Besides San Junipero, there hasn’t quite been an episode of Black Mirror that is specifically tailored towards the gays like Joan is Awful. (Spoilers incoming, btw.) The season six premiere stars A Little Bit Alexis singer-songwriter Annie Murphy as the titular Joan, a downbeat tech CEO who discovers that her entire life has been dramatised on the Netflix-esque streaming service Streamberry – in real-time, we should add – and that she’s being played by “Salma fucking Hayek”.
From Joan taking a shit in the middle of a church in a cheerleader costume with a dick drawn on her forehead to Joan and Salma’s “quamputer” rampage, Joan is Awful is the campest episode in Black Mirror’s history. Annie tells GAY TIMES that she didn’t grasp the episode’s queer appeal until she and Salma attended a Trixie Mattel-hosted screening that was swarming with “very excited, very loud and very involved gays”.
“Salma and I sat in the back in the dark, in the last row, and just held each other’s hand because we didn’t realise… Like, we knew it was a fun, good episode, but then hearing these genuine gasps and cackles… Salma got a standing ovation at one point,” says Annie. “It felt so nice to have it out in the world. It was a really special night.”
Here, Annie Murphy discusses the “twists and turns” of Joan is Awful, her and Salma’s plans to star in a buddy comedy and the “exact moment” she realised her status as a gay fan-favourite. Obviously, we had to interrogate the Schitt’s Creek icon about the whereabouts of the music video to her
Grammy Award-winning dance-pop anthem A Little Bit Alexis. (We might have to start a change.org petition.)
Annie, honestly, where do I start with Joan is Awful? I watched the episode today and I was blown away. I was flabbergasted. It’s genius.
Yay! That makes me so happy to hear. I mean, I’m with you. I shot it for six weeks, I’ve read the script so many times, I’ve seen it now three or four times and I’m still a little bit scrambled by what the content is and all of the twists and turns.
Once it got to the end and it was revealed that “Annie Murphy” was, y’know, I can’t…
I can’t. I read that, closed the script, got up and walked around my apartment like, ‘No no no. Nope! There must be some mistake. I don’t know what to do in this situation.’ It felt like another episode of Black Mirror. It really did. It felt so surreal.
It’s safe to say that, in this episode, you do a lot things that you haven’t had the chance to explore as an actor yet, such as embarking on a quamputer-destroying crime spree with Salma Hayek and taking a dump in the middle of a church with a dick on your ‘ed…
When you read the script, what excited you the most?
When I got a call from my agent to say that I’ve been offered a job on Black Mirror, I was just like, ‘Yes! I don’t care what the role is, I don’t care what the plot is, I just want to be a part of this.’ And then I got the script, saw the character that I was playing and that Salma fucking Hayek was going to be acting with me. Then, I saw that I get to take a shit in a church with a dick drawn on my head, dressed as a cheerleader… I was like, ‘This is some kind of weird divine intervention happening right now,’ because it was checking every single box I could imagine. And yeah, going on a buddy comedy rampage with Salma dressed as she was… My head truly exploded. I’m still putting back the pieces right now.
This is Black Mirror, so I wish I could ask you something intelligent, but my brain is still processing what I’ve just seen. So, Annie, let’s talk about the quotes in this episode, because there’s so many iconic lines of dialogue. My absolute favourite is your delivery of “Please don’t kill me Salma Hayek”. I literally screamed. What is your favourite line from Joan is Awful?
I think my favourite line of dialogue, which I’m going to butcher, it was Salma’s line that she improvised. It was something along the lines of, ‘You can take your contract and shove it up your asshole, and I hope you get papercuts on your hemorrhoids and die!’ Of course, Charlie Brooker didn’t write that. He’s far too Charlie Brooker, but she ran it past him and he begrudgingly let her do it. But, it’s so funny because she’s just so full of conviction when she’s saying it. It’s made me laugh every time.
Annie, the gays are going to go berserk over this episode because of the dialogue, the unhinged sequences and the pairing of two gay fan-favourites. When you were reading the episode, and then filming it, were you aware that the LGBT’s were going to go nuts over this?
It wasn’t the first thought that came to my head, but as we kept shooting… We actually did a screening last night for Pride with Trixie Mattel, it was the I Like to Watch show, and it was a room full of very excited, very loud, very involved gays. Salma and I sat in the back in the dark, in the last row, and just held each other’s hand because we didn’t realise… Like, we knew it was a fun, good episode, but then hearing these genuine gasps and cackles… Salma got a standing ovation at one point. It felt so nice to have it out in the world. It was a really special night.
I’m cackling to myself because I can imagine what I would’ve been like if I was there. There would’ve been plenty of finger-wags and “yas!”-es. I bet there was, right?
That’s exactly what it was. You’re picturing it correctly and you would’ve fit right in. It was a blast.
Joan is Awful is camp excellence. You and Salma together is something I didn’t know I needed and we need some kind of spin-off…
So, this is not a joke. We had so much fun together, and she is, first of all, wickedly smart and funny and willing to make fun of herself. I feel like that’s a rarity especially among the upper echelons of the Hollywood elite. But, we had so much fun together that, when we wrapped, we went up to Charlie Brooker and were like, ‘If you ever want to write a buddy comedy for us, just say the word and we’re here.’ He didn’t seem to love that idea, but we are genuinely putting out a call for anyone who wants to write a bro comedy for me and Salma. We would be so in.
We are all in. Each episode of Black Mirror is a commentary on technology and the consequences it can have. There’s a lot of themes in Joan is Awful, but what is your main takeaway from the episode?
When we shot it in September, we were all talking about how timely the episode felt and how relevant. But, skip to however many months later it is and this isn’t some kind of distant future or fiction that Charlie Brooker came up with. It is literally happening right now at this incredibly terrifying speed. It’s just scary to know that all of these incredibly brilliant minds are calling for a pause so we can try to begin wrapping our heads around these advancements and what they mean. Then, with the writer’s strike going on right now, and having one of the ask’s from the writers being like, ‘Can you replace us with robots and not train the machines off of our work?’ The fact that this is even a discussion right now is so much of a mindfuck, so we’re living in awesome – in the biggest sense of the word – times, but also really scary times, I think.
Just a few days ago, an actor [from Elité] put out a statement because a deepfake of him was circulating online… Again, Black Mirror has predicted the future.
I swear to god, [Brooker] is a psychic. He’s got his finger on some kind of pulse that we don’t.
Annie, since Schitt’s Creek, you have garnered a loyal and passionate LGBTQ+ fanbase. Can you pinpoint a certain moment when you realised the gays were on your side?
There was an exact moment and I will tell you when it was. I was meeting a friend in New York for a drink and the place that he suggested, I didn’t realise, was a drag bar. I got there early and I got myself a drink. I was waiting for him and all of a sudden the drag queen who was putting on the show comes up to me like, ‘Just so you know, I’m going to be doing A Little Bit Alexis mixed with Work Bitch.’ I thought she was going to be like, ‘So if that makes you uncomfortable, I’m not going to do that.’ But she was like, ‘So that’s what is happening’. Then she started performing A Little Bit Alexis and the whole bar was singing as my friend walked in to meet me! I had to be like, ‘I did not pay anyone for this to happen. This is just one of those life moments that I will never forget.’
That is absolutely brilliant. One final question: when are we getting the A Little Bit Alexis music video? I’m! Waiting!
I mean, that is a strongly worded letter to Dan Levy. I have been working on that for years. He kept saying, ‘Oh, we don’t have the budget for it’ but he does and we know it.
I’ll have a word with Dan.
Black Mirror season 6 is now streaming on Netflix.