No one likes to feel like they’ve been silenced. For a storyteller like Dan Levy, finding a team of people “who want to hear your ideas and protect who you are” is of the utmost importance.
So, what goes into that? “Making sure my voice is protected, and I can lend myself to the project in a way that feels exciting, funny, and fresh,” he tells Men’s Health.
A commitment to only putting his stamp of approval on projects that leave him feeling like his authentic self has worked out to this point, whether that's the hit, Emmy-sweeping show Schitt’s Creek (which he both created and starred in), or something smaller, like the FOMO-centric Tostitos ad he's currently starring in.
But that doesn’t mean the man formerly known as David Rose doesn’t still face that scary “fear of missing out” every now and again when auditioning for projects that he’s not at the helm of, nor is he exempt from feeling it in his everyday life either.
FOMO is something that can dually act as both a blessing and a curse—pushing you outside that cozy box, while also leaving you reeling with the anxiety of feeling like you can either attend every event you're invited to, or face potential exile. Applying this toward the hectic nature of Pride Month, Levy (a gay man) has gained a huge takeaway.
“The greatest gift we can give ourselves is knowing our limits,” he says. “It took a while for me to realize that you can say no and still be a proud gay person. You can watch the parade from your friend’s window and not be in it. I think that’s the greatest gift—being able to say, ‘I think I’m going to tap out at this point.’”
Alongside the colorful celebrations for the LGBTQ+ community that happen every June, this year, we’ve seen a rise in big screen projects that have built storylines around individuals with sexual orientations that aren’t usually the focus of such positive on-screen attention. Earlier this year, Netflix delivered a seasonal love story with Single All the Way, Hulu blessed us with the early summer release of Fire Island, and Billy Eichner’s gay romcom Bros is set to release in late September.
Levy, a creator whose own experiences were reflected through Schitt’s Creek, has been thrilled to see his friends tell stories that have rarely been seen in the mainstream until now.
“I know how rare it is to get the opportunity to tell this story without any interference,” he says. “I’ve been DMing with Bowen [Yang] about all the success that Fire Island has been having, and I’m just so happy for all of them.”
Unfortunately, Levy goes on to say that it’s never that simple when it comes to creating LGBTQ+ content for the masses. There’s an innate pressure to dominate at the box office, and if not, it can be hard to get future projects off the ground.
“It’s a really strange dynamic,” he says. “I feel like the success of Schitt’s Creek has opened doors for other queer stories in television and potentially in film, but there’s still this idea of ‘but the next project has to be successful as well, otherwise the door gets shut again.’ I would love to see us get to a place where there isn’t this pressure on everything the [LGBTQ+] community does in terms of entertainment, where if it succeeds, great, if it doesn’t, studios will be scared to make more.”
Speaking your truth—presenting yourself in a truthful, direct, honest way without fear of judgment or criticism, really—isn’t a straightforward process for any member of the LGBTQ+ community. As queer people, there’s always, without fail, going to be those who disapprove of what you put forward. It’s just a matter of finding the perfect balancing act that allows you to keep your head down, but keep your chin up at the same time. It’s not easy.
“There are a lot of people who have taken it upon themselves to decide what is acceptable and what isn’t,” Levy says, in reference to hateful, unwarranted comments directed at the LGBTQ+ community on the internet.
A fire’s building, and it’s warranted. It’s something he, like many other queer people, have to deal with (and have dealt with) on a repeated basis. And there's no real remedy to fix such a problem—aside from doing what they can to ignore it. “The fact that people can troll a post and say, ‘Well, this shouldn’t be here,’" he says, paraphrasing a sentiment from online comments. "Who gave you that right? It’s just so entitled.”
He calls “protecting his brain” the biggest obstacle to doing what he loves: delivering stories like the one of David and Patrick on Schitt's Creek.
“We’re not going to be of much service if we drive ourselves crazy by letting certain things stand in our way,” he says. “It’s easy for me to say; there are much larger groups of individuals within our community that are at risk. But just trying to protect myself from all the noise so that I can continue to, in my case, tell stories that hopefully change people’s minds and open people’s eyes and share conversations that I think are worth having.”
Keeping that mentality and looking forward is a fight, he says. And it's one that anyone should be willing to stand alongside him in.
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