Annie Murphy Couldn't Be Prouder of Her (and Alexis') Journey on 'Schitt's Creek' (Exclusive)
By John Boone
As fate -- or at least a bit of especially considerate scheduling -- would have it, Annie Murphy's final day on Schitt's Creek was also her last scene of the series. On the Goodwood, Ontario, set that stands in for the titular town, Murphy, as Alexis Rose, tearfully clutched co-stars Dan Levy (who plays brother David), Noah Reid (his husband, Patrick) and Emily Hampshire (the steadfast Stevie Budd) as the siblings waved goodbye to their onscreen parents (Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy). The Roses were leaving Schitt's Creek at long last, just as they'd learned to love it.
"I'm someone who reads the script and is like, 'Oh, I have to cry? I don't want to do this.' I am an actor who is very, very poor at summoning tears. But this, I didn't have to dig too deep to find the emotion," Murphy tells ET with a chuckle. "I watched it and was like, 'Oh, there's very little Alexis. This is just pure Annie Murphy emotional indulgence right now.'"
When Murphy signed on to Schitt's Creek, she never could have envisioned what multitudes Alexis might contain beyond being a materialistic socialite, a mess in a designer dress with wrists constantly perched like a T-rex. "I was so caught up in the, 'Holy sh*t! I'm acting with Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara and I don't know what to do with myself, because I don't actually know what I'm doing at all.'"
Over those first five seasons, viewers were teased with glimpses of a life before (full of pop songs and run-ins with Somali pirates) as we proudly watched Alexis graduate high school and launch her own one-woman PR firm. This year's sixth and final season, however, proved to be Murphy's most emotional, peeling any remaining layers of Alexis back to reveal a tender, well-rounded woman who -- yes -- isn't above an "Ew, David!" when warranted.
"I knew the characters were going to all go on a real journey through the town and through their lives," Murphy says. "But I don't think that I was able to foresee how drastic the change in Alexis was going to be." That trajectory included a pivotal breakup episode, "The Presidential Suite," in which Alexis and her boyfriend, Ted (Dustin Milligan), made the tough decision to end their relationship, a plotline Murphy is especially proud of from the final season's run.
"Like a lot of people, Dustin and I were like, 'Oh no, they're not ending up together?' But it was, I think, the right choice for both of them. So, we wanted to make sure that that scene" -- Alexis and Ted in Café Tropical, toasting their relationship after agreeing to go their separate ways -- "was very clear that this wasn't a failed relationship. This was a loving and responsible and mature decision that they made and we just wanted to do it right. Because we knew that it was going to be a bit of a shock to people."
It was another day on set calling for tears, which Murphy found were too readily available. "It was one of Dustin's very last days on set," she recalls, "and so as fictional as this all is, I'm also saying goodbye to one of my best friends who I've had the pleasure of working with for six years."
The series finale aired on Pop TV in April and concluded with Alexis heading off to New York City to make it on her own. Even by phone, Murphy is decidedly not Alexis, deadpan in ways her Schitt's Creek alter-ego skews manic, the faintest of Canadian accent replacing Alexis' vocal fry. Talking of Alexis, Murphy assumes something of a big sister role.
"I hate it when actors say what I'm about to say, but I'm going to say it because it's just the truth: I'm so proud of her," Murphy says. "When we met her, she was so deeply reliant on men and money and stuff. I don't think that she had experienced love or even really genuine friendship. And she got to experience those things in Schitt's Creek and they were so transformative for her and she really found herself."
Schitt's Creek was equally transformative for Murphy, who had considered throwing in the towel on acting when she booked it. And then, improbably, each season gained in popularity, with more and more viewers finding the long-underappreciated gem when it began streaming on Netflix. Its fifth season was even recognized to the tune of four Emmy nominations, including his and hers acting nods for the elder Levy and O'Hara.
It was a long road from the show's earliest days on the CBC, one the cast could only elusively track from afar as it crept down from the Great White North into the States. But attending last year's Primetime Emmys ceremony was, without a doubt, a proud moment for the little Canadian show that could. "Being Canadians, I think that we have very, very little chill when it comes to being in a room full of celebrities," Murphy admits. "We just spent a lot of the time poking each other with our jaws on the floor and pointing not-so-subtly at very, very beautiful, famous people."
And then, at some point during the ceremony, the cast got hungry. "So we crept out to find something to eat, and a bunch of us just ended up smashing a huge tall can and a hot dog," she remembers. "And to be totally honest, we came very close to missing Catherine's category. We told her about it after, and she seemed very, very jealous that she missed out on that opportunity."
In a world as tried and true as the one depicted in Schitt's Creek, both Dan Levy and Murphy would find themselves recognized in those categories this year, earning the latter what would be her first-ever Emmy nomination. In the meantime, she is looking ahead to life post-Schitt's Creek. She has her next TV project lined up in the sitcom-hybrid Kevin Can F**k Himself, even if she is holding out hope that someday, in some form, the Roses will reunite onscreen again.
"I don't know what the hell I'm going to do with my hands now when I act. I don't know if I can not move my face in such a Jim Carrey-esque way!" she says. "And it's terrifying because I've found with Alexis, it's very easy. So, who knows if I'm going to ever be able to kick her?"