Eugene Levy confronts his fears in 'The Reluctant Traveler'

TORONTO — Award-winning actor, writer, and producer Eugene Levy has appeared in scores of film and TV projects to date,but what scares him the most is being himself in front of the camera.

“It’s frightening — I’ve done character work my entire life and the further the characters are from me, the more comfortable I am,” says Levy who starsin the new Apple TV Plus travel series “The Reluctant Traveler," in which viewers follow him as he voyages across the world as a self-professed hater of travel.

"'Schitt's Creek' was about as close as I've come to a character. and that was frightening to launch into.

"I'm not a front-and-centre person, I don't enjoy being in front of a crowd, so I said 'yikes, this is going to be kind of scary.'"

The eight-part series, which debuted Friday, sees the Emmy Award-winning comedian travelling to eight locations including Tokyo, Finland, Costa Rica and Utah.

At each destination, Levy is situated in unique, extravagant hotels as the 76-year-old actor narrates his own discomfort with customs unfamiliar to him, such as noodle slurping or sumo wrestling.

Levy says that when Apple TV Plus executives first pitched the show, he listed numerous reasons why he wasn't the right guy for a travel show, to the tune of laughter in the meeting.

“With somebody like myself who's really that reluctant to travel, it gives the show a personality that sets it apart,” says Levy whose reasons for disliking travel spanned from long wait times at airports to the headaches of packing luggage.

“I mean, if it was up to me, I would have spent much more time in the hotel."

He says his ideas for a travel show would have been far more muted and unappealing as a series before his experience on "The Reluctant Traveler."

“I would have cut everything down by nine-tenths where you’re just kind of sitting at a café and watching it all stroll on by," says Levy.

"I'm usually very comfortable when I'm on the beaten path, and I stay on the beaten path because I'm more comfortable with familiarity."

Each episode opens with Levy expressing these fears, whether it be the hygienic state of his socks when abiding by the shoeless customs of Tokyo, or the sounds of animal chatter keeping him awake in South Africa’s savannahs.

Levy said that despite his anxieties, which is still very much a thing for the 76-year-old actor, he enjoyed the personalities he met along his travels.

“The people I was working with, talked with, and learned from was an eye-opener for me because, through them, I truly learned to enjoy it,” says Levy, who fondly remembers his time in Utah with members of the Navajo Nation where he spent a night gazing at the stars with a young man and his family.

“That was the real gift of this show because they did provide some of the great memories. For me it was truly inspirational.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2023.

Noel Ransome, The Canadian Press