Dan Levy wrote, directed, produced and stars in new Netflix film
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHITT'S CREEK")
DAN LEVY: (As David Rose) Like Beyonce, I excel as a solo artist, and I was also dressed by my mother well into my teens.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Dan Levy may forever be known as David Rose, the spoiled rotten character he played on the comedy series "Schitt's Creek." Levy's new film may surprise his fans. "Good Grief" is a movie he wrote and directed about loss. His character's husband is killed in a car crash, and the movie follows his complicated path through the grieving process.
LEVY: I just had this very strong desire to do something very different. After 80 episodes of working on a comedy series, I just wanted to challenge myself in new ways. And in my case, I wanted to bite off something slightly more dramatic, and the parts weren't coming. And I kind of had to swallow the expectations and just pursue something that made me happy in an industry that is very precarious and scary at times. If I don't explore or expand my curiosity as a writer and an actor, then the industry wins in a way.
FADEL: So you play Marc in this movie, and the story begins with a holiday party - bright lights, loud conversation, laughter, singing. Then Marc's husband leaves the party early and dies a block away in a car crash. The very next scene, Marc is in bed, alone, grieving. All the color is drained from the frame, your black hair against white bedsheets. It's this great visual representation of the before and after of a violent loss like that. And Marc goes through different stages of grief. I want to play this one scene.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GOOD GRIEF")
LEVY: (As Marc) I've been reading that the brain is like a muscle. It's why getting over a death is so hard, because your brain has been trained to feel things for a person, and when they go away, your head is still operating under the impression that it should feel those things for that person, like muscle memory. So I'm just trying to train my brain to not feel as much for right now.
FADEL: Is this an explanation as to how Marc is dealing with grief or not dealing with grief?
LEVY: Yeah, I mean, I think it's - hopefully it's something that I think a lot of people relate to, which is you try anything you can to get through it.
LEVY: In the case of Marc, he is someone who I don't think had ever really sat in his feelings and explored them. And so the idea that he'd read something that was somewhat avoidant and really clung on to that as a potential means of getting through this, like, unbearable pain in his life - it made sense. And obviously it all comes to a screeching halt toward the end of the film because, ultimately, I don't think you can run away from your feelings forever, but you can certainly try.
FADEL: Are you sure, Dan, 'cause I've been doing it for 42 years, so I don't know?
LEVY: You know what? Me too, for a bit. It depends on what area of my life we're talking about.
FADEL: Well, I think the thing that the movie gets across is that grief isn't one emotion. And you watch Marc sort of go through this journey.
LEVY: Certainly. I mean, the movie came from my own confusion around feelings of grief and what it all meant and whether I was honoring the people that I was mourning appropriately. In my case, it was my grandmother. And then five days before I wrote the screenplay, my dog of 10 years passed away, and so it was a very raw and confusing time. I couldn't speak the feelings. I could only write them, and the feelings in it were the only way I could kind of make sense of my own.
FADEL: There's also a storyline in here about the family you kind of choose for yourself - right? - the family not that you're born with, but the friends you collect that become your closest people. And I think most people who have to adult recognize this support group that you collect. Your character, Marc, has two friends who are instrumental in helping him.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GOOD GRIEF")
RUTH NEGGA: (As Sophie) We have been here for you whenever you've needed us for almost a year now. We built you the nest, and we sat on you for a year. It's time to hatch, my little puffling.
FADEL: Tell me about Sophie and Thomas and their characters.
LEVY: Thomas, he had a former relationship with, and Sophie has always been sort of the life of the party, and they essentially represent old, deep friendships. I've been single for a while, and if you don't have a partner, your friends are the love of your life. They're who you confide in. They are who help you get through things. And I always knew when "Schitt's Creek" ended that I wanted to tell a story about friendship, to really center this conversation of how important friends are, and also unmarried, without children and thriving.
LEVY: And that's another conversation that is happening in the movie. I'm 40. I feel pressure all the time to be partnered, and I feel pressure all the time to figure out what my family looks like. And the truth is, I love my life, and I'm single and childless. And that's not to say that whatever path people choose is right or wrong, but I also didn't see a lot of that conversation happening.
FADEL: Wow. I think that's why I related to it so much, actually. Dealing with grief is not something that human beings are good at. I mean, nobody tells you how to do it. Nobody trains you for it. I wondered about the title of the movie, "Good Grief." Is that about trying to figure that out?
LEVY: Yeah, I mean, it's something that I don't think we should ever get used to.
LEVY: The discomfort around grief is because we never want to experience it. And when we do, it's new to us or continues to be kind of new because it's the last thing you want to think about. I wanted it to show that, as hard as it is, the grief never leaves you. But it can inspire or shift your life in unexpected ways that bring about change and hope. And so the title, like, "Good Grief," really to me summed up the fact that there can be good in grief and that that's OK.
FADEL: That's Dan Levy. He wrote, directed and stars in the movie "Good Grief." It's on Netflix right now. Dan Levy, thanks so much, and congratulations.
LEVY: Oh, thank you so much. Great talking to you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART")
NEIL YOUNG: (Singing) But only love can break your heart. Try to be sure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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