The Emmy-winning Schitt's Creek actress stars in a ribald new concept-comedy
AMCWhile many series claim to push the envelope, there are few that manage to entirely bust open a genre. Kevin Can F... Himself alternates between single-camera realism and multi-camera comedy, providing a 360-degree view of a woman who very much wants and needs to break out of the trope of the passive, agreeable sitcom wife—possibly by murdering her husband.
This darkly comedic series is not just ambitious in its storytelling, it is a full about-face for Emmy-winning Schitt’s Creek star Annie Murphy. “I loved every minute that I had in Schitt’s Creek, but that world was very small and I was so worried that I was going to get stuck in this blonde loopy land. I really wanted to do something significantly different,” says the Ottawa native. “Now I get to do things like kick over a garbage can angrily, and fry an egg angrily, and do cocaine in an alleyway angrily. There’s so much to explore in this show, so I was begging to be signed up for it.”
AMCMurphy plays Allison, the typical beautiful sitcom wife, who runs the household while her less attractive slob of a husband caters mostly to himself and his buddies, who for some reason always seem to be at their house. She is constantly the butt of their jokes, which everyone accepts because he is “funny” and she is a “nag.” Is it any wonder Allison sometimes dreams of taking a beer mug shard to her husband’s throat?
Although Allison’s dreams are slightly on the aggressive side of discontentment, Murphy saw familiarity in the character. “I was so excited when I got to do the show, because it was so important for my next project to be about something,” says Murphy. “I have seen Allison in so many women in my life—to varying degrees, obviously. I think that Allison is a character that people are going to be able to really identify with, because she has just absorbed so much frustration and so much anger and pushed it down—because that’s what you’re supposed to do as a woman—and has put up with so much of the world around her and just kind of smiled through it. It felt like a show that’s going to entertain, but it’s also going to really make people think.”
For the actors, it has also been interesting jumping from one type of genre to another. “I’m very new to the multi-cam genre. I’ve never done that before,” says The Real O’Neals alum Mary Hollis Inboden, who plays Allison’s sympathetic neighbour, Patty. “I find that we don’t have to switch the characters as much, it’s just a different kind of technique of performing. The multi-cam is about time and rhythm and pace, and it feels very structured. You’re at the whim of those laughers, who sometimes sound a little frantic to me. Then we get out, and I think [Annie and I] realized that we could take a deep breath outside of the multi-cam world. It didn’t feel like we were trying to keep up an unbelievable pace.”
AMCMurphy, meanwhile, finds that the multi-cam days are her time to breathe. “I don’t really have to prepare, because I only have three lines,” she says. “It’s so focused on the dudes, who do such an incredible job. Eric, in particular, is just so, so strong with the physical comedy.”
Allison’s not-so-amazing husband Kevin is played by Eric Petersen, who finds himself taking his cues from the live audience. “There are some lines that Kevin says that are on that edge of, is this funny or not funny?” says Petersen. “Sometimes the laughers really let us know that’s too far. As opposed to the laugh, we’ll get ‘Ooh. We don’t like that.’ They let us know very quickly.” Though not portrayed in the most flattering light, the Kirstie alum has thoroughly enjoyed his role. “I just love being a part of something that is disrupting a norm,” he says. “I get to be a part of two things at once: I get to be super-silly and funny, but also be a part of a really smart show that’s saying things about the world and about where we need to go. I feel really lucky.”
Written before the #MeToo movement, series creator Valerie Armstrong has been waiting for the show to become less relevant in the years that have passed. As that is not yet the case, she hopes viewers will at least enjoy the social commentary, in its most extreme form. “I hope that women will continue to identify with this, but I hope that we also move beyond some of these things that are so relatable. Unfortunately, it’s only gotten more relevant since I’ve written it, but I’m really excited that maybe we have an audience in some fed-up women. And men who love a sitcom. Or men who love fed-up women.”
Kevin Can F... Himself airs Sundays at 6 p.m., 8:07 p.m. & 12:44 a.m. on AMC