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'Schitt's Creek' star Annie Murphy talks new season, losing her home, more

The actress behind Alexis Rose on the hilarious yet unexpectedly heartfelt sitcom talks with Newsday ahead of the Season 5 premiere.

Actress Annie Murphy on Nov. 17, 2018

Actress Annie Murphy on Nov. 17, 2018 Photo Credit: Getty Images/Gregg DeGuire

Annie Murphy knows a thing or two about loss — as in home-burning-down-and-losing-everything kind of loss.

Which must’ve prepared her well to play Alexis Rose, the spoiled little rich girl whose family hits the skids and winds up living in a rundown motel on “Schitt’s Creek,” Pop TV’s hilarious yet unexpectedly heartfelt Canadian sitcom, which launches a 14-episode fifth season (its longest season yet) on Jan. 16. (Fans can also catch the cast in a live tour that hits Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre on Feb. 18, Town Hall on Feb. 19.)  

“American Pie’s” Eugene Levy and his son, Daniel Levy, co-created the series, and co-star as father and son, with Catherine O’Hara (Eugene’s partner-in-crime on “SCTV” and all those Christopher Guest flicks) as Moira Rose, a former soap star and wigged out mom — seriously, her wigs are hallucinogenic.

Murphy’s take on daughter Alexis (with a spot-on Kardashian-worthy vocal fry tone) is just one reason she’s a standout on the show. A Toronto native, Murphy, 32, spoke by phone with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.

When you first started shooting this series, it must’ve felt like you were invading a Levy family reunion, what with Eugene Levy, his son, and daughter, Sarah Levy (who plays Twyla the waitress), all working on the show. I presume it feels different now.

Yes, I feel very different from day one — and thank God. When I found out I got the part, I was over the moon. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are two of my favorite actors. And I was so excited to work with them that I totally forgot . . . I’d actually have to work with them. Be an actor, pretend to be professional with these people. That realization made me sick. I couldn’t sleep, wracking my brain for an excuse not to go into work the first day. The only thing I could think of was a dentist appointment. But, of course, could I call in and be like, “Hey guys, uh, I can’t believe I forgot, but I have this dental appointment and . . .” No. So I dragged my trembling corpse into the studio and focused on shooting those first few scenes, and after that I could breathe. Now, as cheesy as it sounds, everyone is such good buds.  

Despite not being siblings, you and Dan certainly are convincing. Do you have sibs of your own?

I am sibless, actually.

Me, too.

I always wanted a sibling. I remember going to friends’ houses and being fascinated when they got into fights with their siblings. I’ve said this before, but it’s true — when I met Dan it was like we’d known each other, like we were this begrudging, bickering old married couple in a past life. Right off the bat, we knew how to push each other’s buttons, tease each other. It just sort of . . . happened. We have this rhythm, and it’s so much fun. We’re also aware how brothers and sisters share certain behaviors. The same way of reacting to things, or picking up something. So that was in our heads from the start.

Alexis has gotten a comeuppance — and her heart broken — in recent seasons. What’s up for her this year?

Well, what she comes to realize is because of what she’s put Ted (Alexis’ boyfriend, played by Dustin Milligan) through, she has to get out of her comfort zone a bit, to show Ted how she really feels. (She laughs.) Dan will be a disappointed dad if I reveal too much . . . but there are a couple of [musical] performances coming up and Alexis is definitely out of her comfort zone on those.

Do you sing in real life?

Only when I’m all by myself. Or in the back of an Uber headed home late at night.

So what’s it like having your apartment burn down?

We lost basically everything. My husband [Canadian indie rocker Menno Versteeg] and I had been at my parents’ cottage for the weekend . . . so we didn’t have much with us. We were like most people, thinking, oh, it’ll never happen to me. I should say at the outset — no one was hurt, which is the most important thing. But . . . it was a huge learning experience — in how lucky we are to have somewhere to go. We lived with my husband’s parents for months. But also we learned how stuff is just . . . stuff. It’s replaceable. There were a couple of heartbreakers, certain items that were tough to lose. So, yeah . . . it was surreal. But there was a lot of growth.

Was this before “Schitt’s Creek?”

Just before I auditioned. Ohhh, it was bad. My house had burned down, we had no money, I hadn’t booked a job in two years. So “Schitt’s Creek” really couldn’t have come at a better time.        

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