Wynonna Earp: Interview: Dominique Provost-Chalkley

Waverly 2Dominique Provost-Chalkley may have an impeccable American accent in her role as Waverly on Syfy’s hit supernatural Western series Wynonna Earp, but chatting with Sci-Fi Bulletin, her native British tones are back. Her character’s relationships on the show – particularly with her sister Wynonna, and local law officer Nicole Haught (pronounced “Hot” leading to the hashtag #Wayhaught) – are central to the show’s appeal. She broke off from settling in to her new home to chat with Paul Simpson…

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The series has certainly fired up the fans…

It has, hasn’t it! I can’t quite believe how much but I’m very very happy that everyone is responding so well.

How did you get involved?

Wynonna Earp - Season 1Obviously I’m from the UK, and I have a manager that’s in the US who sends me auditions every now and again. Wynonna came up in my inbox. I had a little read of the script, loved it, and I put myself on tape with my friend. Of course you never in a million years think that from a self tape in my bedroom something is going to hit.

A few months later I got a phone call saying “Could you read for the sister?” I obviously thought that Wynonna had gone but they asked me to read for Waverly, and when the script came through I just knew that it was way more suited to me. Of course I put a lot of work in, and did a second tape, then I got a phone call from them saying that they loved what I did and [showrunner] Emily [Andras] would love to meet me. Would I come to Toronto?

Actually I happened to be in Montreal at the time, visiting family, and so I said, “yes I’m there!” I got in the room with Emily and Melanie Scrofano [Wynonna] who came to read with me, and we had the most wonderful audition where I suddenly felt like it was meant to be. It honestly felt like that – I met two incredibly strong, beautiful women, and we ended up just having the most fun, and were bantering off each other from the get-go. It was probably the funnest audition I ever had in my life.

We ended up sitting down afterwards and eating quiche together. I kept thinking in my head, “You haven’t got the job yet, so don’t say anything appropriate! Be on your best behaviour – but how is it that we’re sitting down eating quiche? It doesn’t make any sense.” That was really lovely and very special.

They rang me the same day, which has never happened to me before – so I think something aligned that day, and I was very fortunate. I get to play the lovely Waverly.

Waverly 1What did Emily tell you upfront about her? Obviously she has changed across the series, but there are certain core elements to her that have been constant.

Absolutely. Emily spoke to me about Waverly as the heart of the show. The bubbly comic relief was how they pitched her originally, but I think the greatest gift that they’ve given me in the series is how much she evolved as a character, how many different layers you find out about Waverly as you go through. I’m not entirely sure if they had had that as an idea before they started or if that came into the writers’ room as we went along, but I fell in love with Waverly straightaway.

She’s just a fun character in the first few episodes – I get to do so many cool things. Just that entrance with the shotgun… you never expect that somebody is going to write that as your entrance.

I knew that Waverly was an extremely cool character but I didn’t’ know the extent of what how much it was going to evolve,. And I feel extremely lucky that they’ve given me that gift.

How much of the #Wayhaught relationship were you aware of going in?

Honestly? I didn’t have a clue that Waverly was going to be bisexual/bi-curious at all!

Waverly 3I’d already come to Calgary, and we’d just shot the pilot and then the second episode came in. I read this amazing scene with Nicole coming into the bar and I sent Emily an email straightaway – it must have been ten o’clock at night, I was reading the script in bed – and I said, “Oh my goodness whoever wrote in that Waverly is bisexual/bi-curious is an absolute genius”. Emily responded immediately saying “Oh my gosh, did you not know? I’m so sorry! Are you okay with this?” She was worried that I wasn’t going to be okay with it, but for me it was the best situation ever – the very fact that Waverly has another layer to play was an extremely exciting prospect for me. I was very willing to take it on, and Emily and I had a really fantastic conversation about it the next day and inspired me even more where we were going to take it. I had an idea of what they wanted to do with the relationship, and it evolved from there.

From talking to her, she said they only had 5 scripts written before starting shooting, so the developments we’ve seen – such as the scene in last week’s episode and everything that built up to that – very much came out of how it looked on film…

Waverly 6Exactly, yes. That’s something that I have learned from doing Wynonna – Emily has told me that they see the chemistry as they go, they look at different people on screen and see how they work together, and change the script and storylines from that. That’s really inspirational, because that means they’re working with us, and seeing what works and what doesn’t as we go. Kudos to them that they can do that so well and seamlessly, and I think that’s what makes it such a special series. You really see the characters that do genuinely connect.

What was the biggest challenge for you?

That’s a good question… nothing springs out, which is really lucky, because of course I immersed myself into a new show, a new country. I took a leap of faith and all of that that comes with moving halfway around the world. I was received so warmly, and the cast and crew were so encouraging and supportive that honestly it was seamless really. I was really fortunate because it could have gone one of two ways.

The biggest challenge was probably the cold. I have to say it was very chilly sometimes there, certainly in the outdoors scenes. I had to combat that, and not try and think about that when I was acting – and of course doing the accent on top of that in the cold! It was rather difficult to articulate some of the words when your mouth feels like it’s frozen solid.

But honestly I jumped headfirst and I was caught every time, so I was very lucky.

What was the best part of it for you?

Waverly 7I think developing a character that has such a journey – it’s my first experience of that – and being able to be so collaborative with Emily and the other actors. I learned a great deal from Melanie Scrofano – the way that she works opened my eyes to a slightly different technique in acting.

She is probably one of the most organic actors that I’ve ever worked with. She likes to find it in that moment – she hardly likes to rehearse at all, or pre-empt anything. She likes to really see what happens as we go, and I find that so inspirational because that is taking away the fear of doing it wrong.

I have a dancing background, and I’ve discovered from doing this job that I like to be as prepared as possible. I’m very much like Waverly in that sense – I like to research, do all of my homework before I get on set. But there’s something beautiful if you let go of the fear of getting something wrong and just see what happens organically with the person in front of you. I think that is what you see when you look at the Wynonna/Waverly scenes because I tried my absolute best to take that on and work in her way, and I think that created some of the most beautiful work on the show.

I’d say that I expanded as an actor tremendously – I’d like to think so anyway. That’s the thing I would take away from it most.

In the hope of a second year, are there certain things that you’d like to see Waverly do or have happen to her?

WAverly 5I was thinking about this the other day because Emily asked me the same question. We’re so lucky we have a showrunner who cares so much about us as people as well as actors. She was saying, “if we go a second season, I’d love to take you out for a coffee and discuss where you’d like to see Waverly go and what you’d like to bring out of her.”

I think I’d love to explore her darker side a little bit more – and what I meant by that is she’s incredibly brave. I think that is one of the characteristics that I love about Waverly the most. Underneath all the insecurities and the bubbly crazy character that she is, she is the only one of the team that doesn’t have much experience in the field and doesn’t have any superpowers as such – like the gun or immortality – but she still wants to be out front fighting and very much being a part of it. I think that’s really inspiring and I would love to explore her bravery and explore her depths a bit more.

It sounds like you could have a lot of fun with that…

It does, doesn’t it! That’s exactly it – as an actor you just want to do it all, so I feel that we’ve established Waverly’s very extremely likeable side, and her bubbly side but I would love to see her explore a little darker flavour… and of course explore Wayhaught and where we can go with that. That’s exciting.

Waverly 8What else are you doing?

I’ve just moved to Toronto, and am just auditioning at the moment and moving my life around. It’s a lot of work moving – sorting out taxes and all that sort of malarkey. I’m in a bit of a period of transition but all’s going well. Obviously we’re hoping for a second season but we shall see!

Wynonna Earp airs on Syfy in the US, and begins on Spike in the UK on Fridays at 9 pm from July 29

Check out our other interviews:

Showrunner Emily Andras

Wynonna: Melanie Scrofano

Doc: Tim Rozon

Nicole Haught: Katherine Barrell

 

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