The first step to writing a pop banger is to overestimate your own musical abilities. The second? Get tipsy and attack your ears with techno-heavy beats circa late 00s Britney Spears.
Annie Murphy just happened to nail both, which is how “A Little Bit Alexis,” a musical parody Murphy’s character performed in Schitt’s Creek’s fifth season ended up surpassing one million streams and becoming a bonafide chart-topper. The actress channeled her eccentric, globe-trotting socialite to craft the song’s lyrics, recruiting help from husband Menno Versteeg and his bandmate Nixon Boyd to infuse it with enough bubbly synth and heavy bass to convince fans it might actually have worked as the opening theme for a defunct reality series following the wild exploits of the show’s resident party girl.
Of course, there’s more to Alexis Rose than a beat that slaps and some haphazard Paris Hilton-inspired choreography. We chatted with Murphy about the character’s undeniable appeal, the genesis of her pop anthem, and how it might just be the thing to save us during a global pandemic.
Are you aware that people are practicing safe handwashing techniques to “A Little Bit Alexis?” It’s officially a meme.
[laughs] Yeah. A whole bunch of people sent it to me last week, and I got such a kick out of it. Who knew it would help banish germs?
The show, in general, is doing its part to keep us sane and healthy. It’s on every feel-good binge-watch list I’ve seen.
It was the first thing that I thought when I saw the audition. I was like, ‘This is going to come in handy in 2020.”
We’re in the final season and every character has grown and evolved over the years, maybe none more than Alexis. Did you always know she had that kind of depth in her?
On paper, Alexis was a real handful, so selfish and self-absorbed and oblivious and all these things. The breakdown for the character described her as a blonde socialite, whatever … but at the very end of it, it said, “a young Goldie Hawn.” So, when I read that, that kind of changed everything for me, because yes, Goldie Hawn is blonde and vivacious, people may describe her as ditzy, but she’s also this kind, sweet, beautiful light, with depth. I kind of hung onto that, because I didn’t want to play just this one note dumb blonde character.
I think as the show went on, the writers were so attuned to that. They just wrote such a beautiful arc for Alexis. And so, I just kind of did what they told me to, and it all came out beautifully. As corny as it is to be an actor who’s proud of your character, I’m an actor that’s proud of my character.
Both the character and her theme song were inspired by reality TV. How many hours of those shows did you have to sit through?
Well, going in, I was very, very green as an actor. I’d done bit parts here and there, but nothing significant. And I was like, ‘One thing I know about actors is that they do research.’ And so, as soon as I got the part I was like, ‘Well time to do some research.’ My version of that was going on to YouTube and watching, not full episodes, but just clips of Kardashians and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, and the Olsen twins, that kind of thing. I kind of watched those until my eyes bled. I took away a couple of things like the vocal fry. The like, laziest way of talking in the whole world. And then the bizarro T-Rex arms that I ended up with.
One night, I’m pretty sure I was high while I was watching and I saw all of these women carry their handbags when they’re out shopping, over their wrist with their palms facing up at the sky. And they kind of trot down the street like that. And I think I was like, “Okay, what if there was no handbag, and we flipped the wrist over, and then added another wrist?” And then I ended up with the monstrosity that are Alexis’s arms.
You’re really sacrificing your body for the sake of realism here.
It turns out I have bizarrely flexible wrists. It was funny because someone got in touch with me over Instagram, a year or so ago, to be like, ‘Just so you know, having hyper-flexible wrists like you do, could mean that you have this very serious disease. So, if you have any of these other symptoms, you need to get tested for this disease.’ And luckily, I had none of the other symptoms.
How did you end up writing “A Little Bit Alexis?”
I was reading the scripts at our table read, and all it said was, “Alexis performs ‘A Little Bit Alexis.'” I think I was inspired / jealous of Noah [Reid], who the previous season, did his beautiful arrangement of “Simply the Best.” I was like, “I want to do that too.” Not remembering that Noah is an incredibly talented musician, and I am not. I kind of bit off a little bit more than I could chew. So, I went to Dan [Levy] and I was like, “I want to write this.” And shockingly, he agreed. Two of my best, best buds are musicians and so I went to their studio and I wrote the lyrics. We listened to a ton of Britney Spears, as you can probably tell. We listened to “Work Bitch,” on repeat. We knew that it was a jokey spoof song, but deep down, all three of us were so desperate to write a banger.
So, we just kind of pulled out all the stops and we just went for it. It was such a blast to record. Then I finally sent it to Dan and didn’t hear anything. I was like, “Oh, fuck. He’s going to give this job to Noah instead.” And then he just wrote back, “I’m obsessed with this.” Which is kind of high the highest form of flattery from Dan.
Your husband’s a musician. Is this something you two do regularly, make music together?
I did a web series many years ago where we wrote a song for that. And the band that Menno and Nix are in was called Hollerado, and they spent the last 12 years of their life making incredible, ridiculous music. So those two were skilled, I was along for the ride. But it was so much fun. We ordered pizza and drank beer and wrote a fun song. I want to do more of it. I want to find an excuse to do more of it.
What’s it been like seeing the song go mainstream?
Anything that can put smiles on faces right now, is so wonderful. And I feel so lucky that this has contributed a little bit to that. I get tweets from people who are out, in an actual club, dancing to “A Little Bit Alexis.” I was actually in New York at the beginning of the year, and I was meeting a friend at a drag bar. I was early, sitting there by myself, having a drink, and one of the drag queens comes up to me and she’s like, “Just want to let you know, I’m about to do a DJ set, and in the DJ set I play ‘A Little Bit Alexis,’ and then it goes right into, ‘Work Bitch.’”
And I thought she was going to be like, “So if you don’t want me to do that, if it would make you uncomfortable, just let me know.” But she was like, “So I will be doing that for sure, I just wanted to let you know in case you wanted to leave.” She did the set, and “A Little Bit Alexis” came on and every single person in the bar was singing the lyrics. And it just so happened that my friend arrived at this exact time.
You’ve got a taste of that pop star life. Do you need more?
I am feeling kind of thirsty for it, you know?
Thinking about the legacy of Schitt’s Creek, how do you hope Alexis is remembered?
I think what I love so much about Alexis is her undying confidence and her ability to find the good in a negative situation; to keep on keeping on. She holds her chin up in the worst possible situations and finds the light. I think that’s something that we all need to try to do. Especially over the next little while.