Tag Archives: Schitt’s Creek

Interview: Annie Murphy finds gold in Schitt’s Creek

It’s hard to believe, but Annie Murphy once auditioned for the role of Stevie on Schitt’s Creek. After a full season of CBC’s newest sitcom—heading into its season finale tonight—it’s hard to picture the Toronto actress as anything but Alexis Rose, sister to David (Dan Levy) and daughter to Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and Johnny (Eugene Levy).

That’s because viewers have connected with these characters in speedy fashion. As Diane Wild pointed out in her piece, Eugene and Dan Levy have created a series that successfully balances laughs with heart. In a short period of time, they’ve crafted relationships between Stevie (Emily Hampshire) and David, and Alexis, Ted (Dustin Milligan) and Mutt (Tim Rozon) that are silly and believable. That’s not easy for a sitcom, let alone one in its first season.

Those relationships are tested in Tuesday’s finale, as Johnny arrives at the motel to tell his family there’s a buyer for Schitt’s Creek and they’re getting out. While Moira and Johnny are thrilled, David and Alexis are less enthusiastic. After all, they’ve fostered friendships (some with benefits), and are loathe to leave them.

We spoke to Annie Murphy about the season on the whole.

Tell me how you got on Schitt’s Creek in the first place. Was it a casting call?
Annie Murphy: I was in L.A. for pilot season and having a really miserable time there. This audition came down the line and it was the first audition in a long time that I got super excited about it and obviously the names attached to it were pretty intriguing. So, I went in in L.A. and Dan was in the room. It was the first audition ever where I walked in confident and walked out confident. I doubt it will ever happen again. [Laughs.] That was it. I got a call from Dan a few days later saying that he wanted me to read for the role of Stevie. I flew back to Toronto and auditioned for Stevie and then screen tested for both roles in front of a room of people who I now know are lovely people but in the moment it was very daunting.

Then there was a very, very long two weeks of my life where I heard nothing. After a week and a half I had prepared myself for the absolute worst. I got a phone call and on the display it said ‘Eugene Levy,’ and all the blood drained from my body. It was Dan on the other end and he goes, ‘Hey Annie, it’s Dan Levy calling. I just wanted to thank you for all of your hard work and tell you how much we appreciated and enjoyed your auditions.’ He said it in this sad, sombre tone. And then he just didn’t say anything. So, I was scrambling and thanking him for letting me get that far.

And then he said, ‘OK, before I let you go, I have a quick question: how would you like to play my sister?’ As corny as it was, it was one of the best moments of my life.


I had a bit of a hard time finding my place at the beginning of the show, just because all of these other people had been doing it for so long.


How different would the show have been if you had played Stevie?
I honestly don’t think anyone could have done it but Emily. She is just so perfect for the role. The dynamic between Emily and Dan is so fantastic in their snarky, sarcastic tone. But he and I have that dynamic too. I feel like I’ve known him for a long time, we’ve been bickering for decades. The casting was just spot-on.

David and Alexis have a fascinating relationship. It would be easy to have them be combative all the time, but they’re not like that. And by the end of this season they’re really there for each other.
I’m an only child, so it’s been very interesting to play a sibling dynamic. I feel like David and Alexis had to cling to each other when they were children. It’s been a really, really neat opportunity to play the borderline hatred sometimes, but knowing at the end of the day they can always rely on each other. Literally right next to each other at night. [Laughs.]

It’s hard to develop characters in a sitcom, especially in a first season.
What I love about this show is that these characters are very honest and the comedy comes from the terrible situations they find themselves in. It’s not a set-up and then a punchline. It has been really cool to find those moments of genuine sadness in a show that’s so funny. Genuine concern. Genuine anger. Every character has been written so well that there is a beautiful range to every one.

What have you learned about yourself, comedically, from working on Schitt’s Creek?
I had a bit of a hard time finding my place at the beginning of the show, just because all of these other people had been doing it for so long. I wasn’t challenging myself to take risks or go out on a limb and try something as everyone else did. But as the season went on, and because of how encouraging everyone on the show was, I did learn that I can go for it. Sometimes that’s a good idea, and sometimes that’s a horrible idea, but I learned to be impulsive and trust in myself.

Is there anything you’d like to see Alexis do in Season 2?
I’d like her to show more independence at some point, but I won’t complain.

Maybe she’ll gain independence by moving into her own motel room.
That would be a start. That would be a nice start.

The season finale of Schitt’s Creek airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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Interview: Jennifer Robertson, No. 1 with a (Nutri)Bullet

Jennifer Robertson is quick to admit she was a bundle of nerves on her first day on Schitt’s Creek. It wasn’t the content. Robertson has made a living out of writing and performing comic material in projects like Comedy Inc. and Little Mosque on the Prairie. It was co-stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara who reduced her to a bundle of nerves.

But get through it she did, and Season 1 of CBC’s Tuesday night sitcom has been a breeze since. The Vancouver native plays Jocelyn Schitt, schoolteacher wife to town mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott), who is forming a bond with Moira Rose (O’Hara). We spoke to Robertson about working with two comic legends, what she looks for in a role and why O’Hara wanted to buy her NutriBullet. Oh, and an odd nickname for her hometown.

Where am I speaking to you today from?
Jennifer Robertson: I’m in Vancouver. I’m visiting family, so I’m in ‘the ‘couv.’

Wait, what? Is that the short form for Vancouver?
I don’t know. [To her family in the background:] Hey, do you guys call it ‘the couv’ or is it just me? Vancouverites call it Vancouver, apparently. But assholes like me that live in L.A. call it ‘the couv.’ The kids call it Van. [Laughs.]

You have a lot of experience in the comic world, whether it be writing or performing, but what’s it like to work with Eugene, Catherine and Chris on something like this?
Obviously, it’s amazing. I wasn’t eased into it. My first day on set was a scene with Catherine and Eugene and I was losing it. I was befuddled and confused. I finally had to say, ‘I’m just so sorry, it’s because of you guys and I will pull it together.’ And we laughed and moved on from there. You know when you start working with them why they’ve achieved the level of success that they have. They’re so good at what they do and they put so much care into what they do.


Dan’s always put together and he’s meticulous and you’re like, ‘Ug, can you be messy just once?’


I feel like Catherine is very unassuming and isn’t sure what the fuss about her is about.
Yes. I think she views herself as a very ordinary person. I had bought a NutriBullet to use while I was there and on our last day together she wanted to buy it from me. She said, ‘Can I buy it from you? What do you want, $50?’ And I said, ‘You can just have it.’ She said, ‘Oh I couldn’t. I have to give you cash for that.’ She’s very, very sweet.

You bought a NutriBullet for while you were working on the show?
Yes, for smoothies and juicing and stuff. It’s funny, because when I arrived in Toronto and went to Walmart to get it I looked around and realized, yup, this is what Jocelyn wears. She is a very polyester kind of gal. Everything is tight and ill-fitting, and as you get older you realize it’s all about fabric and fit.

Schitt’s Creek is very much about the subtle humour. Is that something you had to learn or did it come naturally?
It was a great lesson on how to reel it in. Like on Comedy Inc., it was all about bigger, bigger, bigger. So to go from that to this was definitely a shift, but it’s enjoyable because it feels more grounded. It’s like a burger and a steak. This is more like a steak laugh because you’ve invested more into it. Eugene stressed very early on that that was where we were going with it and we embraced it.

A generation of viewers only know Dan Levy from MTV, but both he and Annie Murphy are fantastic comic actors.
Yes! I only knew Dan from MTV and it’s his show and his vision so that’s part of it but yeah, his timing is incredible. The episode where he’s selling his clothes … he was so incredible because you can feel his pain. He isn’t that character but there are elements of him that are. He’s always put together and he’s meticulous and you’re like, ‘Ug, can you be messy just once?’

Annie is amazing and the chemistry between the two of them is exactly the same. They are always teasing each other and making fun of each other.


I was like, ‘You actually have a skill! You just made a functioning well in two hours! That’s way more impressive than what I do for a living!’


We got a bit of back story with regard to Jocelyn. We found out she’s a teacher. Will there be more classroom scenes?

Not really, but what I think is great is that you see a relationship building between Moira and Jocelyn. It’s really fun and Catherine and I agreed that in a lot of shows female characters are combative and our choice was not to make it that way. We may not understand each other in this scene but maybe we don’t need to fight. That’s a Season 1 thing for sure.

How did you get the role of Jocelyn? Did you audition?
I did audition, yeah. The good old fashioned way!

Is that the norm for you?
Yeah. I’m not at that level where I don’t have to. If it’s Canadian and I know the person really well and there is a guest star part … I have been offered guest star parts, but in terms of series leads I’ve always had to audition.

What do you look for in a gig?
It depends on what it is. A lot of times I’m just looking for a job. If it’s something that I’m writing or creating than it’s a whole other thing. There have been things along the way that I’ve been so lucky to have been able to create and have a voice in and those things you cling a little bit tighter to than if it’s somebody else’s show.

You hosted Canada’s Handyman Challenge. What was that like?
That was so much fun. Those guys are great and I was amazed at the contestants. I was like, ‘You actually have a skill! You just made a functioning well in two hours! That’s way more impressive than what I do for a living!’ It was a great experience.

Schitt’s Creek airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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Comments and queries for the week of Jan. 23

Is it my imagination or is Schitt’s Creek actually the same set as Little Mosque‘s town of Mercy!?  The town hall looks like the mosque. The diner looks like the same diner Fatima ran.—A

It may look familiar, but while Little Mosque was filmed in and around Regina, Schitt’s Creek‘s external shots were filmed in Goodwood, Ont., about an hour northeast of Toronto. Creek‘s sets are in Pinewood Studios in Toronto.

I’m getting about 100 new emails from TV, Eh? a day. Is there any way to just get one daily digest of them all?—Steve

Hey Steve, yes you can! Sign up here and you’ll get a daily email of the top stories and links from the website.

Meanwhile, a couple of readers—Kate and Heather—were wondering how they could get their hands on DVD copies of Cracked. What I thought would be an easy answer isn’t. In the U.S., Season 1 of Cracked lists the first seven episodes of the 13-episode season in a package being sold as Cracked: What Lies Beneath through the BBC store. There is another version of Cracked Season 1 available, but it doesn’t contain an episode list so I’m not sure if they’re all in that set.

If you don’t mind not owning Cracked on DVD, you can stream both Season 1 and 2 via CBC.ca. I checked the links and they work … if you live in Canada. It’s also available on Netflix Canada.

Pretty sure the only mention of Joel’s father [on Saving Hope] was earlier this season when Joel headed to New Zealand for his fifth wedding … and that marriage is already failing. Looks like Joel is so afraid of turning into his father that he actually is, in a way. 

At the moment it’s show vs. tell with Joel and Charlie. Joel says he wants to be there for the baby if it’s his, while Charlie is setting the bar fairly high. Loved Charlie and Henry. Couldn’t figure out who Henry was, that was a good twist.

Looks like next week will be huge. The possible ‘revealing’ moment I’ve been expecting for a long time now. Can’t wait!—Hallie

 

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? greg@tv-eh.com or head to @tv_eh.

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Schitt’s Creek is anything but for CBC

Go ahead, say them. Your jokes about the name, Schitt’s Creek. Some wondered—months ago when CBC announced the Eugene Levy/Catherine O’Hara project co-created by Levy and his son, Dan—if the title would make for easy headlines if the ratings were bad.

The fact is, CBC may end up getting the last laugh by having the strongest homegrown sitcom this country has had since, well, that show about not much going on that just recently made a movie. Just yesterday, CBC announced it had greenlit a second season of Schitt’s Creek before Season 1 had even debuted. That’s the kind of move that Netflix makes, not a public broadcaster, and it’s an indication of just how confident they are in the project.

Debuting Tuesday, Schitt’s Creek stars Eugene Levy as Johnny Rose, a video store magnate who sees his empire crumble due to bad investments. The government descends, claiming their mansion and almost everything in it. The only thing the feds don’t touch is a property Johnny bought for his son, David (Dan Levy), on a lark: the small town of Schitt’s Creek. The pair, along with wife/mother Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and daughter/sister Alexis (Annie Murphy), decamp for the little community where they’re met with odd characters—including mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott)—and a fish out of water situation. But where most sitcoms go over-the-top to get laughs, Schitt’s Creek is more subtle, with funny things going on in the background and names (hello, Roland Schitt?) as opposed to pratfalls.

“We talked a lot about that in the writer’s room,” Dan says. “We never played anything for the laughs and it’s something my Dad comes from. That’s why I came to him with this show. I knew there was a special touch that he has in terms of legitimizing funny situations in a reality that’s tangible. If you have great people playing these funny situations, that’s where the magic is.”

He’s right. Eugene and O’Hara have made careers out of playing characters who don’t mug for the camera, and Eugene’s DNA has been carried on to Dan. Best-known to a generation of viewers for his co-hosting duties on The After Show alongside Jessi Cruickshank, Dan’s comic chops cause a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. One great scene features David and Alexis arguing who will sleep in the motel bed closest to the door; David wants his sister to sleep there because a murderer who breaks in will kill her first, giving him time to escape.

Dan had been playing with the idea of a family who has lost their money for a TV show and it went through several incarnations once Eugene came on board. It was over dinner conversations with friends, Eugene recalls, that they realized “Why not call the town Schitt’s Creek?” (“Because that’s exactly what I’d think of,” O’Hara jokes.) He admits the CBC wasn’t the first network he thought of to air Schitt’s Creek, but positive meetings coupled with the network looking to rebrand, and a deal was made.

“We set out to make the kind of show that we want to watch,” Eugene explains. “What I find funny and the most interesting are character-driven pieces because that’s all I’ve done, from SCTV on. You have to stay in the character and stay as grounded as you possibly can, that’s what appealed to me.”

And, clearly, the CBC.

Schitt’s Creek airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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CBC orders second season of Schitt’s Creek

schitts_creek

From a media release:

With the first season of SCHITT’S CREEK premiering this Tuesday, January 13 at 9 p.m., CBC is pleased to announce that the second season has already been greenlit and is set to premiere in winter 2016. The highly anticipated character-driven, half-hour single-camera comedy is co-created by Eugene and Daniel Levy, who also star in the 13-episode series alongside the legendary Catherine O’Hara and rising star Annie Murphy, all of whom are set to return next season.

The series centres around a wealthy family who suddenly find themselves broke and forced to live in Schitt’s Creek, a small, depressing town they once bought as a joke. With their pampered lives now abandoned, they must confront their new-found poverty and discover what it means to be a family, all within the confines of their new home.

SCHITT’S CREEK is commissioned by CBC, produced by Not A Real Company Productions Inc. and created by Eugene Levy and Daniel Levy.  The executive producers are Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, Andrew Barnsley, Fred Levy and Ben Feigin.  SCHITT’S CREEK is distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

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