Annie Murphy, clearly, loves her job.
When the Schitt’s Creek star arrives at the Georgia Straight office, it’s the morning after a marquee appearance at a grand celebration honoring her CBC show, and she’s somehow fresh-faced, chipper, and beaming from ear-to-ear.
“The last month has been an awesome whirlwind,” she says with an unbridled enthusiasm, noting that during March the breakout comedy series has been fêted at both the Paley Center in Los Angeles and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, as well as being the recipient of a staggering nine Canadian Screen Awards on March 13.
But it seems that what excites her most is the opportunity to work with the show’s veteran cast, which includes Canadian comedy legends Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara.
“My body is covered with bruises from pinching myself on a daily basis,” the Ottawa native says with a big laugh. “I’ve looked up to Eugene and Catherine since I first became interested in acting. I was terribly nervous at first, but the whole cast is so warm and inclusive and supportive that after the first half-day I felt like I was in the family.”
Indeed, Schitt’s Creek truly is a family affair, with the ongoing riches-to-rags tale of the Rose clan—father Johnny (Eugene Levy), mother Moira (O’Hara), son David (Daniel Levy) and daughter Alexis (Murphy)—former self-obsessed socialites who are forced to relocate to a small town after losing their fortune. Created by the father-son team of Daniel and Eugene Levy (who both also write and produce), the show also features a third Levy, Sarah, as one of the townsfolk.
“It’s so wonderful to see Eugene watch Dan and Sarah acting,” Murphy says, “brimming with such pride, standing behind the monitors mouthing their lines, following what they’re doing. I’m so lucky to be friends with both siblings and Eugene, it’s really wonderful.”
And sure enough, like any brother and sister, Murphy and Daniel Levy have mastered the art of familial bickering.
“I feel like in a past life we were an old married couple, or a mother and child or something,” Murphy says, laughing. “We both have so much fun pressing each other’s buttons on-screen and off—we had this bizarre chemistry right off the bat.”
Like the Rose family, Murphy has also experienced a turnaround in fortune. After her Toronto apartment burned down, she and her husband, Hollerado frontman Menno Versteeg, wound up in a situation not unlike that of her character’s.
“We lost everything that we owned, and went to live in my husband’s grandparent’s attic,” she recalls, “but it was an experience that I honestly wouldn’t go back and change. It really did give me a big reality check in terms of what a person really needs.”
Optimism, it seems, is part of Murphy’s makeup, and that’s one of the things that drew her to Alexis, despite the character’s checkered past as a trust-fund party girl.
“One thing that I really love about Alexis is her ability to find the silver lining in a miserable situation, and try to have fun regardless of how crappy things might be. I like that, and I try to be a positive person as much as I can.”
When it’s mentioned that conservative National Post columnist William Watson wrote that the show’s name “adds to the coarsening of our culture,” Murphy merely shrugs.
“It really did surprise me that some people took such huge issue with the name,” she says, incredulously. “After all, it is a real last name—an unfortunate last name but it is a last name—and as the show progresses, the name matters less and less.”
Indeed, between the double-entendres and sight gags, there’s been some real character development brewing over the course of the Ontario-filmed show’s two seasons.
“These characters are very reluctant to make changes,” Murphy says, “but we can see these kernels of real human beings in all of them, and closer family relationships are starting to form. It’s been a really fun path to tread, character-wise, watching everyone slowly find their traces of humanity.”
Although the show’s second season ends with tonight’s (March 29) grand finale, Murphy reports that filming for season three begins on April 11.
“I’m still in the dark for the most part as to what’s going to happen, but it keeps things fresh,” she says with a big smile. “I kind of like not knowing, because Alexis doesn’t know.”