Eugene Levy repeatedly said no, but no one would listen.
The acclaimed actor repeatedly insisted that he was absolutely not the right person to host a travel series.
It didn’t work.
The Reluctant Traveler is the eight-episode globe-trotting series in which Levy visits some of the world’s most beautiful and intriguing destinations, including Costa Rica, Finland, Italy, Japan, Portugal and South Africa, among others, as he explores various cultures and customs. The series premieres Friday, February 24th on Apple TV+.
“It’s not that I hated traveling. I just didn’t love traveling. I don’t love the airport experience. I’m not a fan of sightseeing generally. So, when I get [somewhere], it’s just like a long trip with much too much planned in a day,” explains Levy about his dislike of journeying to unfamiliar places.
He adds, “I don’t have a great sense of adventure. I’m not curious by nature. It’s just a fact.”
This is why when approached about hosting the series the 76-year-old actor immediately expressed, very adamantly, that he was the wrong person for the job.
But now Levy feels a bit differently. “Luckily, [the producers] did not listen, because this show has really been a good thing for me as a person. It was never great for me to say I hate traveling. It’s not something to be proud of, and yet I was quite comfortable saying it. I’m really not into it. When people would tell me that they’re traveling all over the world, and I would listen, and it didn’t really mean that much to me.”
He says that at the beginning of the series, “I would say, ‘Well, I don’t particularly want to go there. I don’t think that would be too much fun. I think the weather is kind of terrible in this location.’ I mean I was actually truly reluctant in the very beginning, until I realized that the show itself is about the reluctancy.”
In this moment, Levy says that he learned, “You can’t always say no to things. You have to try things. So, the experience of this show — which has been so good for me, to be honest — is coming out of a comfort zone for me that I was much too comfortable in before I started the show.”
David Brindley, executive producer, says that the creative team thought of Levy for the role while watching him as Johnny Rose in the multi-award winning comedy series, Schitt’s Creek.
He says that it was only after his initial phone call with Levy, in which he and his team learned of Levy’s true reluctance to travel, and the fact that he might be, in fact, really be the wrong person to make this show, that they ‘leaned in’ to that idea as the backbone of the series.
“That’s the thing,” says Brindley, “It’s not something we’ve concocted, it’s completely and utterly, genuinely authentic as a starting point, and everything that Eugene does is authentic. So, it’s not a comedy skit by any stretch.”
Levy agrees. “The comedy in this show comes from who I am as a person. It’s not about trying to make a funny travel show. It’s a good travel show. I’m just a person who initially shouldn’t have been fronting it, and that’s what this show is actually about.”
There is ‘a lot of truth in the show,’ says Levy. “I’m actually revealing more of myself than I ever have in my life. I’m a very private person, but I’ve been opening up and revealing my inner thoughts on this show, something I rarely have done in my life.”
What Levy is not reluctant to admit is that one of the trips affected him deeply — his time in South Africa. “I never thought of going on safari. Never. I mean, I’d seen animals. I used to watch those shows on TV. I know what they do. I know they attack each other. I know what they look like. [So, I thought], ‘do I have to make the trip and get up at 5 in the morning to go on a safari?’”
But when he got there, he says, “I just felt an affinity with the landscape and I got a strong sense as to the danger these animals are in every day from poachers and hunters; things that you just don’t think about when you’re at home. Being there, and visiting a rhino conservancy where they have taken in orphaned rhinos, rhinos that have been injured through poaching, and baby rhinos that were left beside their mother who was killed for their horns, you know what? That kind of changed me. I definitely felt more of a connection to where I was than I ever thought I could.”
Overall, Brindley believes that The Reluctant Traveler is, “a really pleasurable, escapist, and inviting show. And [that] everybody who watches [will share] in Eugene’s adventures, [and get] to see parts of the world that maybe they haven’t been to yet.”
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