Wynonna Earp: Interview: Katherine Barrell

Katherine-Barrell 1Katherine Barrell has been surprised by the warm reception that she’s received for her performance as Officer Nicole Haught on Syfy’s hit supernatural Western, Wynonna Earp. The accomplished actress, who’s also a director and producer, took some time to chat all things #Wayhaught and much more with Paul Simpson…



Wynonna Earp seems to be a show that’s been received differently by the fans – has that been your experience?

Wynonna is the first show I’ve been on that’s had this level of response. It’s really been a whole new experience for me. It’s exceeded my expectations completely.

I knew the show was going to be big, but I didn’t realise I was going to be that big in it. I really didn’t realise that Nicole was resonate to the level that she has with the fans. I don’t even think that expectation was on the radar of possibility!

How did you get involved?

Just a regular audition. They had been casting last summer; they were auditioning Wynonna. They wanted to get their core character and build the whole team around her. Myself and all the girls in town auditioned for Wynonna, and then the next time was for Waverly, and I also auditioned for that.

I didn’t hear anything, but I loved the show – I was fortunate enough that I got to read the small series package bible. I was really familiar with the series by the time the audition for Nicole came around which was late September, I believe.

Katherine 2Quite close to shooting!

Yes – they were already shooting the pilot. I auditioned for Nicole on a Monday or Tuesday, and they called me on Thursday and told me that I had the part, and the next morning I needed to fly to Calgary. The next day I was on a plane. It was crazy – it was so, so fast. They had taken months over the other characters, but once they were shooting the pilot, they were like, “hey, we’ve got to go, the train is moving”, so there was a quick turnaround. I remember waking up in Calgary and thinking, “what happened?”

What did you know of her when you started?

Up front – I didn’t know Nicole was going to be pulled through so many episodes. I actually haven’t asked [showrunner] Emily [Andras] but I was originally only contracted to do six episodes, so I don‘t know if she had it in her plan the whole time to keep Nicole and bring her further and further in, or just see how it was playing out. Was the character resonating with other ones? Were the creative team happy with how I was portraying the character?

Emily is such a crazy smart woman that I know she always has a master plan but I’m not sure what it was – I was only expecting to do six episodes, and I had that in my head,. And I was constantly surprised when I’d get a new script and I’d be in it, and the next one… It got to the point where I thought, “Wow, I’m pretty involved now, this is good, this is great.”

As far as character, it was only that first scene, when Waverly and Nicole meet in Shortys and a small character description. That was kind of it.

It was very much, “Here comes the next episode in my in box, let’s read it and see what I’m doing next.” She’s so fly by the seat of her pants that I have no expectations of what they’re doing with her or where she’s going. As opposed to my cast mates who knew they were going to be in the entire season 1, I would open the script every week and just pray that I was still in it.

And check you’re not dead!


Obviously there’s a lot of attention on the Wayhaught relationship, and the LGBT element of the show…

Waverly 6I live in Toronto and I’ve grown up in the Greater Toronto area. Toronto is an extremely liberal place; we have a thriving gay community. Our premier of Ontario is a gay woman. My recent experiences with the fan reactions to Nicole on Wynonna Earp have reminded me how lucky I am to be living in a place that is so accepting and champions diversity amongst its citizens. It’s sadly not like that in many other places around the world. Being part of Wynonna makes me even more proud of being a Canadian and a Torontonian – my city is extremely rare, unique and special. Going into this, I didn’t realise how important Nicole was going to be to fans. Because where I live and the environment I am used to, being gay isn’t something anyone would blink an eye at.

When I saw the role, I thought, “awesome, I’d love to play a confident woman working in what is traditionally a ‘man’s world.’” Nicole just happened to be gay; that was just another layer to her, but not what I was focusing on. I didn’t realize the responsibility I would have to the queer community while playing Nicole, and I’m very grateful for that responsibility. I’m very blessed that I can be a positive role model for someone. I didn’t realise how much she was going to affect people. I feel great pride and honour in being able to play a character that means so much to people. I forgot how hard it is in so many other places for people; it renewed my sense of purpose and my sense of responsibility to represent the community on television.

What do you think drives Nicole?

I think she has a really deep sense of duty.

There are elements of Nicole that remind me of my father. My dad is extremely loyal; if you ask him to do something, he will get it done 110%. He will never let you down. A lot of what I’ve learned about Nicole reminds me of my father. She has a deep rooted moral code, doing right by other people, being kind and being loyal. Those deep rooted moral values drive her.

katherine 3What would you like to see brought out about her next year?

I’d like to see the other side of her. I’d like to see Nicole get angry. I’d like to see her be more uncomfortable – she’s so even-keeled.

I think that’s partly because we mostly see Nicole on duty. We are going to start to see her in her off time a little bit more, but so far we’ve really seen as the officer in her uniform, and when she puts that uniform on, it comes with a sense of “I’m doing my job. Part of my job is to keep myself together.”

I’d like to see Nicole lose her shit, I’d like to see her upset, see her torn between a really hard decision.

What was the biggest challenge of playing her?

To play the confidence, when I wasn’t feeling confident as an actor, if I was feeling unsure about a scene – I wasn’t doing a good job on something, or I wasn’t in the zone that day. It’s easy to get away with it if you’re playing a character that’s nervous or naturally a bit uncomfortable or unsure; if you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsure as the actor, you can play your natural state of being. The challenge of playing Nicole is that she’s so together and so in the driver’s seat that when I wasn’t feeling that way as an actor, it was really hard for me to play that.

WayHaughtAnd the best part?

Oh my gosh, I don’t think I can pick just one. Just getting to work with the team, the cast and crew, and to work on a show that Emily created. I really admire Emily so much: I admire her for the type of shows she’s making, and the way she’s changing the TV landscape for women. I’m so fortunate to get to work on projects with her and be in the room with her, hear her ideas, be inspired by her, which I have been, incredibly.

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 Wynonna Earp interviews:

Showrunner Emily Andras

Melanie Scrofano

Dominique Provost-Chalkley

Tim Rozon


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