The actor discusses the second season of Schitt’s Creek, a comedy about a wealthy family that loses it all. Levy co-created the series with–and stars alongside–his son Daniel. His daughter Sarah is also in the cast, and his brother Fred is a producer.
How did you react when your kids told you they wanted to go into show business?
When my wife Deb got pregnant, we thought, Do we want to stay in Los Angeles and raise our kids in the show-business environment or go back to Canada where it’s sane and civilized? We went back to Toronto. And the big irony: they all went into show business. The tough thing for a parent is to look at them and say, “Do they have what it takes?” They did.
Your character is more of a straight man. Is that less fun to play than being wacky?
No! It’s actually more fun. I looked at all the great shows from Seinfeld to Mary Tyler Moore, Jack Benny in the ’50s. You surround yourself with funny people and get to be very reactive, which is what I love doing. I looked forward to that direction for a character instead of putting on the funny glasses.
Toronto has produced many wonderful comedians. Is there something about Canadian winters that breeds a good sense of humor?
I wish I could put my finger on it. There was a comedy explosion in the early ’70s: Marty Short, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Catherine O’Hara. In Toronto, you feel like you’re just going to work and coming home and having dinner. You don’t feel like you’re a part of a major scene.
How did American Pie change your career?
It was a major turning point. When I read the script, I thought it was a little raunchy. The role was not written the way it turned out, so we improvised everything, and then everything started opening up. It was a huge hit and turned my life around, no question about that.
This appears in the March 21, 2016 issue of TIME.