'Bewitched's Tabitha, Secret Twin Child Star, Then And Now
Twins Diane (left) and Erin Murphy on the set of 'Bewitched,' ca. 1964. Source: Bettmann Archives/Getty
Tabitha Stephens, Bewitched's magically-gifted young girl, was the daughter of Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery), the modern witch at the center of the long-running TV sitcom. Mixing the supernatural with daily life in suburbia, Bewitched had a comedic formula that audiences loved, keeping the show on the air from 1964 to 1972, even weathering the departure of a main actor (Dick York, who left the role of Darrin Stephens and was replaced by Dick Sargent). Of course, the beautiful and comedically talented actress Elizabeth Montgomery carried the show, along with Agnes Moorehead (who played her mother Endora, also a witch) and memorable guest appearances from Alice Ghostley (Esmeralda) and Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay).
But don't forget Tabitha, an important part of Bewitched, played by Erin Murphy. Or we should say, played mostly by Erin Murphy. Did you know she was a twin?
Spellbound In Suburbia
On the show, Darrin Stephens met and married Samantha without knowing she was a (good) witch. Darrin was married for better or for worse, so he ultimately accepted that his wife had magic powers, although he wasn’t happy about it. Samantha had given her “witches honor” that she would not use her powers from then on. She genuinely meant it when she promised, but to Darrin's frequent chagrin, she had trouble keeping her promise. Hijinks involving Samantha's use of her powers and Darrin's reaction were the bread-and-butter of the show.
A Daughter With A Little Something Extra
Erin Murphy played Tabitha, the Stephens's cute blonde daughter. When Samantha became pregnant with their first child, Darrin hoped against hope that his child would be a normal human. Much to his dismay, after Tabitha was born, the couple discovered that she had been born with the gift of magic. As a child, Tabitha didn't always understand the implications of her actions, and naughtily used her magical powers even though her parents discouraged it.
Spell Of Duplication
Tabitha was actually portrayed by twins -- not only Erin Murphy, but her sister Diane as well. The girls were only 2 years old when they joined the show. To comply with child labor laws limiting the amount of time a child could spend on camera, the Murphy twins took turns playing Tabitha. Although the girls were fraternal twins, they were hard to tell apart early on.
As the series continued and the girls got a little older, Erin Murphy eventually got the role all to herself. She was a natural performer and it was apparent that she loved being on the set. Her sister, Diane was very unhappy in the spotlight and often cried on set. Even now, she doesn’t like the limelight.
Many child actors have been known to fall victim to the downside of stardom; often getting caught up in inappropriate behavior that landed them in trouble. Unlike other child actors, Erin Murphy counted herself lucky to have played a role on the popular television show. Murphy felt as if she had the best of both worlds. Some child actors, and children, in general, were lucky if they had one or two parents to keep an eye on their well-being. Murphy had, in essence, four parents -- her biological parents, as well as her television parents -- looking out and caring for her.
Two Big Happy Familes
Murphy regarded Darrin and Samantha as surrogate parents. She loved the limelight, and has described the Bewitched set “a great place to grow up.” She called Elizabeth Montgomery "Mantha Mommy" and both Darrins (Dick York and Dick Sargent) "Darren Daddy." Murphy definitely loved them all and thought of them as parents.
Life After 'Bewitched'
Erin Murphy was very close to Elizabeth Montgomery. She surmises that it was because Montgomery was so nurturing and that they spent so much time together, on set. Make no mistake, though, Murphy was close with her biological (real) parents as well.
The Bewitched sitcom aired from 1964 to 1972. After Bewitched ended in 1972, Erin Murphy continued with her acting career in various gigs, including commercials and modeling jobs. She was offered many jobs that she turned down. Ultimately, Murphy resolved to enjoy what she described as a normal childhood. She eventually became a cheerleader and homecoming queen of her high school.
Erin Murphy Today
Erin Murphy considers herself among those who are fortunate, having not only survived child stardom, but enjoying it, describing the loving showbiz environment as "the best of both worlds." She loves her life now and enjoys being a mother, charity volunteer and activist.
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