With its spooky Old West swagger in contemporary times, Syfy's (Blastr's parent company - Ed.) Wynonna Earp is a two-fisted, pistol-packin' paranormal series based on IDW's Wynonna Earp comic-book run first created at Image in 1996 by seasoned writer Beau Smith.
Starring Melanie Scrofano (Damien, RoboCop), Tim Rozon (Being Human) and Shamier Anderson (The Barrens), the show follows the adventures and exploits of the great-granddaughter of legendary frontier lawman Wyatt Earp as she navigates the American West back to her notorious hometown of Purgatory, where nothing lives but cattle and cowboys. Slated for an April 1 premiere, this is a joint venture between IDW Entertainment and Syfy scheduled for a 13-episode season. It's got biker bars, leather jackets, long-barreled occult revolvers, ancient curses and shape-shifting demons, so we're saddling up for a rollicking good time, and the pilot episode delivers a royal flush in that department. The first original program from IDW Entertainment hails from the producers of Lost Girl and Killjoys and has tapped those series' showrunner, Emily Andras, to steer this comic-book adaptation into the promised land.
Blastr chatted with the showrunner/executive producer on what we can expect from the rightful heir to the storied Earp legacy and how she''ll deal with the rowdy resurrected revenants as the season progresses.
What's the basic backstory behind the character of Wynonna Earp?
Wynonna Earp is the great, great grand-daughter of Wyatt Earp, the iconic Wild West hero. But she is anything but a hero. After a horrific family tragedy, Wynonna fled her small-minded hometown, then spent years trudging through foster homes, juvie, and a life of crime. Now she's come home again, where she will be forced to confront the family curse and hunt the demonic outlaws her famous ancestor killed. Wynonna will have to learn how to put these 'revenants' down again -- this time for good -- with a mischievous supernatural gun known as Peacemaker...r die trying. She's untested, outgunned and out of her mind. So, buckle up...it's gonna be a bumpy rodeo!
How did you come to be involved in this project, and what were your attractions to Beau Smith's comic?
I have been fortunate enough to carve out a niche writing and producing genre television that features complicated and kick-ass female leads: Lost Girl, Killjoys, etc. IDW knew they had an intriguing heroine in Wynonna Earp and were keen on finding a showrunner who could help her transition from page to screen.
The minute I opened up Beau Smith's comic, my face got tingly. If someone had concocted my dream project, it would be Wynonna Earp. The lead was witty, wild and wackadoodle; it was chock-a-block with monsters getting dispatched in hilariously violent and clever ways; and it was set in the West, where I grew up (I'm from Calgary, Alberta). It felt like karma. I came in with a strong pitch...I wanted it to be about two sisters, I wanted Wynonna to have a mysterious boss and I wanted to re-introduce and re-invent Doc Holliday. My take was Buffy meets Justified meets Frozen via Rodriguez (!). Luckily, IDW loved it, Syfy bought it straight to series off the pilot and here we are. Pinch me.
What can fans of the comics hope to see brought to life in the new TV adaptation?
I think they will be delighted in our casting choices, particularly with Wynonna, who is played by Melanie Scrofano. She retains all of the comic character's sass and sexiness, while also being the type of funny, warm chick you'd want to have a beer with...even if you're both coated in demon blood . I also hope they'll sense Beau's and my mutual love of the supernatural western shining through every scene.
Where were the filming locations, and how were they chosen?
We shot in Alberta, Canada, firstly because we found the perfect producing partners in Seven24 (Heartland) and, secondly, because Alberta is unparalleled for western vistas and landscapes. Everything from Brokeback Mountain to Hell on Wheels to Fargo to The Revenant has shot there. You can stick a camera in the middle of a field outside of Calgary, and have a completely different background in each direction...from the Rockies to the city to the foothills to the praries to the badlands...it's truly diverse and breathtaking. And the crews are unflappable, good-natured and extremely good at their jobs.
How did this adaptation and partnership with Syfy come about, and what made this property a good match?
I have a long term relationship with Syfy thanks to my work on Lost Girl and Killjoys, and they in turn have a great record of supporting fun, balls-to-the-wall fantasy fare featuring strong female leads (Continuum and Bitten also come to mind). They read the pilot script and the bible and immediately 'got' it. That's the beauty of working with a network that specializes in genre...you don't have to work yourself into circles explaining that she's a girl AND a demon hunter. I'm sure the chance to work with IDW Publishing on a beloved cult property didn't hurt, either!
Doc Holliday returns in some incarnation, played by the charismatic Tim Rozon. What's his role in the series?
Utterly charming s***-disturber-slash-con man, with shaded motivations and blue eyes that'll pierce your soul, right before he pierces your heart with a well-placed bullet. We tend to think of Doc as a hero, but in reality, he was a low level sociopathic survivor. He seemed like a fun addition to our dysfunctional cast of characters, and I'm sure he'll be a break-out one, thanks to Tim's mesmerizing performance.
I love the way you pitched this project to Syfy as "Frozen meets Buffy." Can you recount it for us and tell us what their reaction was?
When you're doing genre on 'a budget' (so really, any genre show on television save Game of Thrones), it's essential to draw up three dimensional characters that the audience will want to spend time with...even when they're not fighting monsters. The emotional investment and through-line of the series can be as critical as the special effects. I was really interested in the idea of sisters; that particular brand of sibling rivalry where you love each other, but envy what the other has. And the more I toyed around with that, the more I realized it fit with the idea of Wynonna as mistaken hero. She's caused nothing but trouble her whole life, and now she gets to (or has to be) a superhero? Whereas, as her younger sister, Waverly has done everything 'right', and dedicated her life to deciphering the family curse, but now has to watch the black sheep inherit the family business?
Add to that the idea that it's hard to see our siblings as the adults they've become vs. the children we grew up alongside...that our own family can be complete strangers to us and, well, that sounded like some really fun and fresh drama to explore in a show about demons. Syfy immediately pounced, they got it...it felt both familiar and fresh, I think. And to this day, the sister dynamic is one of my favourite things about the series.
How did your time on Lost Girl and Killjoys prepare you for Wynonna Earp?
Every show is a little different, and first seasons in particular can be brutal, since everything, and I mean everything, from casting to tone to locations to pace to editing style etc. etc. have to be discussed and decided upon. Lost Girl and Killjoys helped prepare me as to the grueling pace and ability to balance time and budget on a scrappy upstart genre series. But more than anything, those shows taught me that, regardless of the succubus'ing or spaceshippin', you've got to deliver compelling character and relationship choices. So, that's what we strove to emphasize. Of course, we still went completely off-the-chain when it came to demon deaths and gasp-worthy mythology reveals!
What qualities were you looking for when casting Melanie as Wynonna?
A woman who was wild, witty and warm. Someone whose transgressions you'd forgive, who'd you follow into battle, watch in awe as she kicked some supernatural ass, then want to comfort when she cried. Someone who could break your heart and make you laugh. Someone, in short, that you could fall head-over-heels in love with. It was a tall order, for sure, but once we met Melanie Scrofano, we knew we'd hit the jackpot. She is Wynonna, through and through. We adore her, and I think the audience will too.
What should fans and newcomers to the comic expect as the show's season unfolds?
Suspense, gore, sex, fun and the occasional flame thrower. Just when you think you know good from bad, who to trust, who wants what, and what's going to happen next...things'll change. You'll gasp and you'll cringe, and I really hope you'll laugh 'til whiskey comes out of your nose. Maybe you'll be inspired to buy a fringed leather jacket. And you should. You can totally pull it off.
Wynonna Earp premieres on Syfy on Friday, April 1, 2016 at 10:00pm ET/PT.