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Dan Levy loves the movie he just wrote.
No, it’s not a long-rumored Schitt’s Creek film. (Though he just told People that a follow-up to the beloved Emmy-winning series is “TBD with an exclamation mark on the end.”) Instead, Levy was unveiling true feelings about the untitled romantic comedy script he completed for Netflix under his overall TV and film deal with the streamer.
Clarifying that it’s still in the early stages and very much in development, the multihyphenate briefly opened up about the project during a Zoom interview about his new campaign for Tostitos, “Don’t Miss the Good Stuff.” Levy, collaborating with the chips brand again after teaming with Kate McKinnon on an ad last year, was talking about his writing process as he organically shifted to what it was like to finish the script, a project that marks his solo feature film debut.
“It was really rewarding and, in the end, so exhilarating. I love what I wrote, which is a very rare thing,” he said. So what’s it about? Levy said that he was interested in tackling the rom-com genre and after investigating what his take would be, he widened the scope beyond a couple.
“It ended up having more to do with friendships in your 30s than actual romantic relationships. What would a love story look like if it was really about a group of friends in their mid-30s? The clarity that comes with age and the time you’ve spent with these people,” he explained. “There’s romance in the movie, obviously, but really, it’s a love story about friendship.”
During the interview, Levy offered some clarity about his approach to brand deals, what it takes for him to say yes and how he manages his own fear of missing out.
Considering this is your second campaign with Tostitos, how collaborative is the process now?
So collaborative. That’s why, aside from growing up and actually eating the chips, it’s a no brainer. I mean, the whole team is great. The brainstorming around the concept of the campaign was so inclusive of my thoughts and even the way the team came together — from having Paul as a director to being involved in the writing — makes it a lovely place to work. It’s a very rare thing in this space to have that kind of respect for my input, my thoughts and the willingness to improv. It’s always a great time and I just have a lot of fun doing it.
Speaking of your input and thoughts, what was most important to you?
Oh, everything from shortlisting a long list of scenarios that could end up making it into the spot, creating an environment where I could kind of perform in the way that I wanted to. It’s very similar to what we did on my show, which was lay the groundwork and then at the very end, put an ellipsis that leaves room for improv and allows for the spontaneity of comedy to be alive in a way that never felt too scripted. Also, making sure my personality was still there and that I don’t end up like a ‘bot or something that is just there to say lines. It’s always a really nice time.
You’ve become a high-profile pitch person, working with brands like Citi, M&Ms and Tostitos. How do you decide when to say yes?
It’s just a gut instinct, and I have to really know what it is that I’m talking about. There are a lot of things that come your way and you think, “I don’t actually know how I would be the face of a football?” I appreciate the ask, but I don’t think that would be comfortable or worthwhile for me. So, when it does and when the creative team brings an idea that feels really sweet or funny and, most importantly, collaborative, then there’s always an open conversation. Being able to be myself is the greatest priority running through anything that I do. Ultimately, at the end of the day, that is most fundamental and if I feel like there’s a path through it where I can kind of do my thing, then great. I just have to love what it is that I’m doing.
Then do you love Tostitos? Are you a big chips or snacks person?
Yeah, I am. Growing up, there was always Tostitos in my house. That’s why when these opportunities come, you think to yourself, never in a million years would I have thought this would happen to me. And it makes it all an easy yes because I’m going to honor that 13-year-old who was plowing through my parents’ snack cabinet.
Do you have any good FOMO stories?
I constantly feel like I’m in a perpetual state of feeling like I’m missing out on something. Inherently, that’s what being an actor is. Your whole life feels like you’re missing out on potential work. So, this spot comes from a very funny, very real place for me. When the idea was pitched, I felt very much in my safe zone of having to react to missing out on something. I think that’s also a very human thing. I still have [FOMO] when I see that my friends have gone to dinner without me. Suddenly I’m like, “Well, I was around. I don’t understand why I wasn’t asked. Was it a very special dinner? What did you discuss at this dinner? I was in town.”
I would imagine your friends might assume you must be working a lot or writing, as I see you have projects in the works. What is your writing process? Do you lock yourself away?
It really depends on timeline. If there’s a timeline, it’s way harder, for me at least, than not. When I don’t have a timeline, I don’t feel the panic of having to get something done. I’ve been writing a movie over the past few months, and the looming timeline has been something that I’ve been really struggling with. It’s gotten to a point where I’ve said to myself, “If I write one scene today, that’s fine.” It’s been a combination of self-affirmations that everything’s going to be fine to extreme panic. I like reading about other writers’ processes just to stress myself out even more. There are a lot of incredibly regimented writers that get up at 6 a.m. and go for an hour and a half long run and then sit down and write for two hours and then do something else. That doesn’t come easily to me, so I have to seize the moments when an idea pops in my head.
I work a lot with music and I create playlists for everything that I’m writing. I spend a lot of time like walking around with headphones in, waiting for ideas to come in relation to the songs that I’ve kind of put together that thematically speak to the project that I’m working on. It’s a conceptual thing that I hope results in 95 pages written by the end of it, but you never know. In this case, it all came together. I got to a point where I had to write four pages a day to make the deadline and I said to myself, “Even if it’s crap, I’m going to put four pages worth of work down and edit through them at the end.”
It was the first time I had ever written a film by myself and I had to understand the template and the process of it all. It was really rewarding and, in the end, so exhilarating. I love what I wrote, which is a very rare thing.
I’m assuming this is the reported untitled romantic comedy for Netflix that you’re writing, directing, producing and starring in? What can you say about the plot?
What can I say about the movie? Well, it’s still in its early days. I’m an optimist, so I have high hopes. It’s still very much in development. I love genre and I’m a film student. I love the idea of seeing what I could do with a genre and in this case, I thought, “What would my idea of a rom-com be?” It ended up having more to do with friendships in your 30s than actual romantic relationships. What would a love story look like if it was really about a group of friends in their mid-30s? The clarity that comes with age and the time you’ve spent with these people.
Sometimes we have people in our lives, decades-long friendships, but we know very little about them because the closeness and the intimacy of those relationships is so comfortable that we don’t ask the big questions or investigate them in the way that someone that you meet for the first time might feel inclined to. There’s romance in the movie, obviously, but really, it’s a love story about friendship.
A version of this story first appeared in the June 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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