Eugene Levy tackles his own insecurities for The Reluctant Traveler

Eugene Levy tackles his own insecurities for The Reluctant Traveler

Eugene Levy visits Venice in ‘The Reluctant Traveler,’ premiering Friday, Feb. 24 on Apple TV+.APPLE TV+

Eugene Levy isn’t one to strike up a conversation. He admits he’s never been a curious person or boasted a sense of adventure. He doesn’t enjoy travelling, but when he does visit another city, you’ll catch him hanging at his hotel or sipping a cappuccino at a café, watching other people do touristy stuff.

“That’s how I absorb where I am,” the 76-year-old tells me during a junket in Pasadena, Calif. “Put 12 things on a to-do list for sightseeing, and I’m like, ‘When’s lunch?’”

That trepidation over leaving his comfort zone was why the performer politely declined – twice – when Apple TV+ and London-based production company Twofour called him up with the idea of hosting a travel show. After highlighting all the reasons they had the wrong guy, Levy hung up and executive producer David Brindley immediately knew the actor’s reluctance was a great hook.

Thus, The Reluctant Traveler took flight.

Over eight episodes, the show features Levy meeting people around the globe and partaking in local adventures. Think polar plunges in Finland, feeding baby rhinos in South Africa or spiritual stargazing with the Navajo in the Utah desert.

If you’re a hesitant globetrotter, Levy hopes you’ll find a “kindred spirit” in his hosting style. But if you’ve got wanderlust, the breathtaking views and upscale hotels will invoke serious envy as Levy travels to retreats in Venice, the Maldives, Lisbon and Tokyo.

“If this was a show where you had to travel and stay in a tent, that would have been a strong no,” Levy says, chuckling when I bring up the nightly $1,000 price tag for the “tent” (a loose term to describe the luxe space) he stays in during the Costa Rica episode. “Wasn’t that funny? I’ve never spent one night in a tent and I’ve never been camping. Basically, that was just the roof that was tented.”

Comfortable accommodations were one reason Levy agreed to the project. The lofty production schedule (by TV standards) was another. The crew broke between filming somewhere new every couple of months, making each jaunt a fun “reunion” for the actor. Still, he had a major hurdle: learning how to be himself on camera.

Despite appearing in more than 60 feature films, sketching out various characters during Second City Television, and helping propel Canadian television to international audiences on the record-breaking Schitt’s Creek, the guy has never been himself onscreen. Sure, he’s done stints on-camera, panels and more interviews with journalists than he could ever remember. But shedding character and engaging in conversation with strangers for the entertainment of others?

From the archives: Eugene Levy, the reluctant comedian

That’s when I learn that even Eugene Levy has imposter syndrome.

“Maybe this is something a shrink could be more articulate about, but there’s probably some kind of insecurity someplace,” he says. “I always think there’s somebody who could do this better. Just being myself is a first and it’s a big step. I was never, ever comfortable being myself on camera.”

Perhaps that’s why Levy’s family was “puzzled” when he told them about his new gig. Despite all this, Brindley says Levy was game for whatever production threw at him.

Eugene Levy meets Kensho Sawada and Yoshinori Tashiro while visiting Tokyo in ‘The Reluctant Traveler’.APPLE TV+

“It’s not a conceit or something we’ve concocted, it’s completely and utterly, genuinely authentic as a starting point,” Brindley explains during a news conference. “Everything that Eugene does is authentic. It’s not a comedy skit by any stretch.”

After screening all episodes, it’s clear Levy can hold his own. The comedy comes from his raw reactions to various situations as he engages with his screen partners. “The show has been good for me as a person,” he admits, adding he enjoyed it more than he thought he would and that he’s realized “going for it” isn’t all that bad.

“This show has been chipping away at all these things that are basically who I was and getting me out of a comfort zone that I was getting far too comfortable in,” he explains, adding that you can’t always say no to things.

Levy reflects how the opportunity to be himself on camera never presented itself before, but he doesn’t know if he would have pursued it anyway. As they say, with age comes wisdom.

“There’s something about being my age and having been in this business for 53 years where I was more open to taking a chance,” he says, raising those signature eyebrows.

“I don’t know if I could have been myself on camera hosting a show years ago. I have a better sense of myself now. I’m more relaxed with myself, to the point of saying, ‘Give it a go. Give it a shot. Stretch a little bit here as a person. Let’s do it before it’s too late.’”

The Reluctant Traveler premieres globally on Friday, Feb. 24 on Apple TV+.

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