Best of 2020: Joe Pantoliano on Schitt’s Creek

The beloved character actor, currently starring in From the Vine, talks about the show that helped him escape the doldrums of 2020.

Schitt’s Creek has been the greatest opportunity for me to escape the tedium of the pandemic. 2020 actually started off as a very promising year: I was in rehearsals for a new off-Broadway play, we had done about 20 previews and were three previews away from opening night, when they shut down New York City, the country, the world.

When I got home, we started watching Schitt’s Creek for the second time. I love that show and I love those actors, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. Catherine is a national treasure – a world-class treasure! I think she surpasses so many people in the characters that she plays and the empathy that she creates for what is a very complex, dysfunctional, borderline schizophrenic, extremely narcissistic character in Schitt’s Creek. I love to dig into the bloopers and the behind-the-scenes featurettes on how she created Moira Rose. I really like the ability to get a firsthand look at the process, as that’s something which wasn’t available to us 30 years ago. When I was a kid, I watched the Million Dollar Movie on TV, and I didn’t know the history behind all those old movies, so it’s really cool to have those insights. I just love Schitt’s Creek and all of the new actors that are on that show, and it was wonderful to be able to watch that this past year.

Schitt’s Creek is so nonjudgmental, and I love that all the townspeople never judge a person for their defects, that they are so accepting of everything and everyone. Dani, my middle daughter, turned me on to the show – she’s been a fan for years – and so I got into it too in 2019. I have four kids and my younger daughter, Isabella, told me that there was a making-of documentary about Schitt’s Creek. I wanted to see that, but not until I’d watched the show, so I worked my way through it all first. The idea that a family falls on hard times, and then finds a way back, is a classic redemption story. Up until the Roses lose everything, they encapsulate the bubble existence of one-percenters who have no feelings for anybody except themselves, but what happens to them makes them evolve and develop true empathy and understanding, which they learn from the people of the town. They grow emotional muscles, but I like that the show doesn’t hit you over the head with it, that you’re always laughing. We watched a lot of the most recent season together as family, but sometimes people got impatient and would sneak off in the other room to watch on their own …

There’s so much to watch these days, it feels like we’re getting bombarded with material. Netflix is like New York City, where you can eat in a different restaurant every night and never find them all. I like The Crown. On the new season, with Margaret Thatcher, I didn’t even know it was Gillian Anderson playing her. It fascinates me when an actor can completely lose themselves in a character like that. Everybody is so good on that show. I particularly like Josh O’Connor, who plays Charles, and of course Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Colman. Tobias Menzies, who plays Prince Philip, is dynamite.

I also saw The Queen’s Gambit, which was fascinating to me because of the work I’ve done on my own post-traumatic stress. Unresolved childhood or adolescent trauma can define a person. It seemed like that for all the characters in The Queen’s Gambit, chess saved their lives from their childhood traumas, in one way or another, even even the janitor who teaches Beth. It was well-acted and interestingly shot, so I liked it very much.

With more than 100 film, television and stage credits to his name, Joe Pantoliano is a prolific American character actor who has played many diverse and memorable roles, from his breakthrough as Guido in Risky Business, to Eddie Moscone in Midnight Run, Cosmo Renfro in The Fugitive, Cypher in The Matrix and Teddy in Memento (2000). Joe has worked with many of Hollywood’s brightest talents, both on-screen and off, including Richard Donner, Steven Spielberg, Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes, Christopher Nolan and many others. He is a winner of a primetime Emmy for his work on The Sopranos (1999), for which he also received two SAG Award nominations. His latest film, Sean Cisterna’s From the Vine in which he plays a downtrodden CEO who experiences a moral crisis, travels to Italy and discovers new life by reviving his grandfather’s old vineyard – is now on VOD and all digital platforms. He will also be hosting new podcast, No Kidding, Me Too, with co-host daughter Daniella Pantoliano, on which the two will have conservations with noted celebrities and other high-profile professionals regarding mental health and how we all deal.