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Schitt's Creek'sAnnie Murphy: Alexis's Path to Better Human, Gay Icon

Schitt's Creek'sAnnie Murphy: Alexis's Path to Better Human, Gay Icon

Annie Murphy as Alexis Rose

With the Schitt's Creek finale here, Murphy chats with The Advocate about the series' lasting impact as a queer touchstone and the legacy of "A Little Bit Alexis." 

When audiences first met socialite Alexis Rose, she was glued to her phone and plotting to escape her family and fate as a resident of Schitt's Creek by running off with her international party boy boyfriend, Stavros, in the premiere episode of the beloved POP TV series. But throughout Schitt's Creek's six-season run, she began to shelve her oft-used rebuke to her brother, "Ew, David," in favor of more authentic, heartfelt communication, even if her mostly undemonstrative family members bristled a tad at her new-found affection.

Between Alexis's tales of intrigue, survival, and questionable judgment --she knows how to successfully "make it work" with a sultan's nephew during a regime change and how to obtain a passport by midnight when detained by South Korean secret police -- she's evolved into a loving sister, daughter, and friend. Not to mention, her wardrobe, survival skills, theme song "A Little Bit Alexis," and support of her pansexual brother have made her a bona fide gay icon.

"I am so deeply grateful for this show for so many reasons, but that particular representation [of LGBTQ allyship] is one of them," Annie Murphy, who plays Alexis, tells The Advocate ahead of the series finale. "I think Dan [Levy, who plays David] intentionally wrote a show where there was no bigotry and there was no homophobia and there was no hatred to kind of hold a picture up to the world of what things could be like."

Murphy, a Canadian native who recently improvised as her character and taught "A Little Bit Alexis" choreography on Instagram Live while in quarantine to raise money for food banks during the pandemic, turns the conversation back to her character's take on her relationship with her brother.

"For Alexis, I think that David's sexuality is so far from her mind at all times. He's her brother, who she loves, and even when they're screaming at each other to get murdered first, she wants him to be happy," Murphy says.

The denouement of Schitt's Creek arrives at a curious time for fans who are soothed by the world Dan Levy (and his dad, Eugene Levy, who plays the Rose family patriarch, Johnny) built. The story of a wealthy family bilked of their privilege and material possessions --save for their over-the-top couture wardrobe -- who are forced to live in a roadside motel and to rethink their values is prescient.

The series premiered in Canada in 2015, in a political landscape far different from the current one, and it took a few seasons before American audiences discovered it and found not only the hilarity in Schitt's Creek but solace in its ethos of finding or rediscovering one's family.

"Politically, things have been very scary and very bleak for a few years now. More than a few years, but particularly in the last few years things have gotten quite hellish," Murphy says. "Everyone is looking for a place to go where people are kind and accepting and loving and there is no hatred and everyone's welcome. I think that Schitt's Creek came at the right time for that. It is that place to escape to for 22 minutes to four hours, depending on how much time you have on your hands."

"I think the show would've been a success 10 years ago, but I think that everything clicked into place at the right time, and that's why the show has really impacted people the way it has," she says.

Annie Murphy and Catherine O'Hara

Catherine O'Hara as Moira and Annie Murphy as Alexis

The series is now a critical and ratings bonanza, in part because of the outrageous Rose family high jinks with their found family, which includes the sardonic motel owner Stevie (Emily Hampshire), but also because of the show's enormous heart. The series, after all, takes place in a small town where one of the central couples is David and Patrick (Noah Reid), who fall in love, run an upscale general store together, and plan their wedding -- and nobody blinks.

"I'm so thrilled when we get messages, as we do so often, from families who watch the show together, and a kid has felt the courage to come out to his family after watching the show, or a mother and father have felt able to accept their queer child after watching the show," Murphy says of Schitt's Creek's impact. To be a part of a show that has transcended the realm of entertainment and is affecting lives on a much bigger scale, I feel so grateful to have been taken along for the ride."

Alexis, who over the run of the series hearkens to having dated the likes Harry Styles, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diplo, and Adam Levine, found her greatest love with sweet veterinarian Ted before an achingly beautiful mutual breakup over disparate career goals earlier this season. But in the wake of her heartache and strong pivot to her career as a publicist -- she did, in fact, make the premiere of The Crows Have Eyes 3: The Crowening a smashing success -- Alexis's friendship with Twyla (Sarah Levy), the Cafe Tropical server who's always got a sordid story about a distant relative, deepens.

Spoiler ahead for anyone who has not seen episode 6.13.

A tender arc in a recent episode saw Alexis give away her couture to Twyla. And Twyla, a Schitt's Creek lifer, and a secret lottery-winning millionaire tried to boost Alexis's move back to New York to kick-start her business with a hefty check. In the end, Alexis turned down the money but relished their friendship, where once her only "friends" were social-climbing influencers in Coachella chic.

"Those women that I got to work with, I think the love and respect translated. I hope it translated because I fell so deeply in love with both Emily (Stevie) and Sarah (Twyla). I love the opportunity to play female characters who are not competing with each other and there is no hatred between them," Murphy says. "Although I will admit Alexis did steal Mutt from Twyla. So there was that small incident, but Twyla handled it beautifully."

"To walk away knowing that Alexis is so much richer because of these women in her life. And Moira [the Rose matriarch, played by Catherine O'Hara] too, she grew so much as a daughter and as a sister. I just feel really lucky to have been on a show that celebrated female relationships in that sense."

Schitt's Creek Cast

Jennifer Robertson, Murphy, O'Hara, Dan Levy, and Reid

With the Schitt's finale on the horizon, Murphy's star is shining bright. She landed the lead in AMC's Kevin Can F**k Himself, a single- and multi-cam series about a sitcom wife who breaks out of the constraints of TV tropes, although production is on pause with shelter-in-place orders. Still, Schitt's and Murphy have made an indelible print on pop culture, and Alexis's legacy as a queer touchstone has been cemented. Murphy recently appeared on Kelly Clarkson's show, where they performed "A Little Bit Alexis" together.

"I was in my trailer 20 minutes before shooting [the song], slapping together that ridiculous choreography. There was no part of my brain that was like, In two years I'll probably be standing next to Kelly Clarkson," Murphy says. She adds that she was recently in a drag bar in New York where one of the queens approached her to say that she plays a version of the ditty that goes right into "Work Bitch."

Like Schitt's, "A Little Bit Alexis" is acting as a salve or a diversion for people in troubling times. Attempts by TikTok users to perform the number are trending during the lockdown.

When asked how she thinks survivalist Alexis would fare in quarantine, Murphy downplays the important fundraising she's done from her home for food pantries and by appearing on the premiere episode of Humpdays With Hampshire, in which Hampshire hosts famous guests to raise money for the Actors Fund.

"Alexis would be doing the opposite of what I'm doing, which is wearing the same sweatpants every single day and not wearing makeup and lying on the couch eating Goldfish crackers," Murphy says of the beloved character. "She would be up, worked out, made up, dressed in her, in her best, most ego-boosting clothes, at a very early hour. She'd be going through her fantastic Rolodex of friends, quote-unquote friends, making calls, getting in touch, making plans for when this is over."

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.
Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.