If you’re familiar with the series of the 1960s and 1970s where a witch marries an unsuspecting normal, everyday mortal and keeps using her magic without his knowledge (and later against his protests), you’re probably familiar with little Tabitha Stephens. Her arrival as the daughter of Samantha on Bewitched in the late second season episode “And Then There Were Three” was a pivotal turning point in the series (marking the first time Darrin embraced his mother-in-law as well as the first time he met Samantha’s lookalike cousin).
Tabitha was thereafter a main character, with her own plot-driven episodes, all the way to the last season in 1972. But what happened to the girl best-known for playing Tabitha (in 103 of Tabitha’s 119 appearances)? Buckle up, here’s what little Tabitha Stephens, known in real life as Erin Murphy, looks like and is up to now.
A bewitching early life
Erin Murphy was born on June 17, 1964 in Encino, California and she landed quickly in the spotlight. At just 11 months old, Murphy booked her first gig in a Folgers coffee commercial and then did a laundry detergent commercial with Ronald Reagan. She’s the adorable baby, if you couldn’t tell. But Murphy was meant for more than commercials, even as a baby.
Just before she was 2 years old, she and her fraternal twin Diane got the role of Tabitha. Even though she shared the part at first, it was Murphy who was used for all of the close ups while her sister Diane was used for cutaway shots. Murphy loved the spotlight. Her sister? Not so much. “From the time I was a baby, I love it,” Murphy told ABC News. “I liked the lights and loved being on my set. My sister used to cry when they would bring her on set. Even now she hates it.”
As the girls got older and started looking less alike, Murphy was the obvious choice to keep the character going. Because she was with the show and with the cast for so many seasons, they were like a second family for her. Speaking of her costars, she told ABC News, “I always called her ‘Mantha Mommy, because I couldn’t say Samantha, and I called Dick Sargent, Darren Daddy. That’s what I knew them as. They really were like parents to me.”
She kept busy after Bewitched
When Bewitched ended and its final episode aired on March 25, 1972, Murphy wasn’t yet 9 years old. While most kids that age don’t know what it’s like to have a job, much less be out of one, Murphy was the perfect age to take on new work. In 1973 she made a guest appearance as Molly Craig on the season 19 episode of Lassie called “The Visitor” and then quickly made her way back to more commercials. In an interview with Life After 50 magazine, Murphy said, “I did over 80 commercials up until I was in junior high. By then, I kind of lost interest, because I was into things like cheerleading and school activities.” In the photo above, Murphy can be seen in one of her many commercials, this one for Barbie.
Just your “normal” teenager
Murphy attended El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California and insists that her high school experience was relatively normal, but acknowledges that what she calls normal might be just a little bit different from what other people call normal. Strictly from the outside, however, it does seem pretty normal (though full of accomplishments and activities).
Not only was Murphy a cheerleader (good thing since that’s one of the things she gave up acting in commercials for), she was also in her high school dance production and crowned Homecoming Queen. Murphy graduated from El Toro in 1981, but according to all the odd jobs she did afterward, which we go into in the next slide, it seems she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do next.
She had a lot of odd jobs
For someone with as many talents as Murphy, it should come as no surprise that she was able to take on a variety of odd jobs, from selling cosmetics at the Mission Viejo Mall to working as a makeup artist and, according to her Facebook page, was also a casting director, fashion stylist, acting teacher, Karaoke club hostess (yes, really!), and motivational speaker.
“I’m a big believer that life is short and you’ve got to throw yourself into it,” Murphy told the Tolucan Times. “It’s a good thing to push yourself and maybe do things that are a little scary. It keeps life interesting.”
Still, working in retail and behind the camera just wasn’t what Murphy was meant to do and, soon enough, she found herself back in front of the camera and back inside our living rooms on TV. Not only as a stunt double for Virginia Madsen, but eventually once again as herself.
She was a reality TV correspondent
Reality TV seems like a rite of passage, not only for former child stars, but for just about everyone. Murphy is no exception. She got her first taste of reality TV as a correspondent for Fox Reality Channel and told Life After 50 magazine that it was a good fit for her at the time. “I had worked with Fox Reality Channel and loved it,” she said. “With Fox, I could make lunches and take my kids to school, work for a few hours, and still be home before school let out.” While Murphy said in the same interview that her true acting interests, should she act again, lie in the sitcom realm, first she spent more time in the reality TV realm.
She was a wrestler (sort of)
In 2008, Murphy appeared on Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling. While she told CMT that her kids were excited to see her wrestling, she didn’t let them come to the matches, instead opting to watch with them at home after each match. “Something about Dennis Rodman grabbing mommy around the neck might be a little scary,” she said.
But if you can’t imagine little Tabitha Stephens as a wrestler, that’s okay, neither could Murphy (who was ultimately eliminated third). “I had never even watched wrestling before I did the wrestling show,” she told the Tolucan Times. “It was scary and wonderful and awful and kind of everything you would imagine and I’m really glad I did it.”
She got glammed up by drag queens
In 2010, Murphy appeared as a contestant on another reality TV show, this time RuPaul’s Drag U, an experience she said translated at least a bit into her own professional experience. “[You] go in there and it’s all for good fun, but I have to say a lot of the drag tricks translate well to the red carpet, so I kind of got some posing pointers,” she told Socialite Life. For Murphy, why the shift to reality TV? She went on to tell Socialite Life that it’s about her kids.
“I think the biggest influence having a big family has had on my career is that it’s made me rethink my job choices,” she said. “I can’t do a sitcom or an hour-long drama — which is something I would be typically drawn to — but I’m not willing to be away from the family 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. I’ve made different career choices because I’m a mom. I mean, I love the reality genre and I love hosting but I don’t know that I would do as much of it if I didn’t have kids. I think I’d be on a sitcom.”
She owns a company
With her children in school and doing a sitcom not really an option at the time, Murphy wasn’t content to just sit at home. According to the feature of Murphy in Life After 50 magazine, she filled this void by helping to start a company and is the co-owner of Slim Chillers, which makes low-calorie vodka popsicles. (Um, yum!)
“We started the company two years ago and are in many retailers including BevMo, and we also have an online store,” she said. “Our signature products are four frozen pops that are flavored as an Appletini, a Cosmopolitan, a Lemon Drop, and a watermelon lemonade Martini.” She’s also the spokesperson for the company, which makes a lot of sense given her celeb status. So if you ever think you see her face on a truck, you might not be wrong.
She does theater
If there’s one thing Murphy said she’d never ever do, it was theater. As the saying goes, never say never. In 2016 she told the Windy City Times, “In the last two years I decided to act again so I started doing local LA theater.” By her own accounts, she started her fourth play in 2016 called “Dead Pilots Society” about TV comedy pilots that “never got air.”
It may seem like Murphy will do just about anything, but does draw the line. She told the Windy City Times, “I say no to many things. I never did horror films or Playboy but was asked many times.”
She does a lot of charity events
For Murphy, it isn’t all just about being in front of the camera or up on stage. According to A&U magazine, Murphy has been an AIDS activist for many years, including volunteering, fundraising, and participating in benefits. Not only is she an AIDS activist, she delivers meals through Meals on Wheels, raised money after Hurricane Katrina, spoken out against bullying, is a Childhelp Celebrity Ambassador, and raised money for cancer patients, among many other very worthy causes she’s supported. If only all celebrities, former child star or otherwise, could spend as much time supporting charitable causes, the world would be much better off.
She’s an autism advocate
Murphy is the mother of six children, one of whom was diagnosed with autism. Since then, she’s become even more involved, specifically in autism awareness. She’s done autism walks as well as a PSA on behalf of Actors for Autism and involvement in a number of events and fundraisers. “I was involved with autism charities before Parker was born and then obviously once he was diagnosed, I put that as my focus,” she told Fox News. “I go to board meetings, I volunteer. I speak at events. I think it’s important to be there for other parents who have questions. It’s one of those disorders that have become so prevalent.”
She’s worked as an alpaca rancher
Don’t let the title fool you. Though Murphy has always wanted to be a rancher, the reason she became one was because it was yet another way to give back, which seems to be her modus operandi. “Our family first got involved with alpacas as a form of pet therapy for our little boy with autism,” she said on her blog in 2012. “As parents of a child with special needs, we were also thinking of a long term career option for our son, since animals are his greatest love.”
It’s unclear based on the website for the Tranquil Veranda Ranch whether Murphy is still in the business of alpaca ranching, but there’s no doubt she was able to help people with her vision along the way.
She launched a Kickstarter for a clothing brand
If you were wondering what Murphy did with all the fiber from her alpacas (no? Just me?), she used that for good as well. In 2012, she launched a Kickstarter for Erin Murphy Knits, a company to provide knitwear using the fiber from her alpacas. Murphy wrote on Kickstarter, “I was looking for a business that was kid-friendly & eco-friendly, utilized 100% renewable resources and would help support the local economy. This led me to alpacas.”
The campaign, which was meant to help her launch a winter collection, was fully funded and the most recent update in November 2012 suggests that some items were shipped while she was working on the rest of the deliverables. While it appears that Erin Murphy Knits may now be defunct (or at minimum hasn’t had any updates in a while), I can’t help but admire her willingness to give back in any way she can.
You may be seeing more of her on screen soon
Now that some of Murphy’s sons are fully grown and the others are no longer small children, it may just be time for her to get back to her passion of acting. She was recently part of a 2017 short called I Might Be Famous, where she played the character Erin alongside the main character Tabitha Briarwood who, according to IMDb, “discovers that she’s no longer famous, which begins her outrageous journey to become a celebrity again.”
Also in 2017, she starred in the television movie Life Interrupted where she played Nina Woodworth, the woman for whom Mason’s wife Ally leaves him. While the TV movie didn’t garner much buzz, along with Murphy’s 2017 short it might signal her return to acting that we’ve all been waiting for.
Regardless of whether she goes full-fledged sitcom star again, we’re certain to see her doing something in the near future. “I don’t ever want to be complacent,” she told ABC News. We can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!