It only took watching a single performance of Les Miserables as a child for Siobhan Murphy to fall in love with acting forever. In spite of being warned of the probable rough road ahead by her professors, she knew no other profession would bring her the same joy. Little did she know that she would one day be starring opposite Dennis Quaid in the new Netflix holiday-themed comedy Merry Happy Whatever, in which she plays neurotic but kind-hearted Patsy Quinn. The tension is palpable at times, but in the end, the family always comes back to each other. You can catch Merry Happy Whatever on Netflix starting November 28 (Thanksgiving)!
Cliché: When did you first know you wanted to be an actress?
Siobhan Murphy: I started acting when I was around 6, doing theatre camp on the weekends and in the summer. But when I was that little, it was just another after school activity, I’m not sure I understood something that brought me so much joy could also be what you do for a living. I do remember seeing Les Miz when I was around 10 or so and realizing the actress who played Young Cosette was my age and being instantly filled with this wash of jealousy that kids were able to do something like this, for all these people. That’s when the penny dropped and I started to beg my parents to get me an agent and headshots and all of the trappings needed to make it in the business. They waited till I was in high school to really let me go for it, but I certainly fell in love with acting when I was young.
Do you remember your first audition? How did it go?
I don’t remember what my first audition was for, probably a commercial or a music video. My first agency was also a modelling agency so I would often find myself surrounded by these stunning gazelle like women holding comp cards in the waiting room and think, “ Huh…..I don’t think I belong here.”
Probably one of the funnier commercial auditions I suffered through when I was 17 or 18 was for an insurance company and required my role to be doing yoga (which I obviously lied and said I was adept at) When I went in to audition they asked me to go through some poses, which I absolutely made up on the spot, completely incorrectly and was so out of shape my hip made this very disturbing popping sound. The casting director asked “Was…..sorry….was that your hip that just made that sound?” and I sheepishly nodded and he was like, “Oh great, that’s enough, we’ve seen enough.” Lesson there is, don’t lie in your special skills, it WILL come back to haunt you!! Or humiliate you.
What has been the best advice anyone has ever given you about acting?
I remember the head of the Theatre department at York University where I got my degree gave this big speech to the freshman class on the first or second day. He told us, “If there is something, anything at all, you like doing more than theatre, you need to go do that. This is an incredibly thankless tough business. So if you have other things in your life you love, please get up, and pursue those.” Pessimistic, right? Except, I get it. The only way one can weather the ups and downs of being an actor is knowing there is nothing else they would feel happy doing. It’s tough out there, you have to find a way to be just as tough to make it work!
Talk about your new series, Merry Happy Whatever, and your character, Patsy.
Merry Happy Whatever surrounds the Quinns, a boisterous tight knit family of 4 siblings, their respective spouses and patriarch, Don Quinn (played by the amazing Dennis Quaid). The first season follows the family over the Christmas holidays while everyone is back together at the family house and the youngest daughter has brought her new boyfriend home from L.A to meet everyone. Obviously because it’s Christmas AND it’s about family, things get….tense, but also really heartfelt. I play Patsy Quinn, the eldest daughter who’s desperate to fill their mother’s shoes since her passing a few years back. She’s a perfectionist who feels allllll the feelings a little too much, all the time. But she has a huge heart and adores her family.
What was it like having the opportunity to act with Dennis Quaid?
Intimidating at first! But he is such a charming presence and so warm, any nerves went away pretty quickly. He’s an incredible actor, so getting to watch him work up close, especially in the more dramatic scenes was truly a highlight of my career. He draws you right in and has a magical ability to make anyone well up a little when he’s getting emotional opposite you. I’m embarrassed the amount of times I got weepy doing a scene with him, he’s that good!
It’s always a little scary to meet people in your field who you’ve watched for so many years in so many amazing roles, but Dennis is truly the kindest, sweetest man and playing a family as close as the Quinns definitely brought the cast together in a way that I hope translates to everyone watching.
Why do you think dark comedy fits so well with the holiday genre?
I think the holidays make a perfect backdrop for a dark comedy! There’s this gorgeous, twinkling world of fresh snow, Christmas trees and fireplaces roaring. But the reality behind those scenes is the pressure of perfection and throwing together family members who often haven’t seen each other all year! Tensions run high, even as things look picturesque from the outside. Anytime you bring family together, things are going to get brought up, secrets revealed and people are gonna lash out. At some point, someone in a Santa hat is gonna be screaming at someone in a Christmas sweater, and if that’s not comedy, I don’t know what is.
What makes Merry Happy Whatever different from other holiday series?
I think the thing about our show that is really going to surprise people are the issues the family is dealing with. When you first start watching, it seems like a pretty traditional sitcom. But as you get closer to the family, you learn that each member is dealing with some pretty profound stuff they either can’t talk about or don’t know to fix.
I think that’s what’s really special about Merry Happy Whatever; the Quinns make each other laugh even when things are tough. I’m really proud of the stories we’re telling and the way they’re handled. I hope everyone finds an aspect over the 8 episodes they connect with. I think they will!
Do you have any favorite or funny holiday memories with your own family?
Living in Los Angeles, I now get so excited to go home for the holidays, to see all my friends and get a little blast of East Coast snow and coziness. When I was younger, it was all about the gifts (because yes, I was an absolute monster as a child), but now my favourite things are sitting in front of my parents fireplace and planning out all the meals we’re going to cook, having my friends over, sitting in out sweatpants while we make fun of each other and drink wine. Honestly, I don’t mean to sound corny, but really just being home and seeing everyone. It’s the absolute best!
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Siobhan Murphy Brings The Heart to Holiday Dark Comedy, “Merry Happy Whatever.” Photo Credit: Vanessa Heins.