One of the joys of “Schitt’s Creek” isn’t just that it let the world discover Dan Levy’s creative talents or gave Catherine O’Hara a global platform that she deserves. Those truths are a given. The surprise of the CBC and Pop TV phenomenon is none other than the upbeat daughter of the Rose family, Alexis played by Annie Murphy.
“Stuck” with her mother Rose (O’Hara), father Johnny (Eugene Levy) and brother David (Dan Levy) running a motel in a small town in the middle of nowhere after the family’s fortune was lost, Alexis Rose’s onetime glamorous life came crashing to a halt. Over six seasons, however, her relationship with her family grew stronger, she found true love (maybe) and demonstrated that a business acumen might just be hereditary. And slowly but surely, the relatively unknown Murphy brought Alexis into the spotlight next to legends such as O’Hara and the elder Levy.
“Schitt’s Creek” has come to an end (at least for those who have watched it on Pop TV and aren’t waiting for Netflix), but it’s still growing in popularity all over the world. Murphy, who was about to shoot a new AMC series before the coronavirus pandemic hit and is a potential Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy nominee, jumped on the phone in May to chat about her journey through “Schitt’s Creek” and what’s next.
Note: If you have not watched the final season of the series there are spoilers ahead.
The Playlist: I have to ask you. It must not be called a meme, but do you know that you are part of a TikTok thread?
Like “A Little Bit Alexis”?
Yeah. Yeah. I just saw this a couple of weeks ago and it’s blowing my face off. It’s so amazing what having a shit load of time on your hands will do to people.
But I guess the thing that was so interesting to me, is the show has gotten so big that teenage kids and 21-year-olds all around the world, may not have even seen the show, but they’ve got a little bit of Alexis in them.
It’s truly extraordinary and I couldn’t be more proud. [Laughs.]
I remember talking to Catherine and Dan last year before the Emmy nominations after you had wrapped season six. No one knew those major nods were coming but I felt like last spring the show hit, especially in the industry, a new peak. Everyone I knew was talking about it. How weird was it to shoot the final season during that time?
Yes. Of course. It was strange because I think when we started out it felt like a small Canadian show and we’d shoot in Toronto and then in the country north of Toronto and it felt kind of incubated and isolated in that way. When I saw the breakdown at the very beginning and saw that Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara were attached to it, everything they do turns to gold, so I knew it was going to be something really wonderful, but I don’t think any of us anticipated quite what it was going to achieve and how many people it was going to reach. So, we were all kind of conflicted finishing because it just felt like it was hitting its stride. But at the same time, it was time for all of these stories to kind of come to an end. I think Dan knew that the show would be six seasons probably in season four. It’s not common that a show gets to finish entirely on its own terms. So, I feel like we were really, really lucky in that sense, but it’s amazing to watch it kind of continue to grow even though the final episode has aired.
Was there a moment that you realized that, Oh wait, this has taken another level, did someone at a ticket counter at an airline recognize you and ask you about the show or something?
I think we owe a lot of credit to Netflix when we got added to Netflix in the States. Yeah, people started recognizing me, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, you’re Alexis from ‘Schitt’s Creek,'” or “Oh, you’re Annie Murphy.” It would be people looking at me from across a restaurant in a really strange way and then talking to their friends and then looking at me again and then sharing with their friends and consulting their phone. And then one brave friend would come over and be like, “Has anyone ever told you that you really look like the girl from ‘Schitt’s Creek’?” And when I inevitably said, “Yeah, that’s me.” The response would normally be, “Really?” Because I’m quite the opposite from Alexis when it comes to, let’s say, my style and the amount of time I put into getting myself together before leaving the house. So, it was always pretty baffling for people who suspected it might be me.
I’ve read a number of interviews where you’ve talked about getting the role and that you were close to – I don’t know if the word would be retiring – but maybe giving up for a bit.
Getting the role was one thing but were there any moments in that first season that got you excited about acting again?
So much. So much. Yeah. It was the night before the first day of shooting that I really realized what I had signed up for because I’d just been floating on the high of getting the job of my dreams. And then I realized, “Oh shit, I’m going to have to be acting with my comedy idols tomorrow morning.” So, I was absolutely terrified and I managed to drag my shaking corpse into the studio on the first day and I was just like, “What have you done? Like what have you done? You are no way even close to being able to do this with all of these people.” And luckily, Dan, though he was show running and was so involved in the show, he hadn’t acted very much either. He would probably hate me saying this, but I think I had more acting experience than he had at that point. So he was terrified too. We were kind of lucky to have each other’s trembling bodies on that first day to hold on to. And then the first scene we shot was the scene with the four of us, the Roses, I think it was watching Catherine in particular, watching the level of joy and fun and enthusiasm and professionalism that she demonstrated time after time after time, made me realize, “O.K., first of all, this is going to be absolutely incredible and second of all, I am going to be schooled every single day I’m here.” And that turned out to be the case.
Well, I don’t know about that. I think you’re being very humble. But one of the things that I love so much about Alexis though is that it’s really hard to transform a character who is, especially at the beginning, pretty conceited and has lived this “best life,” into someone sympathetic. Can you talk about Alexis’ evolution?
Yeah, I don’t think we ever sat down and had an actual conversation, but it was clear to everybody that if this was the constant behavior of Alexis, and this goes for all of the characters actually, they’re a real handful at the beginning, but if this was what we were seeing episode after episode, there would be no way that people would stick around because who wants to watch that? So, I knew that there had to be, as there are in everybody, there are layers to your personality and there are different sides of yourself that come out when you’re in different situations with different people. Also, it really helped actually when I did get the breakdown, it was all of those kinds of stereotypical socialite, blonde, ditsy, air heady [descriptions] and then at the very, very end of the breakdown for Alexis, it said “a young Goldie Hawn.” And that to me kind of tipped the scale a little bit because yes, a young Goldie Hawn was this blonde, flighty thing, but she was also very smart and very charming and sweet. That really helped me with deciding that I needed to show a softer side and then the writers kind of took it from there.
I think one of the things also that I love about her is compared to every character on the show, she has the most mysterious past. Her constant references to crazy situations she’s been through in her semi-short life are hilarious. Is there one in particular that made you laugh when you read it on the page the most?
One of them. Being able to successfully maintain a relationship with the Saudi Prince while being trapped in a palace for an entire regime change. That one sticks with me because it’s just a beautiful example of Alexis just making the most of a really miserable situation. And then the other one, which is an example of the same thing, is being held hostage on David Geffen‘s yacht by a Somali pirate and I love picturing that one because all I picture is an initial very, very terrifying moment and then cut to three hours later and everybody involved is having the best time ever. That’s just how I pictured that unfolding.
I feel like Alexis is, if she had not gone to Schitt’s Creek with her family, would be an influencer somewhere with the hashtag #bestlifeever constantly on her posts.
Or dead. But in that vein, were you pleasantly surprised about what her arc was for the final season about where she went?
I was, but to be totally honest, I think when Dustin Milligan, who plays Ted, and I found out that Alexis and Ted were breaking up, I think we were both like, “What? No! We’ve come so far, what’s happening?” But then as we read more scripts, I realized that it really was the right place to leave Alexis because when she came onto the show, she was so deeply dependent on men and money, and when we leave her on the show, she is this confident, independent, strong-minded person who’s excited to go and do her own thing and is reliant solely upon herself. So, I think that that’s not what I was envisioning for the end of the show. I think it’s the perfect way to see her off.
I loved it because as much as I love Dustin who plays Ted, I always felt like that was too much of an easy road for her as a character. It solved too much in a way. She met this good-looking veterinarian who’s just the nicest guy ever that doesn’t push her as a person.
Exactly. But what I do like about it is that they really, really were so formative for each other. They really, really grew and changed, but they didn’t do it for each other, they did it with each other. And I also really love that. I think it’s rare that you see a relationship that ends, depicted as a success and something positive. I think it’s usually seen as a failure. And this wasn’t the case with that and it was clear that this relationship ended with such love and respect and in friendship. So, it was really nice to be able to be a part of a portrayal of a relationship like that.
Over the entire six seasons, you’ve done so much press and it probably won’t end until the Emmy’s come up, assuming anyone gets to go to them which, but who knows at this point. But when you think back about the show overall, is there a night, is there a day shooting or event that just immediately pops in your end?
Oh, there are so many of those. I think that the barn scene, I think at the end of season one, when we’re all dancing in the barn at Mutt’s party, the whole family’s dancing together and all of the cast is there. That was an incredible day. And then also basically everything with Dustin would be a scene where we would laugh so much that the crew would be like secretly sending death threats to our families. But the “Cabaret” [performance] day was truly amazing because the whole cast was there, we had rehearsed so much previously, and we were actually at a theater so it felt like we were truly putting on a play. And the time was running out and we were kind of like freaking out trying to get the shot and everyone had jitters and everyone was there for each other and everyone was dressed up in this ridiculous way, and that was a really, really special shoot.
Yeah, I love that episode. So I want to ask you real quickly, I know that you were greenlit to star in a new series, right?
Had you shot a pilot? Were you a go order for it? What was the plan?
Yeah, we’re straight to series, I signed up for eight episodes.
Were you about to shoot before the pandemic hit?
Yeah, I was literally three days away from going to Boston when everything kind of fell apart. But I’m super lucky because I know the show will happen just whenever the world becomes the world we know again, or the world closer to what we know again. So yeah, I’m super, super stoked that I have a job to look forward to and I’m really excited about it.
Is it hour-long or is it half hour?
It’s an hour long. It’s a very dark comedy. It’s called “Kevin Can F*ck Himself.” So you know those Kevin James like “King of Queens” and those kinds of sitcoms where there’s always like a beer-drinking, sports-loving dude? And then his wife who just serves his story and serves him sandwiches and that kind of thing. The show’s from the perspective of the sitcom wife and what’s really exciting about it is that it’s split. When she’s with her husband, it’s all sitcom format, so set and live audience, laughing and harsh lighting and that kind of thing. And then when she’s on her own, it’s really beautifully shot, single cam, dramatic stuff. I kind of get the best of both worlds and it’s really beautifully written. It’s really dark. It’s really interesting. And I get to have a Boston accent, so that’s the icing on the cake.
“Schitt’s Creek” season six is now available on PopTV’s app.