Interview With Wynonna Earp’s Katherine Barrell
Wynonna Earp, SyFy Channel’s delightful horror-western genre mash-up, proved to be a hit for the network and gathered a loyal fanbase. Happily for fans, Wynonna Earp has been renewed for season two.
The series, which centers around a modern female gunslinger with a demon-killing gun, features a great ensemble cast. I was lucky enough to get to chat via email with Katherine Barrell, who portrays Officer Nicole Haught. Officer Haught gets caught up in the supernatural goings-on in the town of Purgatory and romantically involved with Wynonna’s sister Waverly.
Read on to hear Katherine Barrell’s thoughts on playing different genres, the romance between Waverly and Nicole (known as “WayHaught” in fandom), and Nicole’s journey into the world of demon-hunting.
The Geekiary: Wynonna Earp combines several genres: horror, westerns, urban fantasy. You’ve done horror, comedy, and drama. Which feels most natural to you? What do you enjoy about being on a genre show that’s such a blend of genres?
Katherine Barrell: Personally I love playing in comedy. I find it the most challenging of genres because you have to be so incredibly present with your scene partner and think so quickly. However I really do like that I get to play in so many different genres in my career. Not a lot of actors get to do that and I am very fortunate—it keeps me sharp as an actor to vacillate between several styles.
I love that Wynonna is a genre bending show. The best part about working on a show like this is that you get to play in both genres at once—it’s never boring. In the morning we could be shooting a fun action scene with lots of humor and in the afternoon things could get quite serious. It really is the best of all worlds!
TG: In season one, Nicole Haught developed as part of the team of heroes, and found herself pulled more deeply into the world of the supernatural. As law enforcement, she seems fairly practical. How does Nicole feel about all the weirdness?
KB: I think Nicole loves a good challenge and is extremely smart. I feel like the more complex a case the more driven and consumed she becomes. I think at the end of season one Nicole is evidently relieved to finally be let into the secret of the Earp curse and Black Badge Division. I feel like inside she’s saying “giddy-up—bring it on!”
TG: Your chemistry with Dominique Provost-Chalkley (who portrays Waverly Earp) is delightful, and the romance between Nicole and Waverly (which fans call “WayHaught”) has a big following online. What’s most rewarding about being a part of that?
KB: The most rewarding part is getting the letters from the fans telling me how WayHaught helped them through a difficult time. For some of them it helped them come to terms with and celebrate who they really are, or gave them courage to come out to their family. For some it is the opportunity to see themselves reflected back on TV for the first time. For the first time in my career I can really see the good that my work is bringing into the world. Sometimes acting can feel so soul-sucking and self indulgent, but the opportunity to play Nicole made me feel like I was actually making a difference in someone’s life—that’s so special to me!
TG: Wynonna Earp has taken some sly digs at the “bury your gays” trope. When you started this role, did you know about the criticism a number of shows have taken for how they treat LGBT characters?
KB: I didn’t at all and I am glad I did not as I feel it would have put a lot of pressure on me. This will really be my season two challenge—not to let what I now know about the importance of this character to the community get in my way of an honest portrayal of how she is written in the script. It will be especially hard if I come across a scene where Nicole is doing something I know the fans won’t like. I can’t let that thought get in my way of playing the scene and serving the story as a whole. At the end of the day Nicole is just a piece of the bigger puzzle.
TG: In light of that, what kinds of changes in the TV industry do you hope to see?
KB: I hope that we continue to move towards more diverse characters in our media. I think that starts with more diversity in decision-making positions. We need to see creators of different genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations in the writer’s room, as producers, and in the director’s chair. Those are the roles where the story content decisions are made.
TG: The cast of Wynonna Earp seems to have a fantastic rapport together. Is there any particular day on set that stands out to you?
KB: I loved the days where we shot the big finale party. It was the first time the entire cast was together on set and it was SO much fun to look around and see everyone there!
TG: Can you tell us anything about season two? What’s ahead for Officer Haught, and for WayHaught?
KB: Unfortunately that info is kept under tight wraps even from me. I won’t know until I get to set and read a script!
TG: What would you most like to see for your character? What do you think Nicole most wants? (Aside from Waverly, of course).
KB: I think Nicole wants to be included in the Black Badge gang. I think she craves more challenging work as an officer and wants to take her career to the next level. She craves a challenge and I think it will be tough for her to focus on everyday police tasks when she knows demons are running around!
TG: You’ve done some directing and producing. What draws you to directing versus what draws you to acting? Does that come from a similar place?
KB: I felt like I didn’t have a right to complain about things I didn’t like in the industry if I wasn’t willing to step onto the other side of the camera and be a part of changing it—be in that decision-maker position that I mentioned earlier. That’s what I love about directing and producing—the opportunity to create from nothing, whereas acting is the opportunity to create from something that has already been started and to further it. The link I love between both is that at the end of the day it is all storytelling. Storytelling is an art that has been around since the beginning of mankind as a way for us to process emotions, carry traditions, and figure out the great mysteries of life. And we’re still doing it—it is essential to the human condition.
TG: Is there a type of role you haven’t played yet that you’d like to play?
KB: I would love to play a character who has a physical or mental disability. I want to see more of these characters portrayed in the media and I believe doing this character justice would be an incredible challenge as an actor and bring humbling sense of pride.
Author: Dot R
Dot has been bouncing around various fandoms for many years now writing essays, episode reviews, commentary, and reporting news and conducting interviews, among other things. Along with being a DC, Star Wars, and Supernatural fangirl, Marvel has become one of her main obsessions, along with the Marvel and DC television universes and the MCU. She’s also a fan of science fiction television shows, everything from Farscape to Killjoys to 12 Monkeys. Currently Fangirl at Large covering numerous geek culture related topics, convention news, casting spoilers, show news, and interviews.