From creator Valerie Armstrong (Lodge 49) and showrunner Craig DiGregoria (Shrill), the AMC dark comedy Kevin Can F**k Himself follows Allison McRoberts (Emmy Award winner Annie Murphy), a woman that finds herself unhappily married to a guy (Eric Petersen) who clearly takes her for granted. As she becomes more and more aware that her man-child husband is not going to recognize her worth, she begins to form other plans to handle the situation.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Murphy talked about the appeal of such a bold and risky project, the show’s unique and unusual blend of multi-camera sitcom with single-camera realism, Allison’s increasingly unpredictable nature, and the show’s character dynamics. She also talked about what it meant to her to be a part of Schitt’s Creek, and joining Season 2 of Russian Doll.
Collider: Obviously, when a TV series ends, the actors on it always talk about wanting to do something very different for their next project, and I can’t imagine getting further from Schitt’s Creek than Kevin Can F**k Himself. But when this came your way, what did you think of it? What was it like on paper?
ANNIE MURPHY: It was unlike anything that I had read, not only that particular pilot season, but ever. And you’re right, it’s a bold, risky show and I really liked that about it. I liked that it was about a very flawed character. I think that we need more of that out there in the world because that’s what human beings are and that’s what people can really identify with, and not these picture perfect characters, but people who try and make mistakes, and go one step forward and two steps back. That was really appealing to me.
I love how you don’t really know what’s going to happen with her. All of a sudden, she’s trying to find drugs and ends up in some weird prostitution situation, and you never know like what she’s going to get herself into.
MURPHY: Yeah, and neither does she. Up until we meet her in the pilot, she’s lived a life of following the rules and thanking people and apologizing and just being a nice, good person. And so, this rage that she’s overcome by is so new to her and is making her act out and react in so many unexpected ways. It was so much fun to play.
Since the last 10 years probably haven’t been that different for her, why do you think she’s triggered now?
MURPHY: I think it’s the realization that she has been gaslit for 10 years. She has been promised, over and over and over again by this husband of hers, that if they keep putting this money into the savings account, one day, they will be able to get not only the house, but a completely different and much better life. And so, when she finds out that all of that money that he talks about all the time has been blown by him, years before, and that she has been working towards a goal that she will never, ever achieve, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s when you go do cocaine in an alley with a stranger.
What’s it like as an actor to be shooting two different versions of the same show. You’re shooting a sitcom and this gritty drama, at the same time, so what’s it like to see your character live in both of those worlds?
MURPHY: It was a really fun experience. I’d never done any sitcom work before, but I had done a bunch of theater. The sitcom is very theatrical. It’s very big and over the top and performative. And it was also not that much work for myself and Mary Hollis [Inboden], who plays Patty. It was very much the guys’ world, so when we got to have our scenes together in the single-camera world, it made it all the more special.
Is there anything that feels different about the character in one world versus the other, or does she always feel the same to you?
MURPHY: No, she doesn’t always feel the same. We really wanted to sitcom world to be very true to the sitcom that has been so ingrained in all of us, over the years. To allow her to react in a way that she would in the single cam felt unrealistic. As the show goes on and Patty and Allison get into more and more trouble, we do see looks exchanged between the two of them. But because we are in the sitcom world, it wouldn’t be realistic to punch in on the women because we’re focusing on the men. It was really fun to walk that line between the sitcom version and the single cam version.
It’s one thing to have fantasies or thoughts about killing your husband, but how serious is she about it?
MURPHY: I think she believes that she’s very serious. Personally, as Annie Murphy, I believe murdering her husband is a metaphor for saving her own life. What she needs is to be rid of him and the only way that her very fried and very angry brain can picture a life where she’s rid of him is where he cannot find her anymore. It’s not a matter of leaving, in her head. It’s that he can’t exist anymore, for her to grow and be happy. This whole thing is not based in logic. It’s based in a very intense reaction to anger and pain and frustration that has been just shoved down for many, many years.
I love that we get to know your character through her relationships, whether it’s with her husband, with Patty, or even with Sam. What do you enjoy about those different character dynamics and getting to really explore them? Is there one that you find yourself most drawn to?
MURPHY: On a personal level, I love working with Mary Hollis. We’ve really fallen in love with each other, over the last handful of months. I love and adore all of my scenes with her. What I do really enjoy and find interesting are my scenes with Ray [Lee], who plays Sam because we get to see traces and glimmers of who Allison used to be, before she became a shell of herself, over the course of 10 years of being married to Kevin. I do think it really is important for the character and for the audience to see these moments of joy and these little bits and pieces of her personality that have been stamped out by Kevin.
I also love the relationship between Allison and Patty, just because clearly Patty doesn’t really want to be drawn into this friendship, and then she can’t seem to stop herself. There’s something about that dynamic that I love because she is begrudgingly friends with her?
MURPHY: Yes, and they both really help each other out. Patty has the street smarts and the edge that they need to move forward, and Allison has this un-swaying, desperate need to be positive and hopeful and optimistic. Even though they are a very unlikely couple, they do both have very different personality traits that will help each other out in the long run.
Were there times when you reading the scripts for this and wondering how you were going to pull it off? Were you always surprised by Allison’s choices?
MURPHY: Yeah. It was an exciting script to read because you never know what situation she’s going to find herself in next. As an actor, that’s so exciting because the more chaotic the scenario, the more fun you can have with a character and she just keeps stepping in it, time after time after time. So, it was very fun to go from stilettos in a motel room to hitting a potential John in the nose and doing cocaine in a dark alley. The more in over her head she gets, the more we can slowly amp up the humor of the show too.
How do you view the relationship between Allison and Kevin? Are you rooting for her to leave?
MURPHY: I root for her to get the fuck out of there. Unfortunately, I have seen that relationship a lot, just maybe not as toxic. It is so sad to see friends, or just people, lose bits and pieces of themselves over the years, after being told that they’re actually really terrible at telling jokes, or they’re really bad at driving. That’s not the case, it’s just that the narrative has been told to them, over and over and over. To see a bright, shiny person lose their light is very hard. I am excited to see what happens. I don’t know what happens. I’m not going to condone murder. I think that’s an incorrect decision. There are other ways to make positive change.
Schitt’s Creek was so beloved by his fans. What did being a part of that show mean to you? As the audience grew and you saw how much people were loving it, what was that experience like while you were in it and what’s it like to look back on it now?
MURPHY: It was the best six years of my life. I made some of my very best friends on that show. I learned how to act on that show. I got to watch Eugene [Levy] and Catherine [O’Hara] school everyone in comedy, every day. They really taught me how to be a good person, on an off screen. They showed so much respect to everybody involved and had so much fun doing their job. I was really lucky to be able to be around that and absorb as much of it as I could by osmosis. When we started the show, nobody in our wildest dreams could have even imagined the level of success that the show would reach. It means so much to have been a part of a show that has come to mean so much to so many people. My comfort show that got me through many dark and shitty times was The Office. To realize that I was on a show that is like my The Office to so many people is really, really quite overwhelming sometimes.
And you have the Emmy hardware to always be a good reminder.
MURPHY: Yeah, I will never get over that. I still think I might be getting punked, or something.
You also joined Season 2 of Russian Doll. What made you want to do that and what was that like to jump into?
MURPHY: It was wild and wonderful. I want to do as many cool projects and play as many interesting roles as I possibly can while I’m doing this. And you don’t say no to Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler. The show is so interesting, and Season 2 makes your brain bend and hurt even more than Season 1 did. I’d never shot in New York before, so that was a really, really cool experience.
It seems like you’re finding a place in these projects that really are an interesting blend of genres and a strange mix of things together that probably shouldn’t work and yet somehow do. Is that the lane that you’re finding yourself in and is that the kind of stuff that you’re drawn to?
MURPHY: I want to be in as many different lanes as humanly possible. I’ve been really, really lucky to work on the projects that I’ve worked on so far. As much as I do want to stay in the world of comedy or dark comedy, I’m open to whatever comes my way.
Kevin Can F**k Himself airs on Sunday nights on AMC, and is available to stream at AMC+.
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