10 Quick Questions for Eugene Levy
Award-winning actor broadens his horizons in new show ‘The Reluctant Traveler With Eugene Levy’
Actor-writer-producer Eugene Levy, 76, has amassed an impressive comedic résumé in both TV and film, including his role as co-creator and lead actor in the uber-popular Emmy Award–winning series Schitt’s Creek. In his latest project, he steps out of his comedy comfort zone to take viewers on a globe-trotting adventure as host of Apple TV+’s new show The Reluctant Traveler With Eugene Levy.
What makes you a self-described reluctant traveler?
Airports. Don’t really love the airport experience. Don’t love: Take off the shoes. Take off the belt. Take off the watch, laptop. Put it in a bin and be quick about it. Not that bin, not that bin, this bin. By the time you get through that experience, you’re ready to go back home. I’ve never really been tickled by sightseeing. I know that sounds like a really stupid thing to say, but the sightseeing experience itself has never really excited me. For the most part, I’d rather be seeing something else. So those are the reasons that I was kind of reluctant. That, and the fact that I’m not a curious person. I think to be a great traveler, you have to have a nice sense of adventure to try new things. That has never been me.
Finish this sentence: I’m also a reluctant [blank].
Social animal. As a person, I’m kind of on the shy side, dealing with some insecurities [that] I guess some people, most people, maybe nobody has to deal with. Those are issues that are also things I’ve been dealing with on the show as well, because it’s part of what I’m doing. It’s been a nice growing experience for me. That’s why I said no to the show in the beginning, when the show was about just traveling to hotels. It was originally called Room With a View, and they wanted me to do it, and for every reason I just gave you, I said, “You know what, there must be someone better for this show. Honestly, I don’t think I’m the person for it.” The more conversations we had, the more they realized this is a better idea for this show — somebody who really doesn’t love doing this stuff, doing it and then getting their take on it. That is a concept I understand.
What did you learn about yourself on the journey?
Pretty much the most enlightening thing for me is how much I enjoyed talking to the people that I was meeting in every country. Before I got the show, if I was doing any trip with family or friends, I wouldn’t be the one initiating conversation. I’d be the one chiming in here and there. But I’ve really come out of that shell in terms of being able to open up, listening to people and truly learning about the culture and caring about the conversation that we’re having and what we’re talking about. That’s been a very positive thing for me.
Are you a fan of travel shows, and did they inspire you on your journey?
Sure. These are the kinds of shows I actually love watching. I loved Anthony Bourdain. I watched Searching for Italy, Stanley Tucci’s show. They’re just totally relaxing, and there’s a genuine interest there in seeing what you’re seeing. I can’t say anything inspired me, because what I’m doing is not necessarily what they’re doing. I mean, it is, but I’m not necessarily getting the same enjoyment factor out of it. Stanley Tucci, Anthony Bourdain — they would try anything food-wise if it was put on their plate. I wouldn’t. I’ve done it, but I can’t say I love everything I’m eating. That may be the big difference in these shows. They approach everything like it is the most exciting thing they’re doing. I’m approaching it like, Do I have to do this?
Speaking of food, what was your favorite and least favorite meal?
I think it was Tokyo where I had the most amazing Wagyu steak that was delectable. The reindeer meat I had in Finland I was not a fan of. The sushi that I tried in Lisbon — of course, I don’t eat sushi, but I tried it — I did not care for it. I’m basically a good meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. I don’t have a very exotic palate, but traveling around the world I have to be open to trying whatever [dishes] that they excel in in that country — that are the most popular.
Which country was your favorite?
The place that I had the most fun at was Finland, which is kind of odd, because it was cold and it’s winter and I wasn’t really looking forward to a really cold kind of experience. But driving a dogsled across a frozen lake in Finland at 35 mph was one of the most exhilarating experiences. Totally enjoyable — loved the dogs that were driving the sled. The ice floating in the Arctic Ocean was something. I probably would never have done it had I traveled there on my own. Whether I would even have gone to Lapland is another story. Probably not. There were a lot of great things that I tried there.
Was there an activity you wouldn’t try?
When I first got [to Finland] they said, “The first thing you should do is hop in a sauna, and then come out of the sauna, go outside your place naked and then roll around in the snow.” I did not actually do that. I said, “It sounds interesting, [but] maybe not on this trip.”
What do you recommend people see and do when visiting your hometown of Toronto?
The CN Tower — one of the big tourist destinations. If you haven’t been up there and had a great meal up there in the rotating restaurant, that really is something, to see the city from that height. Toronto is a great city to walk in, great neighborhoods.
Since you don’t like airports, did you take family road trips when your kids were younger?
No, we didn’t do a lot of road trips. … We would go to resorts. We’d go to a beach, the Caribbean. To be honest, in my life, those were the kind of trips that I truly enjoyed. Get me on a beach, sit me by a pool, lovely piña colada, maybe a round of golf and that’s it.
Has there been any talk with your kids about getting the Schitt’s Creek cast back together? [Eugene’s son, Dan Levy, co-created and starred on the show along with daughter Sarah Levy.]
Never say never. We’re open to something down the line with Schitt’s Creek, whatever it is — a special or a movie. My son Daniel has always said it’s going to take a really exciting idea to put that together. After the show, you still want to be looking at a project that might even be as good or better. You certainly don’t want to take a chance on doing something that might not be up to par, so to speak. We loved doing it for six years, and the idea of doing another project with this amazing cast is something that we’re totally both into. It really depends on what the idea is, and when everyone has time to do it.
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