Annie Murphy on Black Mirror's AI acting fears — and that Schitt's Creek call-out

Annie Murphy stars in the first episode of Black Mirror's sixth season. The Schitt's Creek star spoke to CBC News about working on the sci-fi anthology, and the Canadian elements of her episode.

All 5 episodes of the sci-fi anthology's 6th season are available on Netflix

Black Mirror's cast on working with Canadians

4 months ago
Duration 2:04
Featured VideoAnnie Murphy and Salma Hayek talk about working with several Canadians and a predominantly female crew in Black Mirror's sixth season. Danny Ramirez reveals he got his role on the show thanks to a tweet.

Annie Murphy is maybe an improbable star to lead the first episode of Black Mirror's newest season.

Back after a four year hiatus — partially because creator Charlie Brooker felt the frightening messages of his show were ill-timed for a world already frightened enough — the Netflix anthology series is once again here to plumb the depths of our tech-fuelled nightmares.

But while Schitt's Creek alum Murphy's comedy career might not sound much in line with that sci-fi tone, she saw parallels right away. 

"We've talked about it a lot and we feel like Charlie has some sort of like, psychic power to come up with these scenarios that end up kind of manifesting themselves in reality, a little bit down the road," Murphy said in an interview with CBC News ahead of the show's premiere.

"When we were shooting the episode, we were talking about it, and it seemed like something in the, you know, near future," added co-star Salma Hayek. "And now it's just a couple of months later, it feels like it's in the now."

WATCH | The official trailer for Black Mirror's latest season:

The parallels are found in their episode Joan is Awful, a story about the titular awful Joan (Murphy), and an Orwellian tech that strips both her and Hayek's character of control over their likenesses.

While that's as specific as it's possible to be without giving away the game, it's fair to say for both Hayek and Murphy that their episode echoed real-life concerns: actors replaced digitally and made to perform in productions without their knowledge or actual participation.

With the advent of artificial intelligence writing software, hologram performers and computer generated music and actors, Murphy sees the writing more than on the wall. 

"With the writers strike part … requesting that AI doesn't take their jobs and that AI isn't trained on their work," she said. "We don't know how that's going to turn out. The potential for lost jobs is massive right now."

On this shoot though, she said, the reality was pretty much the opposite. Along with a direct, by name Schitt's Creek call-out and Michael Cera cameo, their episode was directed by a Canadian — past Schitt's Creek writer Ally Pankiw.

Along with making sure the Canadiana was high in that episode, Murphy says Pankiw was "advocating for as many women to be part of the show, which was so incredible."

"I'd never been on a set with so many women in front of, and behind, the camera."

Black Mirror's sixth season premiered in its entirety on Netflix Thursday morning. 


Jackson Weaver is a senior writer for CBC Entertainment News. You can reach him at jackson.weaver@cbc.ca, or follow him on Twitter at @jacksonwweaver