Annie Murphy and Christina Applegate Watch Below Deck Every Day
Annie Murphy has had enough of the bullshit. The 34-year-old Canadian star of Schitt’s Creek, the Emmy Award–winning comedy about an out-of-touch wealthy family fallen on hard times, brought soul to Alexis Rose, a character that could have otherwise been easy to hate. After the six-season series bid a tearful goodbye to audiences last April, Murphy set her sights on transforming yet another comedic trope with moxie: the Sitcom Wife. The role has long been a source of ire for the funny women of television, relegated to popping in and out of the living room with Hot Pockets as men steal scenes, or staying to serve merely as the punchline. But in Murphy’s latest show, AMC’s Kevin Can F**k Himself, the wife takes center stage as the camera pivots from a traditional multi-camera sitcom—like Kevin Can Wait, whose title the show not-so-subtly winks at—to a single-camera drama that delves into the psyche of a sidelined woman. It’s revisionist meta-television at its finest, an addictive exploration of the medium’s most well-worn trope—one well-known to Christina Applegate, who spent her childhood on the set of Married… With Children, a classic sitcom that premiered in 1987 and aired for ten years. Below, the Dead to Me actor caught up with Murphy, who has been shooting season two of Russian Doll in New York, to discuss the magic of Schitt’s Creek, all those Emmys, and why it’s about time Kevin got what’s coming to him. – SARAH NECHAMKIN
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: This is your interviewer, Christina Applegate.
ANNIE MURPHY: I just have to tell you before we get started what a huge fucking honor it is that you’re doing this.
APPLEGATE: I am a terrible interviewer. This is going to be the worst interview of your career.
MURPHY: I’m going to buckle up.
APPLEGATE: My first question for you, before we get into all your career-y stuff: What was the moment when you went, “This is what I want to do”?
MURPHY: I don’t know if there was a specific moment, but I do remember being really young and having this existential crisis, realizing that we only get to live one life. That really panicked me. Growing up, my dad would read to me every night before I went to bed, and I realized that reading was a solution to that problem—you could escape into another place or another body or mind. And then I realized that acting was a real way of doing that. You could take on a completely different person and time travel and live all the lives in your one life. It was really my desperation to live as many lives as humanly possible that drove me into this insane career.
APPLEGATE: How old were you when you started acting?
MURPHY: Mrs. Dagenais, my second-grade teacher, and Mrs. Woods, my third-grade teacher, collabed on a truly remarkable piece of theater. I think it was called Green Cheese Pie, and I was a hyena in that. That really got the juices flowing.
APPLEGATE: I’ve done some weird shit, too. I get it. It’s that moment where you stand there and go, “I like this feeling,” right?
MURPHY: Yeah. I was lucky enough to go to a high school with a really amazing drama program, and my drama teacher, Mrs. Boychuk, put her heart and soul into the school plays every year.
APPLEGATE: Where did you go?
MURPHY: A school called Elmwood in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
APPLEGATE: Did you really have to explain that Ottawa is in Canada?
MURPHY: Hey, we don’t know each other that well, but I should have guessed you’d know.
APPLEGATE: Look, I didn’t graduate high school, but I do know where Ottawa is. Alright, tell me more.
MURPHY: I got started doing theater and, as you said, there’s no other feeling like it when you’re performing onstage. I did theater all through high school and then I moved to Montreal and did a theater program there for university.
APPLEGATE: Oh, is that in Canada?
MURPHY: Yeah, it is. You got it.
APPLEGATE: Pretty smart for a dropout! So you went to Montreal, and then what happened? How did you come to Hollywood?
MURPHY: Hollywood was a long time coming. I did a lot of the bit parts that one does, and I got a lot of really broken hearts when the phone didn’t ring.
APPLEGATE: As one does.
MURPHY: I had gotten that huge wash of frustration because I just kept hearing no and no and no and no, so I had decided that this was it for me, and that I needed to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. Then I got the audition for Schitt’s Creek, literally the next day, and it changed my life in the most massive way.
APPLEGATE: You have really done something with that show. Geez Louise! What was that experience like for you?
MURPHY: It’s a hard one to put into words. It was a truly life-changing experience and I am so grateful that it came into my life and that I got to work with Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. I got to be schooled by the best of the best and the kindest of the kindest every day. I still can’t believe that it happened. It’s been hard to say goodbye, but I’m grateful to know that I’m saying goodbye to just the characters and not the people playing them.
APPLEGATE: I know we don’t do this for awards, but the bang that you guys left with was a bang. Every time I would sit on a stupid Zoom and Catherine would win, I would start crying. I love her so much, and you guys did something really special that made so many people happy, especially during this pandemic.
MURPHY: When we started out, we knew it was going to be a good show. But it was this little Canadian show and none of us could have anticipated what happened. To know that the show has become a safe place for people and has helped people get through these fucking crazy times is so meaningful. The Office was that show for me.
APPLEGATE: But you’re up there now. You know that, right? You’re up there with The Office. There have been thousands of shows on TV, but there are only a few shows that are revolutionary.
MURPHY: I think we owe the success of the show to Trump and the pandemic. The world was so fucking dark and people needed to not look at that face and hear that voice. They needed something happy, kind, and inclusive. I’m not thanking him, don’t get me wrong.
APPLEGATE: I’m going to plead the fifth on that one, but I get it. Let’s talk about depressing things. Kevin Can F**k Himself—what a beautiful concept. Do you only like to do shows that have cuss words in the title? Is that your thing?
MURPHY: It’s kind of my jam, but I feel like there’s nowhere to go after “fuck.”
APPLEGATE: Well, there are other words, but I don’t think you can use them. I watch Below Deck every day.
MURPHY: Me, too. Oh, thank god.
APPLEGATE: Who’s your fave?
MURPHY: Stew. I watched Mediterranean years ago, but I just got hooked on the original.
APPLEGATE: Sorry, everyone is getting mad at us because we’re off topic.
MURPHY: It’s an important sidebar, though.
APPLEGATE: I’m so intrigued by your new show. Who created it?
MURPHY: The show was created by the absolutely extraordinary Valerie Armstrong, who is only 32 and who, before this show, was a writer’s assistant.
APPLEGATE: Oh my god, she could be my daughter.
MURPHY: She’s kind of my daughter and my mom at the same time.
APPLEGATE: What is the show about?
MURPHY: It’s basically about the sitcom wife—what she does when she’s not serving sandwiches and being the butt of the joke. I think people will be able to identify with my character, Allison, because she’s a woman who’s just really sick of all the bullshit and wants to make an active change. I was in L.A. last year, reading so many scripts and going out for so many auditions. I was like, “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this.” And then this script came along. It was so different and smart and such a massive departure from Alexis, who is a character that I loved playing so much, but from whom I wanted to get as far as possible for my next job.
APPLEGATE: You’re getting to do both. It’s almost like having two personalities.
MURPHY: The anger in this character is something I was really interested in because I feel like there’s a lot of pent-up rage these days. It was really nice to be able to smash a bunch of beer bottles.
APPLEGATE: I feel you, honey.
MURPHY: It feels fucking good. I went from playing a beautifully put-together, rich socialite to playing a lower-middle-class, angry woman with a Worcester accent. It was a really nice departure, and I’m stoked for people to watch. Basically, when we are with Kevin, my husband, the one who can go fuck himself, it’s all very glossy, laugh track–y, multi-cam.
APPLEGATE: I like to call that vaudevillian. There’s a different kind of acting when you’re doing multi-cam.
MURPHY: It’s complete vaudeville. I’d never done it before.
APPLEGATE: If you can tap into vaudeville, you’re always going to be good with it. You’re waiting for the audience to let you know you are doing a good job.
MURPHY: Yeah. Although we had a very small handful of masked and socially distant laughers instead of an audience.
APPLEGATE: Alright, tell me some more.
MURPHY: When we leave Kevin, it turns into a very dark, gritty, beautifully shot single-cam show. And I’m an angry lady who may or may not want to figure out a way to kill her husband because she has just had enough.
APPLEGATE: As an actor, to go back and forth between those two different dimensions is a lot. How do you prepare for that?
MURPHY: This multi-cam stuff is both very easy and very infuriating because it’s a classic sitcom where the women aren’t funny—they’re nagging and annoying, and the guys get to shine. It’s all about Kevin and his buds. I’m there to have them fake Heimlich-maneuver me and to get sprayed with tomato sauce. I don’t know how you did it for so long, knowing how fucking funny and talented you were and just standing by and being wallpaper while the guys do all the fun stuff.
APPLEGATE: Yeah, we’ve all been there, honey. Thankfully, women are now getting to head some stuff. I’m on a show that’s written by women, produced by women, directed by women, and the women are the stars. What you’re doing is representing. And it looks like this is a side of you that people haven’t really seen before.
MURPHY: Thank you, Christina. I’m genuinely excited. It would be a show I’d watch if I wasn’t on it.
APPLEGATE: Like I told you, I only watch Below Deck. But I will watch this.
Hair: Evanie Frausto
Makeup: Romy Soleimani
Production: Perris Cavalier
Manicure: Naomi Yasuda
Photography Assistant: Maxwell Menzies
Fashion Assistants: Shant Alvandyan and Sarah Park