get them through this time. If Stevie can inspire someone even half as she inspires me, that’s everything. 

She inspires me too. And I love what you said, that there is no homophobia in “Schitt’s Creek”. I immediately noticed that. It’s such a small town and you haven’t seen homophobia at all. 

Yes. 

What was the hardest scene you have to shoot in Schitt’s Creek? 

Hardest scene… the “Cabaret” scene was definitely difficult leading up to it but it was such a joy to do and we did it. I think one of the most difficult scenes was on the car with David in season six. 

Oh my God, yes. 

Yeah. I think that was one of our last days, actually the last day. You kind of merge together with the character at the end of the sixth season. The friendship really blurs the line between David and Dan a lot to me. I just thought he was so brilliant in that scene. I remember that at the beginning of Schitt’s [Creek], Dan was like, “I’m not an actor, you guys are all real professional actors, I’m just learning from you”. And now you see the actor he’s become. I thought he was brilliant in that scene. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He made me feel like I was in the presence of David, and I remember that at the beginning, he didn’t want to be just a joke. Oh, it’s just brilliant, I’m going to cry again. 

Oh, I love that scene, I was crying too. It was one of the best scenes from last season. I could just talk about it all the time, the brilliance of the show and the characters. And you and Stevie are such different and amazing women. Do you share any similar qualities with her?

Yes. It’s funny because I’m so similar yet so different than Stevie in that I go to set and I take off my black converse and put on Stevie’s black converse. Then I take off my baggy jeans and put on Stevie’s baggy jeans that are exactly the same. And definitely my humor is much more towards the dry one that Stevie has. But we’re very different in terms of energy and enthusiasm. You know, when the fans come up to me and are excited about Stevie, I get more excited than them and I think it trips people out [laugh]. Stevie would definitely not do that, she would be cooler than that. So yeah. I also did this show called “12 Monkeys” for a while. I did this, actually, at the same time as “Schitt’s Creek”. And I am much more, in a real life, like that character. Even though that character  is a certified crazy person. I wish I was more like Stevie. So Stevie is my “hashtag goal”. 

I recently saw that you’ll appear in a horror film, “Home.” I’m so excited for this. Can you tell us a little bit about the character?

It’s so different from anything I’ve done before. But It’s very much a horror movie like “Hereditary.” It’s kind of psychological and character-based movie, where my character has a postpartum depression verging towards postpartum psychosis. Oh Gosh, I have to figure out how to explain this movie without giving that movie away. Because it’s not done yet, we’re still cutting it. It’s the kind of movie that I like. I’m not crazy about horror movies but that kind like “Hereditary” or “The Babadook” or stuff like that, kind of arty horror movies – that I love. It all takes place in one house and it’s psychological, thriller-horror film, and I cannot wait. 

I can’t wait either. It was so nice to talk to you and meet you. Thank you so much for talking to me. 

No, thank you so much for writing that article. I am so lucky I got to speak to the person who wrote that article. 

I still can’t believe you read it. 

Oh my God, I printed it out! 

That’s amazing, wow. Thank you so much. 

Thank you again, take care, and be safe. 

Thank you, Emily, and I wish you all the best.

The first five seasons of Schitt’s Creek are available on Netflix US with the final sixth season available on PopTV. 

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