It cannot be overstated how significant it is to see yourself reflected back in the mainstream media. For so many marginalized groups there has been a sense that their stories are “niche” or “ separate” and the only universal stories are the white hetero male ones. But to see so many different voices finally being given space has shattered that! To think about kids growing up and seeing themselves represented makes me teary. It’s easy to take for granted how comforting and reassuring it is to grow up watching stories told by people who look and sound like you about similar experiences to your own. Everyone deserves that comfort.
I had the pleasure to interview Siobhan Murphy. Siobhan is a Canadian actress who will next be seen as a series regular on Netflix’s upcoming dark comedy holiday series “Merry Happy Whatever” with Dennis Quaid and Ashley Tisdale premiering on Thanksgiving day, 11/28. Siobhan plays Quaid’s oldest daughter, Patsy. She is also a regular character on Canada’s most watched drama “Murdoch Mysteries” which currently airs on the CBC. She plays Ruth Newsome. Born and raised in downtown Toronto, Siobhan attended York University’s Conservatory Acting program. Upon graduating in 2006, she was cast as one of the leads in the W Network original sitcom The Smart Woman Survival Guide. She has since appeared in numerous other television shows, including Flashpoint, Rookie Blue, Saving Hope, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Orphan Black, Reign, Schitt’s Creek, and Heartland. She has also been featured in a number of films including Max Payne, Spotlight, No Stranger Than Love, and Filth City.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Siobhan! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada; an only child to my mom who’s a professor and my dad who worked as a television journalist. I had a pretty idyllic childhood, filled, like most kids of the 80’s with a million after school activities and summer camps. Because of my mother’s work, we traveled a lot as a family every summer, which was incredibly eye opening and expansive for a kid living a pretty quiet, sheltered life. I studied piano, then ballet and then acting throughout childhood. Piano and ballet fell by the wayside around high school but acting stuck and ended up being what I majored in when I got to University.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, as I mentioned, being a restless only child in the 80’s meant alllllll of the summer camps and after school programs. I was enrolled in a summer theatre program when i was around 6 or 7 at a local children’s theatre. It was two weeks long and at the end of it, we all put on a little play we had written ourselves. I remember being in the car on the way home after our big “performance” and still feeling the butterflies smashing around in my stomach. I had never felt so happy and scared and alive. Looking back, that must have been the moment I decided I was going to chase this feeling and this career. Even throughout high school, there was nothing that made me feel the way acting did. There were other things I loved, of course, but nothing that made me as scared and as challenged.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am so excited about my new Netflix show, Merry Happy Whatever that’s airing November 28th. It’s a television series surrounding a big tight-knit family over the holidays, with all the tension and anxiety that comes along with that. Dennis Quaid is playing our dad and working with him was such an incredible experience! I play Patsy, the eldest daughter of a family of 4 kids. Patsy’s a perfectionist, a desperate peace-maker and a ticking time bomb of anxiety waiting to go off! I think people are really going to relate to our loving, yet deeply dysfunctional family. Nothing brings out the worst (and funniest) in people like being trapped with family over the holidays, right?
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
- It cannot be overstated how significant it is to see yourself reflected back in the mainstream media. For so many marginalized groups there has been a sense that their stories are “niche” or “ separate” and the only universal stories are the white hetero male ones. But to see so many different voices finally being given space has shattered that! To think about kids growing up and seeing themselves represented makes me teary. It’s easy to take for granted how comforting and reassuring it is to grow up watching stories told by people who look and sound like you about similar experiences to your own. Everyone deserves that comfort.
- How boring to have a cultural landscape where it’s only been one group getting to speak for such a long time! The more people at the party, the better the party! The better the conversation and the more interesting the stories. That’s just a fact!
- With all the remakes and re-imaginings of already told stories in our industry i think it’s incredibly clear the need for original voices is loud and potent. There is enough room in the landscape and there is a hunger for that.
Can you share your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It’s ok to say no! There have been so many instances in my career, early on and even still, where I don’t love the way a deal is going or how a project is coming together and the fear of not working takes over my instincts. If it feels weird or you don’t feel appreciated, it’s ok to say no. Other jobs will come!
- Comparison is the thief of joy. This is so tricky to keep in mind, but comparing your career to people around you or friends in your industry wont give you anything but anxiety, sadness and probably a break-out or two!! Other people’s success is NOT your failure. Also, being supportive and happy for other people is chic.
- Knowing what you want out of your career is important, but being flexible and adaptable will serve you so much more in the long run. When I first left theatre school, I KNEW I was a dramatic actress. Like, cry-on-command, wailing, Shakespeare-reciting, full-throttle serious actress. And then my very first job was a series lead in an ensemble comedy, and that’s more or less where I’ve found myself working ever since! Being willing and excited to adapt to all sorts of different avenues in this industry is a key
- The second you get your first big job, get a good accountant!! In theatre school they teach us how to do a dozen different accents, how to act in a Restoration play while wearing a corset, how to break down iambic pentameter but not how the hell to budget your life once you start working in the real world!
- It’s just story telling. In the most lovely, wonderful way possible, at its core it’s just dressing up to help tell a story. If it starts to feel heavier, more stressful or painful than that, it’s time to take a break and seek out other things that bring you that joy. Taking this industry too seriously is easy to do, but so detrimental in the long run.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Have other worlds besides this one. By that I mean, seek out friend groups who aren’t doing the same thing you are. Choose to do activities in your spare time that aren’t linked somehow to this one. It’s easy to get myopic about our industry, especially if you live in L.A or a city where it seems to be everywhere. But the truth is, there’s other stuff, really fulfilling wonderful stuff to do and people who are working and prioritizing other things. Perspective is everything.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Oh god, I feel like I’ve been super sincere this whole interview, which is weirdly hard for me. Normally I need to make ten cynical jokes for every one genuine statement. But if we’re in the zone, then I’ll stick to it and be honest. If i didn’t have the parents I have, there’s no way in the world I would have been able to get through this industry and survive as long as I have.
There were a few jobs throughout my career that I was devastated to lose, like, ugly-cry -devastated. I was lucky enough to have parents who not only reassured me it was going to be fine but also would get wonderfully pissed off on my behalf. It’s really helpful to have people close to you as cheerleaders, it lets you act insanely sad while reminding you that the next one is yours.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The quote I find myself most often coming back to again and again is attributed to Persian Sufi poet, Rumi, “ This too shall pass”. It’s so easy and so common to get wrapped around the axle of an emotion. But everything is just a moment in time, the awfulness and the really really wonderful stuff too. It helps me remember (mostly when I’m in a place of sadness or general UGHHHHH) that nothing is forever.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m @siobhangmurphy on Instagram and Twitter!