Interview with Wynonna Earp’s Katherine Barrell

For someone playing a character who finds herself in the midst of a cultural phenomenon just by existing, Katherine Barrell seems to be taking it all pretty well.

Maybe it’s because she’s seen the good side of the fandom – the good side of what Nicole and Waverly have accomplished, what the writers have accomplished, by making this relationship be just another thing that happens. The fan reaction, in her own words, has been “beautiful.  It’s been heartwarming.  It’s been extremely encouraging and I think just very positive.”

And that’s not just because of the relationship Nicole is in, but who she is – a female officer. For Barrell, it reminded her a lot of “the experience I’ve had being on the other side of the camera and doing, producing and directing, which until recently have been a very male dominated industry. I think that definitely came into play a little bit, too. I definitely have a bit of a first $10 joke what it feels like to be a woman in a man’s world. “

Sterotypes? Nicole Haught wants nothing to do with you. And neither does Katherine Barrell, for that matter. “I’ve been on cruise entirely surrounded by men.  I’ve been in, you know, trying to get decisions made and having to pitch things to a room of men who maybe don’t see the world the way I see it and that could be  – can be difficult.  And to think our industry is definitely changing, there’s been huge strides even in the like the past four or five years with women taking more the kind of decision maker position in the industry. But I think maybe that little bit of experience in my real life also helps a little bit with that fish out of water feeling that I think Nicole experienced sometimes.”

It also helped shape the way Barrell wanted to play the relationship between Nicole and Waverly, though she admits that, at first, she had no idea where it was going to go. “It was very much kind of like the fans are discovering it.  As an actor I was kind of doing that while reading the script so just kind of reading ahead and just seeing where the whole thing was going to go, and I am so beyond happy with where we ended at the end of season one.”

She’s not the only one.  Though there have been critics – there always are – the reception to the relationship has been almost overwhelmingly positive, especially because the show took the time to actually develop it.

Barrell has this to say about that: “We’ve seen it develop over the course of the season into something that we – I think the two of them really abated to make sure it was something that they both really wanted.”

The positive feeling is helped by the fact that Waverly and Nicole don’t exist in a vacuum, of course. Like Barrell explains “the writers on the show did a really beautiful job of making this relationship kind of so beautifully juxtaposed to what Wynonna was going through.” Because Wynonna is the main character, and she also has conflicting feelings, whether that is about “other Doc or Dolls or men in general.”

The comparison helps them both, because it helps us understand the two extremes, Barrell explains. “I think the beautiful thing about Waverly and Nicole of the relationship seems to kind of – beyond that opposite side of the scale.  Just this really pure, young beautiful pure love and I thought as a whole for the show it balanced the two extremes, and a way to explore these two different kinds of relationships really nicely.

Waverly and Nicole, however, don’t exist just to further Wynonna’s story, and that’s a good thing. No, that’s a great thing. Especially for two characters that have been so incredibly embraced by the fans – especially the ones who feel like television has somehow failed them.

Think, for example, of Lexa’s death, on The 100. Think of what could have been. Think of the expectations. And then, watch this story. It doesn’t look like your typical one.

The actress is very aware of this, of her role in the discussion: “A good role model is someone to look up to because we – media expects our culture so much especially in North America and I feel like media really – is a place that kind of dictates our cultural attitude and I think we need to see ourselves on TV, everyone needs to feel represented in.,” Barrell says about this, and she hits the nail on the head.

It’s not just a matter of representation, though. It’s about good representation, about positive one. About showing the spectrum of human life, the differences.  “we’re getting there and things are getting better and better but it’s an uphill climb to start an equal kind of representation and I’m just – I feel incredibly proud to see – to be a part of that and to be a part of the show that is helping to create some positivity and a character that’s a very three dimensional, fully fledged character who’s not just on the show to be, you know the clear representation but she’s on a show because she’s an amazing character.  She’s amazing person.”

And therein lies the rub, the reason why the fandom has taken to Nicole Haught. She’s not just there to be your token lesbian character, to fill as quota or to be a checkmark in another column. She’s there to be part of the story. So is Waverly. It just so happens that they’re a big part of each other’s story.

“People want to watch her and the fact that she’s gay is just acts like just a personality.  It doesn’t have to be everything that she’s about” Barrell continues, and it’s so refreshing to hear her speak with so much passion and so much eloquence about a subject that’s so important to so many people.

Katherine Barrell is Nicole Haught, and it feels like the opposite holds true as well. “I just wanted to be a role model.” she says, and not just “This is a role model of clear representation.  I wanted her to be a role model of a great person.”

She’s not only that, but so much more.

Wynonna Earp‘s Season Finale airs tonight @ 10/9c on SyFy.

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