Welcome to the sixteenth installment of ACTING UP, a Casting Networks column designed to call attention to standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature shines a light on how certain actors got to where they are now. Have a peek and then check out these noteworthy performances to help hone your craft.
For sweet 16: Annie Murphy plays Alexis Rose, the bubbly ex-jet-setting socialite forced to live with her formerly wealthy family in the small town they once bought as a joke in the Pop TV original series, Schitt’s Creek.
It takes skill to make someone who does such unlikeable things… likable. That’s the first great feat for Annie Murphy, who’s taken her Alexis Rose character on a six-season transformation from bratty, self-centered celebutante to a woman resigned to live a richer life in the absence of money.
That’s not to say Alexis isn’t suffering from a bit of stress as she prepares to join her veterinarian boyfriend Ted for six months in the Galapagos Islands. When the final season of the Pop original series premiered on January 7, Alexis sits on top of her suitcase trying to scrunch her ensembles into one bag. Despite what’s sure to be an even more primitive living experiment than the roadside motel she’s been forced to endure the past three years, Alexis proves adept at maintaining her state of denial.
This fuels her snippy comeback to her brother David (co-star/co-creator Daniel Levy) and his fiancé Patrick (Noah Reid) who marvel at her attempt. “I fit my high school best friend into a suitcase way smaller than this when we were crossing the border between Laos and Vietnam… so I’m pretty sure I can figure this out,” defends Alexis, before expressing dismay over not being asked to scout wedding venues with her brother and Patrick.
This set up feeds the plot for the first episode of the final season, where yet again Murphy gets to show off her unique brand of physical comedy – fueled by priceless facial expressions and playful puppy-paw gesticulations. It’s a performance you can’t not watch when it’s happening, as her metamorphosis from trust-fund party girl to model human has been one of the show’s great accomplishments. This on a series where she could easily take a backseat in the talent shuffle given it co-stars comedy legends Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy (also Canadian) and Chris Elliott (who plays the ever punny, Roland Schitt). Also, the aforementioned Daniel Levy (son of Eugene) whose character’s perpetual exasperation at living poor rivals his sister Alexis’ discontent throughout the run of the series.
Given the first two episodes of the final season and this teaser, the show seems ready for a bit of sentimentality as it says farewell – sentimentality being something the show has gotten quite good at since the pansexual David came out to Patrick before Patrick comes out to his parents. In turn, the show’s cultish fan base (which arrived full steam after the show debuted on Netflix in 2017) has also come out and should be ready for a round of teary-eyed hugs, neat bow-tying and a few other surprises as the show wraps up.
But, per usual, you can expect a steady helping of sibling shenanigans along the way such as in the latest episode, when Alexis purposely keeps a mistakenly recorded conversation about David’s “nocturnal enuresis” up on social media longer than it needs to be because she just can’t help herself.
Some things change. Others stay the same.
Interestingly enough, the role for Alexis Rose was first offered to Abby Elliott (former SNL alum and Chris Elliott’s daughter), who couldn’t continue in the role after series pickup. That’s when Murphy landed it and ran with it to memorable places and award-worthy heights perhaps few saw coming.
Prior to taking Schitt’s Creek, the talented Ottawa-bred star did a smattering of TV, appearing in Canadian series such as Rookie Blue (2012) and Blue Mountain State (2010) before writing/producing/acting in the CBC web series called The Plateaus, co-starring Elisha Cuthbert and Kids in the Hall star, Kevin MacDonald. Yet despite some theater work in Montreal and Toronto, the trained theatre actress’ most notable role to date is the one in Schitt’s Creek, which she’s made her own on the way to earning three Canadian Screen Award nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Comedic Role and two Critic’s Choice nods for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2019 and 2020).
Given Murphy’s performance in the Emmy-nominated comedy (2019), it seems her post-show career is likely headed anywhere but up shit’s creek.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.