1 of 5 | "Praise Petey" premieres Friday. Image courtesy of Freeform/Hulu
NEW YORK, July 20 (UPI) -- Schitt's Creek, Russian Doll and Kevin Can F*** Himself alum Annie Murphy says she sympathizes with the reluctant cult leader she plays in the new animated adult comedy, Praise Petey.
"I feel bad for Petey, for those parents that she has. It is a very strained relationship with her mother (Christine Baranski), the mother who constantly forgets that she has a daughter. That can't be easy," the Emmy winner told UPI in a Zoom interview conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike.
"And, then, finding out that you have a dad. that you have a dead dad and that your dead dad was the leader of the cult is a lot to process," she laughed. "And, then to be asked to take over his job title, which is cult leader? Petey has a lot on her plate."
Premiering Friday on Freeform and Hulu, the show also features the voices of Stephen Root, Kiersey Clemons, John Cho and Amy Hill.
The series follows the titular heroine to the small town in which her late father's followers are awaiting her arrival as part of a prophesy.
There, Petey makes fast friends with cowboy Bandit (Cho) and barkeep Eliza (Clemons), as she tries to free the cult members who really seem to want to follow someone.
"When we first meet Petey, she is perhaps not the most confident person," Murphy said.
"She is voicing ideas in a whisper and then shimmying and apologizing for them. She has lots of room to grow, and I think Bandit and Eliza are two very important characters who come into her life and help her get to where she needs to be."
The actress said she didn't see how Petey would look before taping her lines, so she relied on the scripts and her imagination to figure out how she she should sound.
"I recorded in various stages. At one point, I was recording in a closet in Boston during the [coronavirus] pandemic," Murphy said, recalling how table reads and rehearsals were conducted over Zoom because the cast members couldn't be in the same place.
"It wasn't until halfway through the recording that I started to see some of the images," she added. "You see it come to life and you see how the brains of all of these animators have elevated so much what was already so wonderful on the page. It's a project I'm really proud of."
Murphy said she was eager to work with series creator, writer and executive producer Anna Drezen, a former head writer of Saturday Night Live.
"She is so incredibly funny and smart and strange," Murphy said. "I want to be a part of anything she does -- any time anywhere."
Murphy said she liked that the show was entertaining, but also made her consider more deeply how people impact the way others' think and act.
"The influencer culture is running so rampant right now. It's such a weird and wild world," she said. "There's no lack of material for Ana to draw from."
She said she didn't feel she needed to immerse herself in research about cults to prepare to play the part of Petey.
"I've certainly watched a documentary or two on cults in my past, just because it's absolutely fascinating," Murphy said.
After years of live-action sitcom work, the actress said she is enjoying the freeing, relatively laid-back experience of voicing characters in cartoons Praise Petey, American Dad, Crank Yankers and Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken.
"You can roll up in your sweatpants and no makeup and look like a total grub," she said.
"It's so wonderful. For film and television acting, its encouraged to be natural and grounded -- and being over the top is not necessarily encouraged," Murphy added.
"But with voice work, you can go in at an 11 [on a scale of 1 to 10] and then be encouraged to ramp it up from there. It's a whole other muscle that I was I really, really excited to use."