Wynonna Earp hits the right notes and changes the tune of genre TV

Emily Andras found the perfect project to be her first to create from the ground up in Wynonna Earp. She also found the ideal actress in Melanie Scrofano to play the lead. That’s what Andras, who ran Lost Girl during its later stages, discussed a few weeks ago. Now that we’ve seen the first two episodes of Wynonna Earp, we have to agree.

Debuting Monday, April 4, at 9 p.m. ET on CHCH—and Friday, April 1 on Syfy—Wynonna Earp is packed with the action, swagger and attitude associated with Andras’ work while setting itself apart from other shows in the genre. Beautifully shot and boasting one of the most memorable TV bad guys we’ve seen in years in Michael Eklund, Wynonna Earp is a bona fide thrill ride. Based on the IDW Publishing comic created by Beau Smith, the 13-episode first season features Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna Earp, Tim Rozon as legendary con-artist Doc Holiday, Shamier Anderson as Wynonna’s ally Agent Dolls and Dominique Provost-Chalkley as Wynonna’s sister, Waverly.

We spoke to Andras about running her first series, filming in Calgary, landing Scrofano and what viewers can expect from Season 1.

What was it like filming Wynonna Earp in Calgary?
Emily Andras: It was crazy. I actually grew up in Calgary. I left there in the mid-90s so it was very surreal to be back. It was both completely familiar, as it is when you return to your hometown, but so much had changed. Calgary is such an interesting place right now. It’s a place of contradictions. There is big oil, but at the same time they have such a vibrant arts community and a progressive mayor. And, on top of that, it’s truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever filmed. I feel like Alberta is untapped as far as television is concerned. They’ve had an incredible year with Fargo and The Revenant, but it seemed like a such a delicious place to set this show and have some fun.

I know people always say this, but I really feel like this is the best crew that I’ve ever worked with. It’s such a small community and they’re so supportive of each other. They are extremely humble and extremely good at their jobs. They’re not jaded and they were legitimately pumped, I think, to work on a genre show. My daughter got to ride horses, my little guy got a trampoline, it was great.

Wynonna Earp is the first series you’ve been the showrunner on from the ground up, correct?
Yeah, this is the first show that I’ve had the pleasure of creating.

Showrunner Emily Andras
Showrunner Emily Andras

What did you learn about yourself as a showrunner, working on something you created?
This is not Doctors Without Borders and it’s probably very hard to work in a mine, but without a doubt this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Between the actual writing and meetings and negotiating with producers and networks, editing and making every single decision from wardrobe, to casting, to props, what we can do in the amount of time with the money we’ve got … there were many, many occasions when I thought, “I literally don’t have enough hours in the day to get all this done.” One thing that was really gratifying about being a showrunner on my own show is that you really do learn from other people their talents and their mistakes. I always say it’s like being handed the wheel of the Titanic: the buck stops with you, but if you kind of lean into it, it can be pretty amazing. You’re making the decisions and, hopefully, you’ve got everyone’s back.

It was a small writing room because it’s Canadian, and we had a much smaller staff. I saw a picture the other day of the writers’ room on How to Get Away with Murder, and I think I counted 21 writers. We had three writers. But that’s Canada and I think what we do is pretty incredible. We push ourselves and do the job of three people a lot of the time.

Did weather wreak havoc at all during filming?
We were really lucky in that we had a pretty mild fall and mild winter. There was one day we shot at night and had some animals on set, and it was so cold in the middle of the woods that the camera stopped working. Peter Stebbings was the director on that and you could see the moment he shut down and said, “Leave me behind, go on without me.” We had a couple of days like that.

How did the writers’ room work on Wynonna Earp? How many episodes did everyone write?
We had Alex Zarowny, James Hurst and Caitlin Fryers, Ramona Barckert did an episode, Shelley Scarrow did an episode, and Brendon Yorke. This is true of any writing room, but it’s critical in how you put it together. It’s one thing to put together a football team, but when you only have three or four bodies in a room and you’re in sweatpants and just ran out of M&M’s you better all get along. It’s like prison. So the dynamics of the group become critical and there are less people to pick up the slack so there has to be trust. Not everyone is going to nail it out of the gate, especially in the first season. In the first season of you show, you’re still trying to figure out what the show is. Is it Buffy? Is it Justified? Is it campy? What’s the sex level? There is so much to figure out during the first season, as well of the panic of just getting it done, the dynamic of the group is critical. We were really lucky. I had worked with most of the writers before, but they had to move to Calgary, so I had to make sure they were invested and wanted to make this work.

I run a pretty supportive room. My writers have seen me break down. Anything that’s good needs to be celebrated because you’re saving my butt. We became very close and bonded and I’m pretty sure the same thing happened to the writers of X Company because they were all in Budapest. Trust is critical.

Everybody wrote a couple of episodes and then the secret of television is that we pass all of the scripts around. I run a democratic room and I’m very up front that we’re all going to look at each other’s stuff.

This is true of any writing room, but it’s critical in how you put it together. When you only have three or four bodies in a room and you’re in sweatpants and just ran out of M&M’s you better all get along.

Wynonna Earp is based on the comic book. What stayed and what didn’t from the comics?
It was helpful because, honestly when IDW brought it to me I thought, “If I could cook up the perfect project in a lab it would be Wynonna Earp.” It has this sexy, vulnerable, completely messed up female protagonist, monster fighting and really dark, genre stuff. I cannot speak highly enough of the graphic novel’s author, Beau Smith; he is literally the classiest gentleman I have met in my life. He could not have been more open-minded about it and supportive. And I think he’s genuinely excited about what we’ve done with it. When he came to the set he cried … that said the comic is the product of a certain time, the early 90s. There is so much T&A, I’m not sure how Wynonna doesn’t fall over. She fighting mummies with band-aids over her breasts, as you do.

I came in and really liked the root of the property. What is it like if you’re the descendant of someone who is considered to be the greatest hero of all time? What kind of burden does that bring to your life? What does that legacy do? And I loved the idea that she worked for this clandestine monster-fighting squad that was with the government and established by Teddy Roosevelt. That was about all I took from he comic books. We created a ton of new characters and gave Wynonna sisters and both of the male leads were completely new.

Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna Earp
Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna Earp

How did you decide on Melanie Scrofano for the role of Wynonna?
We saw easily 300 Canadian actors from coast to coast, from L.A. and from Britain. It was quite a search and it’s hard when you see 300 people—and it’s a terrible thing to say but it’s the truth, it’s like looking at a resumé—after a while the words all sound the same. In the middle of this crazy group of 300 actresses there was Melanie. She came in and had blonde hair for another series she was on called Damien, and the funniest thing was she was chewing gum. That’s kind of a major no-no in audition. But she had such an incredible energy and I feel like she was the only one who really got the comedy of the piece. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. By the time we sent her to L.A. for a screen test I knew 100 per cent she was Wynonna Earp.

How does each episode roll out? Is there a monster-of-the-week and an overarching theme?
A little bit of both. It starts, like any genre show, with a pretty deep mythology that we keep turning on its head. The hope would be that, if we got picked up for another season, it would become more serialized as it tends to do near the end of the first season. At the beginning, she’s trying to figure out how to take down these demons and then about midway through we meet some of the bigger villains and see some of the alliances.

Wynonna Earp debuts Monday, April 4, at 9 p.m. ET on CHCH.