Dan Levy found himself in some heady company Wednesday. The Schitt’s Creek executive producer and co-star took part in the virtual press day hosted by Warner’s Media, part of the cable/streaming portion of this summer’s TCA.
Levy, Bette Midler, Issa Rae, Kaitlyn Dever and Sarah Paulson all take part in the socially distanced comedy Coastal Elites, coming Sept. 12 to HBO and Crave.
The special, which will feature celebrities providing monologues as various characters coping with politics and the pandemic, has been written by playwright and screenwriter Paul Rudnick and directed by Jay Roach (the “Austin Powers” films). Both were part of Wednesday’s virtual panel. Levy plays Mark Hesterman, a young actor in West Hollywood videoconferencing with his therapist at a moment of peak career and personal stress.
The part is not a stretch. It was recently announced that Levy has been nominated for his first Emmy Award. His CBC/Pop TV series, Schitt’s Creek, is up for 15 awards, including best TV comedy and noms for his dad Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy.
Levy told reporters Wednesday that doing Coastal Elites was “a huge, exciting challenge. “I had never done monologue work outside of high school theatre, so thank you to Jay for seeing something in me.” Levy felt akin to his character, having “walked into many a casting session being told to kind of up the gay, if you will. So, it was really significant for me to sort of go through that as an actor, because it was having to kind of mind my own experiences, in order to sort of bring them into his.”
I’d show you what a screen grab of the sessions looked like but the group running this virtual tour has been very clear that photos off monitors are strictly forbidden. It may be a privacy issue as the talent are all sequestered in their own homes. It’s hard to ignore details, such as the poster of Jimi Hendrix on the wall behind Rosie Perez or the pristine, black and white kitchen behind Kaley Couco at a seperate session Wednesday for Warners’ upcoming HBO Max series, The Flight Attendant.
Midler was taking no chances. Instead of a live shot of her at home, a lovely still photo filled her screen square for the Coastal Elites session. It was explained that a power outtage on the East coast had knocked out the feed, although the 74-year-old singer/actress’s voice came in clear as a bell over the phone.
The Divine Miss M has played cat and mouse with the TV press before. When it came time to promote her short-lived CBS sitcom Bette in 2001, Midler ditched the usual limo ride to the hotel and appeared only via satellite. Critics took note; if you want coverage of your project, come look at us in person — that’s the price you have to pay. The series lasted 16 episodes.
Midler begged off that day saying she was in another city but nobody in the room bought it. The only other star of a show I can recall not to make the TCA scene on the launch of his or her series was Edward Woodward way back in the mid-’80s when the original Equalizer was being shopped. On that day, Woodward begged off what would have been a London to Phoenix, Az., commute.
Midler’s storm excuse sounded just as iffy Wednesday but, what the hell, she hammers Trump daily on Twitter and is after all the Divine Miss M. Show up, don’t show up, just keep being Bette.
Which she did, especially when explaining why her character, a New York City public school teacher, was such a perfect fit.
“I felt almost as if Paul had written it for me, because he knows how nuts I am on the subject of the current inhabitants of the White House. So, for me, it was cathartic… Unfortunately, not cathartic enough because I’m still in a state of rage and anxiety.”
She was asked if recording her part in isolation before remote cameras came naturally after all her years in recording booths making music.
“No, I wouldn’t say so,” she answered. “I mean, usually when you go to a recording studio, there’ve been plenty of people and lots of food. And in this case, there were no people and a lot of equipment and no food.
“I did get a free COVID tet out of it,” she added, “so it was win-win all around.”