64-year-old Catherine O’Hara stays in the small screen’s spotlight
Hulu is now streaming the fifth season of Schitt’s Creek, and just like in the first four seasons, the script is humorous and urbane, the acting is spot-on, and 64-year-old actress Catherine O’Hara steals every scene she enters. To be fair, O’Hara is in no way a gratuitous scene-stealer, she’s just doing her job. O’Hara plays Moira Rose, the self-centered, former-soap-star wife of Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), a businessman who went belly-up and was forced to move to a small town in the middle of nowhere along with his wife and two adult children. Hijinks, love lessons, and personal growth ensue, and the show’s comely mix of humor and pathos has proven a winning combination.
But just like the Academy Awards and the Grammys, we care more about the clothes than the drama. David Rose (Dan Levy) is known for his edgy, embellished designer sweatshirts, Alexis Rose (Annie Murphy) has a wardrobe that’s equal parts Malibu yoga and pretty girl flirt. Johnny Rose, ever the proper businessman, is all about suits, even in exile. But O’Hara’s wardrobe is a life-giving procession of meticulously assembled separates and accessories that wouldn’t be out of place in Iris Apfel’s closet, or on the Fourth Floor at Bergdorf’s. (That’s where they keep couture masterpieces). It’s ambitious, impudent and histrionic. And totally out of place in Schitt’s Creek. With each outfit she wears–which would turn heads in a good way in New York or LA—Moira Rose brazenly declares to the good people of Smalltown, USA (which is actually shot in Canada, fyi): I DO NOT BELONG HERE.
Fish-out-of-water scenarios are a good foundation for comedy, and the writers on Schitt’s Creek definitely get a lot of mileage out of the premise without resorting to maudlin ploys. But what’s funny about Catherine O’Hara is that she’s funny. Since her earliest days as part of Second City’s comedic troupe in Toronto, O’Hara was more interested in getting laughs than playing on her natural beauty to move her career forward. As a former colleague told People Magazine in a 1986 profile of O’Hara, “Catherine’s dilemma is that she never packaged herself in a sleazy, commercial way. She won’t play a librarian who turns into a nymphomaniac.”
But it’s not as if O’Hara is an unknown. She became a star on Canadian television in the 1980s with the show SCTV, where she brought down the house with her impeccable comedic timing and deadpan impersonations of Lucille Ball, Tammy Faye Bakker, and Katherine Hepburn. In the 1990s, she starred as Delia Deetz in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, Sally/Shock in Nightmare Before Christmas, and played the mom in Home Alone. She became muse to auteur Christopher Guest, and won numerous accolades for her roles in his films Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration.
In two Guest movies, O’Hara played the wife of Eugene Levy’s character. Their on-screen chemistry was the result of their longstanding friendship that went back to their time together at Second City in Toronto. Levy had to lean on his four decades of friendship with O’Hara to persuade her to take on the role of Moira in Schitt’s Creek. It seems that O’Hara, despite her enviable resume, has absolutely no qualms about turning down roles she doesn’t LOVE.
“I read scripts and get a gut feeling about whether I want to be a part of them,” she told People Magazine in 1986. “Do I want my parents to see this? I’d just rather stay home than do something I know is bad and have to defend it.” But O’Hara did LOVE the Schitt’s Creek script, from the moment she read it. So she strapped on her stilettos and feathers and Moira Rose was born. We don’t know what we would do without her: she’s our top source for #stylegoals in primetime. And she’s really, really funny.