Kicking Ass and Breaking Hearts: Emily Andras on Wynonna Earp

A highlight of the Toronto Screenwriting Conference last weekend was sitting down with one of my favourite ladies in the TV biz, Emily Andras. A week before the conference, six writers joined Emily for the WGC Writing Room Intensive where they wrote a spec script for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and presented it during a TSC panel (we’ll have more on that soon). After the panel, we talked about her newest series, the sassy, sexy, supernatural romp (and my fave new show), Wynonna Earp, airing on Syfy in the US and on CHCH in Canada. Read our conversation to find out why this project really spoke to Emily, and why Wynonna is a heartbreaker.

First, I have to congratulate you on Wynonna Earp. From the very first episode, I wanted more. It hit all of the points that I need a show to hit, and wasn’t a case of “It has potential and I’ll keep watching it to see how it develops.”

I only kind of liked the pilot, so I’m amazed that you liked it.

I loved the pilot. It had the right amount of sass, and what I really love about Wynonna as a character is that even without supernatural help, she’s still a strong character. She is thrust into this demon fighting world, but I think she’d be kicking ass and taking names even if she didn’t have Peacemaker or the last name Earp.

You know that even when she was a juvenile delinquent she could handle herself, right?

Yeah, for sure.

I’m often drawn to the characters in my work who are brave regardless of the fact that they don’t have superpowers. One of my favourite episodes of Buffy is the one where Dawn — a dirty word — thinks she might be a slayer.

I didn’t hate Dawn.

I will never forget the moment where they introduced Dawn. I was like, “This is so brilliant. I’m blown away.” Anyway, there’s a moment where Dawn thinks she’s a slayer and then she finds out she’s not. It’s a mistake and she’s kind of sad, but Xander gives this amazing speech about “I’m the guy who fixes windows. I clean up things around here.” That, to me, is courage. It’s easy to be Superman, go in guns blazing, he’s got x-ray vision, if he wants a latte, he can fly to the next country.

And there’s Kenzi on Lost Girl. Here’s a character who’s got all this spunk, but she’s this teeny tiny little thing you could snap like a twig if she meets the wrong Fae. I did think when I was creating [Wynonna], “Why can’t she have some of those characteristics?” I like the idea of someone who has been told they need to be a hero and they’ve got the burden of a specific last name, but they’re kind of a fuck up, for lack of a better term. I thought, “That, to me, is a girl I would watch for seasons to come.” There’s something about that character that breaks my heart in all the best possible ways. She has every reason to give up, but she still picks herself up and tries to do what’s right.

I also really love Wynonna and Waverly’s relationship.

Me too.

It reminds me a lot of why Supergirl hit the mark for me — because of Alex and Kara.

The sister relationship is what makes the show.

This is the type of show that we need. Yes it has the “super” aspect, but it also has that strong sense of family which is lacking in a lot of cases. The Earps are by no means a perfect family. They have all kinds of problems. They have this guilt about what happened to their older sister and their father. On Lost Girl, one of the most brilliant things was the Kenzi/Bo relationship. That kept me invested to the end. With Wynonna and Waverly, you establish this dynamic between these two sisters that haven’t been together for a while, but they seem to fall right back into place. They’re just that strong of a family unit.

They are that strong of a family unit, but I also do think to be true to a family relationship they are going to have conflict. It’s that thing that happens with siblings. They absolutely love each other, but they’re envious of each other, sometimes they drive each other crazy, and one of the themes I really think you see this first season is they don’t actually know each other that well. For example, with my brother, I tend to see him as the little boy I grew up with. Sometimes I forget, “Well no, now he’s a grownup with his own problems, and his own opinions, and his own wants and needs.”

With Wynonna and Waverly, Wynonna basically left when she was twelve and Waverly was six, so as much as they have this spiritual bond because they’re family, they need to know who each other is again. They are a special relationship and it does feel kind of unique to me. I have a little girl and one of the big movies of the last couple of years was Frozen. She liked it but I was really struck by what a brave choice it was with Frozen to make the love story between the sisters. That’s the big twist in it and that exploded and it felt really fresh. I thought, “Yes, it’s time for a sister relationship in genre again — with all its complications — that is a grownup storyline, but something we can all root for.” Again, you know me, any chance to load a genre world with strong female characters who are unique and different from one another, I will just flood the plains. We’re doing that on Wynonna. More and more women show up and kick some ass.

Wynonna is adapted from a comic property. Did you find that a help or a hindrance? There is an established mythology, and Wynonna’s an established character, but the comic isn’t super well-known. How much do you feel you have to stay true to the comics, and how much freedom do you have to take the story in other directions?

Well, a couple of things happened that were fortuitous. Number one was when I picked up the comic, I honestly got chills. I felt like this had been written for me. I knew in my guts if I could pick my perfect project to a depth, it would be something like this. Strong female character, kind of a mess though, big gun, out west. I grew up in Calgary. Supernatural western. Monster fighting, government agencies, sexiness. It already sparked something in me. The other thing that happened is Beau Smith, he was the original writer of the comic, is probably the most incredible, generous writer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. IDW as well, the publishing company, were very aware that this is going to have to be something else as it went from one medium to another, as it went from page to screen. I felt absolutely zero pressure to translate what was in the comic onto television. I fact, I came in with a fairly strong pitch. Dolls doesn’t exist in the comic, Doc doesn’t exist in the comic, the Earp sisters don’t exist in the comic. Wynonna’s a little more fully formed in the comic. She’s an older woman in her late thirties, but I really wanted to do an origin story. I really felt a hundred percent supported. The essence and the tone — which is the hardest thing but the most important thing to capture — I think we have it. And all the male characters are great, too. Dolls and Doc are phenomenal, and Bobo Del Rey.

Holy smokes is Doc ever frickin’ sexy.

Tim Rozon is great. He’s the worst because he’s so good-looking. He’s so nice, he’s so funny. He owns two of the best restaurants in Canada. He can sing. He’s intolerable. I cast him in everything I do because he’s so talented.

My goal for Season 2 — come hell or high water — is visiting that set.

It’s such a fun set. And the crew was on The Revenant, Hell on Wheels and Fargo. They are so good at their jobs, and are down-to-earth, fun people. That is a fun set. We have a ball.

Photo Courtesy of Syfy

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