Interview With Actress Siobhan Murphy

By Ruth on April 26, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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How much do you love Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas movies? This household watches almost nothing but Hallmark from October 31st (or whenever they start) until the first week of January (or whenever they stop); not to mention, we refuse to miss Christmas in July. We adore Christmas movies, and you just cannot surpass Hallmark in this department. What we often don’t realize is how many of the supporting actors are featured again and again in these beloved films. And as I often say, the supporting cast is just as important as the leads–sometimes even more important–because without them, the story could potentially fall flat. This past Christmas season, my family and I were enchanted with A Nutcracker Christmas, and recently I recognized one of the supporting cast members, Siobhan Murphy, because she is also featured this season in Murdoch Mysteries. I am so pleased that Siobhan recently agreed to answer a few questions for me about how she got started in acting with an intense and comprehensive concentration on these significant roles for which she is known so well.

RH: Why did you decide to become an actress? What kind of training did you have?

SGM: This is always such a tough question for me to answer because the truth is I’m not really sure exactly WHEN I did decide to become an actress. Growing up, I did a million different after-school activities and summer camps, and one of the places that I loved the most and just kept coming back to was this amazing youth theatre called The Young People’s Theatre in Toronto, Canada. I suppose that’s really where I found this love of performing, of being seen, of telling stories for an audience. I acted in every play that came along in high school and I think that’s maybe around when it really started to feel like, “Oh, I think I’m sort of good at this and it makes me feel alive in a very singular way. I think I can DO this professionally.” I also had a very supportive drama teacher at the time who really encouraged me to consider acting professionally, so I enrolled in the Conservatory Acting program at York University in Toronto and that’s where I really learned the more classical, technical aspects of performance. It was a super small program; they only accepted sixteen of us into the program each year, so there was a tremendous amount of pressure. But I also learned a huge amount about myself, what I was capable of and what sort of emotional fortitude one needs to really stay in this business.

Photo by Vanessa Heins

It looks like The Smart Woman’s Survival Guide was your earliest work. How did you get involved with that show and what are your memories of that experience? 

Yes, The Smart Woman’s Survival Guide was my first real television acting job out of university. I was ridiculously lucky to land it within the first six months of graduation, which I should say is completely insane, and I was spoiled by getting to work professionally so soon after leaving school. I LOVED being on that show. It was this wonderful group of three very different, but incredibly funny, smart and intelligent women who were my co-stars. We were all pretty green when we started the show, so it felt like we were all figuring things out together–what’s funny, what works, how to keep your energy up for a traditional shooting day. I have such fond memories of that time and that cast; I’m actually still friends with a few of them!

It was also where I learned that I was more geared towards comedy than drama. I had come out of York with all this very heady training and the idea that I was a serious actor who could cry on command and channel these incredibly dark emotions. So the first few episodes of this very light and fun little sitcom, you can see me really just wringing my hands and trying to make an emotional mountain out of a cute molehill (it’s honestly so embarrassing to watch). But over the course of the three seasons, I started to understand the joy of being a comedic actress and how tricky it really is. Several of my co-stars were unbelievably funny people and we had so much downtime between scenes it became clear to me, I wanted to make them laugh the way they made me laugh. Eventually, I realized I could! That show gave me so much confidence in my own ability to make people laugh.

Hallmark fans first saw you in Fir Crazy. Any special moments from that set?

Fir Crazy was my first foray into the world of Hallmark Christmas movies!! That was a really lovely experience! My memories of that time are very warm, like, EXTREMELY warm, perhaps too warm. So, I hope I’m not ruining any of the winter illusion that Hallmark does such an amazing job creating, but most of the Christmas movies you guys see are filmed in and around Toronto in the spring and summer. And despite all stereotypes to the contrary, Toronto is very, very hot in the summer time. I just remember wearing this pregnancy belly with a coat and gloves and a scarf in the middle of a heatwave outside in the sunshine with all of these other amazing actors and extras dripping with sweat and thinking, “Use your acting, just ACT like you’re cold! Just blow on your hands or bundle up your scarf!” One of my favorite memories of that shoot was getting into a completely fake, but very committed fight with Colin Mochrie (who played the villainous Gary Dixon, but is actually the kindest, funniest man you will ever meet) because he was wearing this fur hat I think, or a cashmere coat and he was just dying in the heat, so we kept trying to force wardrobe to do up each others coats or put on our gloves. Basically, how much more winter clothing could we force on each other?! I argued that because of the fake pregnancy belly, my coat simply had to be left open and he was NOT having it and kept suggesting ways he could remove his scarf dramatically at some point in the scene. I don’t remember who won that battle, but that man really made me laugh.

from Max and Shred

How did you get involved with Max and Shred? What was most memorable about that show for you?

Max and Shred came into my life the same way all the roles in my career have, and that’s through a simple audition that you cross your fingers is going to go your way. I auditioned twice–once on my own and then a second time with the actor who was already cast to play my character’s husband and then…..I got the call! I had never acted on any type of youth or kids’ show before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. All I hoped was that it wouldn’t be too ridiculous or big or involve me getting food thrown at me in some capacity. Luckily, we had a fantastic team of writers and producers who really trusted the audience and didn’t speak down to a younger demographic.

from Max and Shred

There’s this saying that in show business, you should never work with children or animals. I assume because there’s an element of unpredictably there, but we had the most precocious, intelligent and interesting group of kids helming that show, it was such a joy. My favorite memories of working on Max and Shred were watching the kids grow as performers. They were all wildly gifted and charming when they started, but seeing how they started to process things and get more confidence in their character choices and what funny really is–that was incredibly cool. Also, just being around such funny, smart, young people, I learned so much. But if you ever want to feel one hundred years old, just hang out with a group of 14-16-year-olds and try and keep up with what they’re listening to and what they’re watching. Whatever level of cool you thought you had….gone, instantly obliterated. Oh and also, you do NOT want to work with live snakes or possums; the rumors about those creatures on set are entirely true, and unpleasant .

We’ve also seen you in A Perfect Christmas and A Nutcracker Christmas.  What do you enjoy about working for Hallmark? By the way, A Nutcracker Christmas was a favorite in our household!

Hah! I feel like we’re unearthing my career secret here. I’m secretly in every single Hallmark Christmas movie! If you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot me even deep in the background in some. No, I’m kidding, but I have been so lucky to get to play in several of them.

From A Nutcracker Christmas, The “Dance Moms”

I know its bad to rank projects, but A Nutcracker Christmas was one of my absolute favorites to work on from the Hallmark family. We had an incredibly talented director, Michael Lembeck, who really was an actor’s director. He literally made me a better actor over the course of our shoot in Toronto. Working with him was such an amazing experience, and quite frankly a career highlight. We were shooting in my hometown in all of these incredibly iconic locations I had been obsessed with when I was younger and taking ballet lessons. I stopped dancing when I was around sixteen and never made it to the National Ballet School or anything like that. (I think my teacher back then said something to the effect of, “Well you’re very good at the more theatrical roles, less of a technical dancer though,” and that pretty much told me everything I needed to know about my future as a prima ballerina.) So to shoot on location in these beautiful studios and the incredible Winter Garden theatre when it’s empty except for us….it was really magical.

I also got stuck with the most hilarious group of women playing my friends. Geri {Hall}, Raven {Dauda} and Shauna {MacDonald} were the other dance moms in the film so almost all of our scenes were together. I can’t tell you how many times we got yelled at for laughing in between takes or making up elaborate backstories for each of our characters. We felt VERY strongly the dance moms should get their own spin-off series. Hallmark, think about it! Amy Acker was also such a doll; she has this wonderful kindness about her right off the bat and as I was playing her first friend in a new city-  it was really no acting required. I think she did such a lovely job in this. I have such fond memories of this entire shoot. I’m so glad your family liked it too!

From Murdoch Mysteries

I also noticed you on Murdoch Mysteries.  How did you get such a fun role on that series? What has been your experience with that cast and crew? What do you enjoy most about this show? 

Murdoch Mysteries is an ongoing role for me, which is always such a nice thing as you get to discover your character slowly; each episode revealing something new and (usually) hilarious about my character. I had auditioned for Murdoch several times before landing the role of Ruth Newsome, and the moment I read the character description, I fully understood that this was the role I had been waiting for. She’s the most ridiculous, over-the-top, oblivious, poor-little-rich girl. I had some fairly broad ideas about what her backstory was and her family history and how she might carry herself from watching a bunch of old films, like Bringing up Baby with Katherine Hepburn,where the archetype of the petulant rich girl was really first invented. But once I had my first wardrobe fitting at the studio, that’s when I knew exactly who Ruth was. They had me in the most over-the-top dresses in these insane bright colors and gorgeous fabrics and these incredible hats that were like sculptures on my head. They put Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady to shame! It always amazes me how wardrobe can just settle you into a role with such confidence and certainty.

from Murdoch Mysteries

After that, I knew this character was going to be a real delight to play. Murdoch had been going on for ten seasons when I joined in, which can be a bit daunting, especially when it’s such a big hit. But Yannick {Bisson}, who plays the title character, is the most welcoming man. He is such an incredible captain of that ship, instantly warm and so so funny. The show is one of the most well-oiled machines I’ve ever gotten to play on….I suppose one of the benefits of having done so many seasons.

The other wonderful thing about playing Ruth is that they tend to bring me on when a bit of comic relief is needed. Normally the episodes are dealing in pretty heavy circumstances–dead bodies and foul play and sinister elements. And then every now and then, they unleash this crazy girl in her giant hat with seven birds on it to flounce around and ruin people’s investigations. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had on a set, and I’m wearing a full corset for twelve hours a day, so that should tell you something!

Any plans to write/direct/produce?

I would love to write something one day. There are a few pretty personal and interesting stories I have knocking around in my brain, but I haven’t yet given myself the time to really sit down and scribble out what they may actually look like on screen. I need to be a bit braver about that and just get on with it. Hopefully soon!

Photo by Vanessa Heins

What is your favorite season of the year and why is it your favorite? 

Oh, no question, favorite season is right around Christmas! I know, I know, it’s winter and it’s awful and cold and your shoes get ruined, but I really do love Christmas. I’m still nine years old inside whenever we get close to Christmas; all the twinkly lights and the fires burning and so much good food. This may explain why I’ve been in quite a few Hallmark Christmas films; perhaps I just radiate pure joy whenever someone mentions that time of year around me!  “That girl really seems to like Christmas; we should probably put her in our film.” Also, no one blinks an eye if you consume an entire wheel of brie in one sitting. (Ugh, my absolute fav!) It’s the holidays !!

Photo by Ian Brown

When I reach out to interview an actor with whom I have had few previous interactions, it sometimes feels as though I am “shooting in the dark,” as I’m concerned that I am posing the right questions, addressing the pertinent details in a comprehensive manner, and ensuring the process is as authentic as possible. Heretofore, I was unfamiliar with Siobhan’s personality, and as I attempted to bequeath her with as much freedom as possible, I prayed that we would truly connect over the course of our conversation.

Providentially, my fears were quelled by the responses of this lovely, dynamic woman. From the very beginning, Siobhan made herself available, open and engaging. Furthermore, she adores Hallmark and Murdoch Mysteries, and the details she shared about each of those roles are exactly what I know my readers will delight in discovering. She took the freedom I gave her and put in as much of herself as possible, and I even perceived her charming sense of humor shining through her detailed account. And I cannot even tell you how thrilled I am that she cherishes Christmas (sometimes actors are not as enthusiastic about Christmas films as she is), and I reveled in her idea for a spin-off series. That would be phenomenal, and you never know. It could happen!

I have thoroughly enjoyed Siobhan’s on-screen talent, but now I feel as though I have caught a glimpse of the humble, sensitive, sweet, kind, and vivacious woman she is in real life, and I can hardly wait to seek out her next big project, whatever that may be! She is a true professional, but she never loses sight of the goal–make it appear effortless and sincere with a dash of charisma and sparkle when needed, and above all, don’t forget to have fun! And you know what? In my opinion, she excels at every step along the way, and I am immensely grateful to her for taking the time to share a little more about herself and the acting prowess we viewers have the honor of witnessing every time she appears on the screen.

Please be sure to check out all her links below, and I recommend following her on social media as well. After all, an artist of her caliber deserves all the support we fans can muster, and I greatly anticipate her next appearance, whether Hallmark or not. But I sincerely hope Hallmark has put her in another Christmas movie this year! (Hint, hint!) After all, she is a laudable actress who has labored incessantly to be where she is, and we only want the absolute best for her always!

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

1 Comment

  1. Valerie Lerma April 27, 2017 Reply

    wow so much accomplishment

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