Ew, David! The journey of Alexis Rose has unfolded in fascinating ways over the past four seasons of Schitt’s Creek, with the sassy materialistic heiress not only leaving her billionaire past behind, but downright thriving in her new boondock town. She’s finally a high-school graduate at the ripe age of 30, running her own one-woman public relations business, and all while serving such chic bohemian lewks! Ahead of the Schitt’s Creek season finale, which airs Wednesday night on Pop, Vulture hopped on the phone with actress Annie Murphy to discuss how she landed the role of Alexis, what it’s like to play around with Catherine O’Hara’s fabulous wigs, and the inspiration behind that great vocal fry accent.
I feel like Schitt’s Creek mania has swept across the U.S. over the past few months!
It’s so cool to watch it start snowballing. People are still coming out of the woodwork who haven’t heard about it. All of a sudden they binge it over a weekend, and they’re in. Keep bingeing, everyone!
I heard that you auditioned for Stevie because Abby Elliott, Chris Elliott’s real-life daughter, played Alexis in the original pilot. In those early stages, were you like, Jeez, this show is just a cesspool for nepotism?
[Laughs.] Abby did play Alexis in the pilot, and she was in the video of the pilot they sent around initially. But then she ended up booking something else and wasn’t available to play Alexis anymore. Thank God, let me just say. I auditioned for Alexis and I got a call from Dan [Levy] after my first audition, asking me to also audition for Stevie. So I ended up testing for both of those ladies, and it was super fun to be able to play different characters. But as soon as I met Emily [Hampshire, who plays Stevie], I was like, Why on earth would these people entertain the idea of anyone else playing this part? She blows it out of the water. I think a part of it was, I was a brunette when I auditioned. And Eugene was having a really, really hard time wrapping his head around the fact that Alexis is blonde and Annie Murphy is brunette. He couldn’t quite get there, so Dan had to tape pictures of blonde hair on my picture. It finally got through to him, thank goodness.
In an alternate universe, how do you think your Stevie would’ve compared to Emily Hampshire’s Stevie?
I couldn’t pull off that deadpan like Emily does, so who knows? Let’s not even think about this, girl! I don’t want to live in a world where Emily doesn’t play Stevie!
Your accent work is the highlight of the show for me. Was there an evolution of how you perfected it, and did you study anyone’s voice in particular?
Ah, that nasty old vocal fry. I couldn’t bring myself to watch full episodes of things, so I watched a lot of YouTube clips of certain reality shows about certain rich famous people. I popped my eyelids open with toothpicks and watched and watched and watched. It’s a level of comedy where it’s so beautifully unnatural and I had to bring that fry to the character. Alexis certainly has a voice and a tone to her. For the first couple of weeks every season, I end up bringing it home with me. I’ll talk to my husband, Can you turn the heat down? I’m cold! Luckily, it fades after two weeks and my husband is thrilled when it finally stops. This is the first role I’ve done where it’s a significant departure of me in real life, so it’s fun to strap on fancy shoes and a made-up face and be Alexis.
Did Catherine model her accent after someone as well?
There are a couple of people, friends of friends, who she’s met over the years at parties that had their particular way of speaking. But I’m not naming names! It’s so magical to watch her draw a one syllable out into five- or six-syllable word. It’s an art form.
Most importantly: Have you gotten to play around with all of her wigs?
I’m desperate to. Dan and I are drooling most of the time over those wigs. On occasion, we’ve maybe gone into the hair and makeup trailer and did a bit of a wig fashion show. Only a couple of times! Maybe Catherine doesn’t need to know about this. The wigs are just so much fun, and it’s hard to keep our grubby little paws off them.
Is there a quota on the amount of times you have to say “David” per episode?
It’s become a bit of an epidemic in the script. [Laughs.] In season two and three, it really started hitting its stride. It’s written in the script like, You’re gonna do this anyway, but we might as well just write in on paper. Sprinkling it in is similar to saying like all the time. It’s a crutch at this point.
Speaking of David, how would you define the sibling dynamic between the two?
David and Alexis, although they would never, ever admit it, are best friends. They’ve formed such an incredible bond. Before they lived in the motel, they were on other ends of the earth most of the time with their fake friends, and this situation in the motel really formed a bond between them. They’re more similar than it seems and they care a lot more for each other than they let on. Even though they fight and bicker like an old married couple, they’re a proper brother and sister and always there for each other. It’s been such fun to play with Dan. I met him at the audition for the show, but it always felt like we’ve known each other for too long. Years and years and decades and centuries. Being able to bring the dynamic that we have in real life to the set has been so much fun.
Alexis’s slow transformation from a spoiled, bitter brat to a ambitious professional has also been lovely to see unfold. Was there a particular moment when this switch occurred?
I think it was when she had her heart broken for the very first time. With Mutt and Ted — what a lucky, lucky girl with those two — she’s come into this situation having broken a lot of hearts and not really caring about it. She never truly cared for another person before, or being in the position of not having what she wants. Having your first heartbreak is so significant and she’s having it at the age of 30, just after graduating high school. [Laughs.] I’m so proud of the way she deals with it, because we all know how nasty it can be.
Do you see this new Alexis as her true personality now, or do you think she’ll revert back to her old ways?
Irresponsible Alexis is never going anywhere! Let’s not kid ourselves. But I do think having this newfound independence and confidence is really appealing to her and she’s having a lot of fun being a bossy-boots and running her own business. I don’t think that drive isn’t going anywhere, but the old Alexis is still very much alive and well.
Have the writers explained why the show is always set during the summer? I feel there would be so many hijinks to mine during a Schitt’s Creek winter.
Have you painted yourself a vivid picture of what shooting in Canada is like in the middle of winter?
It could be … fun?
Not at all. It’s pretty damn bleak. [Laughs.] Also, the town in Ontario that we shoot is blossoming this time of year. The trees are turning green and the skies are blue and the air is fresh. There’s this bakery on the corners of an intersection where we shoot, and they have the best butter tarts. You don’t know what butter tarts are, you’re American! Think of the most delicious dessert from heaven. So we go to the bakery and we stand around outside in the sun, as opposed to crying tears of ice in the cold. That’s why we shoot in the summer. And also because we’re big babies.
At this point, if the Roses were to suddenly be reunited with their money, do you think they would leave the town?
This is only speculation, because if I give anything away, Dan will drop a bunch of locusts into my bedroom while I sleep. But I think Moira, no matter how comfortable she becomes in the town and no matter who she befriends, will get the fuck out of there tomorrow. In a heartbeat. Right now, she’d leave no matter what. Johnny will go with her because he’s such an adorable and loving husband. The kids have found their first true friends and true love, but still, both of them have this inherent worldly and travel-y wild side to them. I’m in the dark as much as you are. All I know for sure is that Moira would get the fuck out of there.
What would she do without her wigs?
She can fly them out when she misses them, wherever she is, whatever island she’s on, whatever part of Paris she’s in. She’ll find a way, don’t worry.
This interview has been edited and condensed.