Glen Schaefer / The Province
Eugene Levy is pacing the set of Package Deal between rehearsals, trying out different readings to himself of a particular line.
Levy appears in the first three episodes of the new sitcom as an accused wife-killer being defended by Danny, the comically putupon lawyer played by series star Randal Edwards.
The rehearsal resumes, a courtroom scene that Levy steals with low-key scripted asides and lasersharp timing, punctuated by his signature nimble eyebrows.
Don’t ask him how he does it.
“I don’t like putting comedy under a microscope and I don’t like talking about it.” Levy says during a break away from set.
He’s dressed in a tidy sweater with a collar, neat jeans, like an accountant on his day off.
“A lot of it is luck, everybody has their own way of doing comedy and I have a particular kind of comedy that I like. I like my comedy to be grounded, like it always comes out of a real place.”
The producers of Package Deal wrote the character for Levy, hoping for some of the luck he brought to SCTV, the American Pie franchise and a string of improvised features Levy made with Christopher Guest.
For himself, Levy was intrigued at the idea of a multi-camera sitcom filmed in front of an audience, previously a uniquely American idiom.
“I assumed it was a single camera show, it’s Canada. Then I heard, ‘No, they’re actually doing this in front of an audience …’ I’m thinking, ‘Oh, OK, I guess,’ but the creator of the show Andrew Orenstein has come off some pretty good shows down there.”
Levy took the patriotic view of helping to launch a sitcom in Canada decades after the last such entry, the Toronto-filmed King of Kensington, breathed its last in 1980.
“If it works then this would be a fantastic thing for this country.”
Levy has been involved in a couple of short-lived U.S. sitcoms over the years, and has been around long enough to have guested on King of Kensington.
“I don’t usually like the sitcom form, believe it or not. I don’t think in those rhythms, but I thought the scripts for this were really good, better than I thought they would be,” he says.
“Let me put it this way, if this was a show that was being done in the States somewhere, I don’t think I would have done it. If they can make this work in Canada, I’d like to be on the ground floor of that.”
Levy’s Package Deal role has his accused killer giving the lawyer relationship advice over the three episodes.
“He’s chiming in on what his lawyer should and shouldn’t do with his girlfriend, his relationship with his brothers, things like that.”
Levy hasn’t ruled out a return to the role, should the show come back for a second season. “It’s finite until I hear something else.”