Despite six seasons on the critically acclaimed Pop TV series Schitt’s Creek, Emmy Award-winning actress Annie Murphy didn’t know when she would be cast in another project.
Then the script for the AMC series Kevin Can F**K Himself came her way. Murphy, along with the show’s creator, talked to Emmy about the eight-episode series with a uniquely “split personality.” The award-winning official publication of the Television Academy hit newsstands.
Murphy, who plays disgruntled wife Allison McRoberts, is required to switch between a laugh-tracked sitcom—in which her character is the butt of her husband’s jokes—and a dark comedy in which Allison is plotting her husband’s death.
The arts played an important role in Murphy’s upbringing in Ottawa where she developed a desire to perform at an early age. It began when she was cast in her second-grade play and evolved into numerous roles in community theater throughout her youth.
At 22, she cemented her love of acting with a theater performance degree from Concordia University in Montreal, which led her to Los Angeles for her first pilot season. “I went out in a terrified ball of nerves,” Murphy recalls. “I didn’t know anybody, didn’t know the city, didn’t have a visa ….”
Years later, as Schitt’s Creek was winding down, the actress found herself in the midst of pilot season again. “Even with the success of the show, I was still waiting by my phone; and it wasn’t ringing,” Murphy says.
She adds, “That was fine in seasons four and five, but when season six came around and it was just crickets, I was like, ‘Well, this might’ve been it.’” It wasn’t long before Murphy was cast in a lead role in Kevin Can F**K Himself, which juxtaposes the production styles of the traditional multi-cam sitcom and edgy single-camera drama as a device to comment on the trope of put-upon TV wives married to boorish husbands. “It was not only unique and exciting—it was about something. It was such a weight off and such a sigh of relief when I read this script.”
Murphy now finds herself at the top of the call sheet. In the Emmy cover story Split Decision, Dan McDermott, president of original programming for AMC Networks and co-president of AMC Studios, shares why she was cast. “We spent months looking at and auditioning and meeting actresses around the country—the world, if you will,” says McDermott. “And when Annie showed up, everybody just looked at each other and it was like, ‘She’s the one—this is her.’ Annie’s qualities as a person and an actress are so beautifully human and universal. It doesn’t feel like she’s acting. It feels like she’s inhabiting the part.”
“At first blush, it seems like a show about a toxic marriage,” says the show’s creator, Valerie Armstrong. “But to me, it’s about how women can save each other from toxic situations. We are absolutely asking people to watch it and laugh. But what I want you to do is laugh and then sort of cringe, like, ‘Wait, what did I laugh at? What have I been laughing at? And at whose expense?’”
As for Murphy, she relished the opportunity to showcase her acting chops in this dual lead role. “I was grateful that I wasn’t just a sitcom wife and that I get to be so much more than that in this show.”