Emmy-winning actor Annie Murphy says she’d go back to Schitt’s Creek “in a heartbeat” – but if a reunion or reboot is going to happen, it needs to be soon.

“I’ve been saying ‘tick-tock’, because no one’s getting any younger here,” she says with a laugh over Zoom call from Los Angeles, in an interview before the current writers’ and actors’ strike. “To see me clattering around in a mini skirt and heels at 75 … well, no one wants that. So, we need to get on it if we’re going to do it.”

Canadian-born Murphy played spoiled socialite Alexis Rose in the heartwarming comedy for 80 episodes over six seasons, leaving in a blaze of glory when she and her cast mates Eugene and Dan Levy and Catherine O’Hara dominated the 2020 Emmy Awards, all taking home well-deserved valedictory statues.

At the time, she thought she was well and truly done with the daffy, disgraced heiress and happy with the souvenirs she’d snaffled from the set (including the A Little Bit Alexis dress and her framed ‘pubic relations’ degree) but absence has definitely made the heart grow fonder.

“I had such a tremendously wonderful time playing Alexis,” she sighs. “When we wrapped, as heartbroken as I was and as bittersweet as it was, I was ready to try something else out, even just to prove to myself that I could do more than that one character. But I have now – and I have found myself being, like, ‘that would be nice to go back and see that old girl again’.”

Murphy says she can’t even begin to count the ways the show changed her life. She was literally in tears and on the brink of giving up on acting after years of hard slog and tiny paychecks, having relocated to LA from her native Ottawa, when she finally landed the big break she was so desperate for.

“I had a big snotty cry in the Pacific Ocean one day after doing yet another pilot season in LA and it was always coming down to me and someone else – and I was never the person that got that wonderful call,” she says. “So, it really did feel like ‘okay, you’ve put a lot of time into this, you have no money in your bank account, you have got to figure something else out’ and literally the next day I got the audition for Schitt’s Creek.”

Not only did the role give her a five-year, front-row comedy masterclass from Levy and O’Hara, who played her parents, she also learned how to be a leader on set and “how to constantly maintain a sense of joy and playfulness, but keep the professionalism”. The success and the accolades also opened doors that had previously been closed to her and, since the show wrapped, she’s also appeared as the lead in two seasons of the black comedy Kevin Can F**k Himself as well as carving out a side career in voice work in shows such as American Dad!, Robot Chicken, Praise Petey and the new animated kids film Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken.

Murphy says it was a big adjustment after years of riffing with her Schitt’s Creek cast mates and bouncing off their energy and ideas to suddenly go into a voice booth and only be reading her own lines over and over again. But there were also definite upsides.

“Being able to roll in your sweatpants, and immediately give it all that you’ve got, and go way over the top, and then be encouraged to go even further over the top was very fun,” she says. “It’s the opposite of film acting when they’re like ‘no, no, no – we need to make that way more nuanced, dial it down’. So, to be encouraged to go to the extreme right out of the gate was very, very fun.”

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken tells the story of a gawky 15-year-old – a member of a family of sea monsters hiding in plain sight in a small town (their oddness is explained away by the fact that they are Canadian) – who is navigating her burgeoning powers while desperately trying to fit in with her peers. While Murphy provides the voice for Ruby’s new-girl frenemy Chelsea, the actor says she actually could much better relate to the awkward, insecure title character, thanks to her own school days.

“I was a big old theatre nerd in high school, and that group of friends were so wonderful and so weird,” she says. “It was a bunch of people that didn’t really know their place, and then they found the theatre and everything kind of made sense. It was a bunch of people with really cool brains wanting to try things out and play around and look silly and create something wonderful.”

That support network and unwavering encouragement of her parents also gave her the confidence to pursue her dream. Once she realised she was never going to be a mathematician or a scientist, and she discovered the joy that being on stage gave her, it was acting all the way, with no Plan B.

“There still isn’t,” she says, “which is a little scary.

“For a little while when I was the person being, like, ‘well, you can’t be an actor – that doesn’t make any sense, like you’re never going to make it in this and make a living’, I was, like, ‘maybe I’ll be a lawyer’ because that’s kind of acting – going up in front of a group of people and bullshitting your way through things. But, no, I went from high school theatre to theatre school in Montreal and then I just kind of launched myself out into the world of TV and film acting and worked my way up from there.”

Murphy was also responsible for one of the year’s most shocking TV moments thanks to her episode of Black Mirror, titled Joan Is Awful. The bizarre and very meta story followed her title character, who discovers her life is being converted into a reality show in real time, with Salma Hayek playing Joan. In an effort to throw off the producers of the fictional show, Murphy’s Joan does something unspeakable in a house of worship, meaning Salma Hayek’s version will have to do the same thing.

“Those words are my favourite words that I had to say in that episode – ‘I’m sorry that I shat in a church’,” she laughs. “I read the script and it blew my mind reading it, but I got to that scene and I was just like ‘put me in coach – I can do this’. It’s so gross and over the top, and it’s filthy and disgusting, but I had so much fun.”

Darkly hilarious though the episode may be, Murphy says she’s genuinely terrified by some of the issues it raises, including the threat of artificial intelligence.

“I’m really having a struggle with AI and the violent snowballing that is happening with it,” she says. “Hearing some of the most brilliant minds in the world begging the people who are expediting this to just stop and take a minute and think about what is happening and the repercussions of what is happening.

“That’s a really scary thing and I hope with this episode, it will spark even more conversation about what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, and what could happen if we let it keep going at the rate that it’s going.”

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is in cinemas on September 14. Schitt’s Creek and Black Mirror are now streaming on Netflix.

Originally published as Annie Murphy on a return to Schitt’s Creek and her truly shocking Black Mirror moment

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By Rahul

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