In the previous three seasons of SCHITT’S CREEK, we have watched the hilarious misadventures of the Rose family — Johnny (Eugene Levy), Moira (Catherine O’Hara), David (Dan Levy), and Alexis (Annie Murphy) — as they adapted from their formerly luxurious life of wealth and privilege to the tight and close quarters of living out of two rooms in the roadside motel that represents the last of their worldly possessions. SCHITT’S CREEK started as a comedy series intent on accentuating the differences between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” But what it became was a much more sweet and heart-warming tale of an estranged family bonding over their share circumstance and discovering their inner strength, mutual love, and adaptability in the face of adversity. Their strong familial bond, founded on love, revealed a show that invited viewers to laugh with them and root for them as they took tentative steps to rebuild their lives. In an exclusive interview at the Winter Television Critics Association tour, Annie Murphy talked about what she admires about Alexis’ unique perspective as she forges ahead in her new life in the small town of Schitt’s Creek.
Now you guys are on Season 4, and of course your character Alexis’ life has changed quite considerably — not just from the very first season but the arc that she’s gone through since then — having gone back to school and trying to do something more with her life. So how would you like to describe where Alexis is at this point?
ANNIE: Season 4 was very fun for me to shoot. I am so proud and grateful to the writers for taking Alexis to where she’s at right now, because in Season 4, she’s dealing with heartbreak for the very first time and she’s also dealing with wanting something that she can’t have for the very first time. So to be able to kind of knit that layer of things into her character, who is so often happy-go-lucky, and finds a silver-lining in most situations, and to be able to kind of add that into her was a lot of fun. And also seeing that instead of her moping around and being forlorn, she kind of decides to pursue the path of self-betterment, and pursue a higher education, because in Season 3 she finally got her high school diploma. So she takes it even further and goes to community college this season, and kind of tries to distract herself from the fact that her heart is being smashed to pieces.
Do you think she’s surprised by the fact that she suddenly has more ambition, so to speak? That she wants something?
ANNIE: I don’t know if she’s surprised by that. I don’t think she is someone who likes to sit down and thinks heavily about things. She’s just so impulsive. And that was just the next consecutive thing to do. She got her high school diploma and got her heartbroken, so she’s just going to keep going, and take charge, and start her own PR firm and take the world by storm.
Alexis has actually become sort of an accidental female-empowering character, which is nice to see.
ANNIE: Totally, totally. Not only am I so grateful to the writers — because on paper initially, she’s just boy-crazy, shallow, self-obsessed, rich girl. But she’s become so much more than that. I have such a soft spot for her. [Laughs] I am proud of her in a really cheesy way.
I think she was accustomed to everything, literally, being delivered to her before and now she’s having to reach for things. And she’s figured out how to do that and she seems much more confident about it as well. That’s kind of fun. What about her relationships with her parents and her brother? I mean that dynamic seems like it shifted as well.
ANNIE: Yeah, it has shifted. I think that, obviously as the time goes on, in such close quarters, they’re all learning about each other. Every single day, learning what makes everyone else tick. I think she and David, in particular, are both in a very vulnerable position this season, and they’re really looking out for each other. But they have their own special way of looking out for each other. It’s like you know when a little kid just doesn’t know how to express their love, and so they kind of act out and they like hit everyone, or something like that. I feel like that’s where they are kind of at in their relationship. They don’t know quite how to express this strong brother and sister relationship that they have. So they yell and they bicker and they fight. But at the end of the day, I think they are each other’s best friend. And it’s so much fun to play with Dan. I feel like in another life we were an old married couple, or I was his mom or something. We just act bizarre. A connection.
Well your characters are actually sharing a room still.
ANNIE: [Laughs]. Which is shocking! No one’s moved out.
So you both share a bond at a certain point.
ANNIE: Exactly. We’ve seen each other at our best and our very, very, very worst.
I always thought that was never going to work out, because they were going to kill each other. It’s remarkable to see them sharing space, respecting each other’s space after a while, and then willing to embrace each other, and support each other, like they’re trying to do. That’s been kind of really amazing to see that happen, because your show didn’t appear to be about a love story for a family, but it’s turned into one. That’s just pretty remarkable. And in the midst, there’s also Stevie who is always present.
ANNIE: Isn’t she the best?! I love Emily [Hampshire] so much.
Stevie’s like the defacto family member at this point.
ANNIE: Exactly right. I love Alexis going to Stevie for casual advice here and there, and Stevie always being like absolutely gobsmacked that Alexis is even like remotely interested in her and what she has to say. And absolutely not interested in Alexis and what she has to say. It’s always fun working with Emily, because she’s such an expert at dead-pan. I love watching her, and I love being in a scene with her, because I am so the opposite of that as Alexis is just so over-the-top all the time, and expressions, and flailing around and all this stuff.
I think it’s a release for her, because with everyone else, she’s the dead-pan person, and with Stevie, Alexis gets to be the expressive person. So it gives her that kind of comfort-zone to feel like she can be relaxed enough to show whatever she’s feeling. Like maybe she’s found a little bit of a sister in Stevie. Someone who’s always there. I mean, maybe not emotionally always there, but physically always there to react, to talk to and to be a part of it all. Does Alexis see outside of her little bubble to see how her parents, and her brother, are kind of venturing out and creating little lives for themselves? Is she even aware of that, or is she just so consumed with what she is doing?
ANNIE: No, I think this is a new thing, that she is starting to come out of her complete and utter self-absorption. And she’s concerned about Patrick and David and wants them to be happy together. She’s hanging around at the store with them and she’s trying to give advice whenever she can give advice. I think Alexis observes more than we give her credit for. I think she picks up on what’s going on. Not that she necessarily does anything about it, but I think she is quite aware of where everyone in her family is at.
It’s a tool she’s undoubtedly going to use, if she goes a little bit farther. Do you think she will be the first one to break out of the cocoon they’ve created?
ANNIE: You know, I don’t think so. I think Moira … at this point. Now that David has more of an anchor in the town, and the store, I think Moira is basically the only one that’s still champing at the bit to get the hell out of there. And I think Alexis, since Day One, has been the one in the family that obviously isn’t thrilled to be in this town. But they’re there for the foreseeable future, so why not have a great time, while she’s there. That hasn’t changed. I think she’s always just trying to make the best of the situation that she’s in.
That’s a fabulous quality, actually.
ANNIE: [Laughs] Isn’t it? I know.
I think they’ll all aspire to be like her in that way. So what do you think you’ve learned working on the show?
ANNIE: Oh my God. You don’t have time for me to go into that! I mean, I learn every single day that I go into work. It’s a schooling watching Kathrine, and Eugene, and Chris work. They have such incredible sense of play when they come to work, even though they are very professional. They have so much fun doing what they’re doing, and they set such an incredible tone on the set. They’re kind, and respectful, and down-to-earth, and they are inclusive, and they try things out, and they take risks. So just to watch them in action is kind of a How To Master Class in being an actor and also a master class in being a good human being. So, I’m really lucky to have them with me as my mentors.
It’s a pretty interesting as the show was kind of poking fun at a situation, but it turned into embracing that situation, and teaching us all how to appreciate life a little more, and each other.
ANNIE: It is, and it’s so nice. The show is about people trying their best, and it’s set in a town, that is accepting and loving and kind. And I think that is such a wonderful place to be able to escape to, even for just 22 minutes at a time. Especially in this political climate, which is toxic. It’s poison. So, again, just to go somewhere where everyone is appreciated and loved and accepted is really a special thing to be able to do.
It’s like “unplugging.” You can “unplug” and go visit this little cute town and this lovely family.
ANNIE: And their biggest blunder is not anything. They have ups and downs — genuine ups and downs — but you know everything is going to be fine.
Just because I am curious: Will we be seeing the revisiting of Ted (Dustin Milligan) this season?
ANNIE: We most certainly will be seeing a revisiting of Ted — and I am so scared that Dan’s going to murder me in my sleep if I say too much. [Laughs] But, yeah, we definitely do see a lot more of Ted, but not in the way that Alexis hopes.
To see where the the lives of Johnny, Moira, David and Alexis Rose take them in Season 4, be sure to follow their adventures when the show returns on Wednesday, January 24th at 8:00 p.m. on.
Season 4 trailer: