Wynonna Earp’s Katherine Barrell on Nicole’s Growth This Season

In the end, it was a really easy decision. When faced with losing Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) to the Garden forever, Nicole (Katherine Barrell) willingly stepped up to become the Angel Shield on last week’s episode of Wynonna Earp. While this new role means that she and Waverly get to go on happily living and planning their wedding, it also means that Nicole is forever bound to the Ghost River Triangle and never able to leave. Still, being a protector and guardian is what Nicole Haught was born for, and the decision was one she’d make over and over again her portrayer recently told The TV Junkies during a chat prior to this week’s Season 4 finale episode.

Barrell, who also stars on Hallmark’s Good Witch and recently finished shooting the latest season there, reflected upon Nicole’s entire journey this season. She discussed with us how the hardships that Nicole faced this year made her stronger than ever, and even previewed what fans can expect from WayHaught in this week’s finale. Barrell also shared how Rachel’s (Martina Ortiz Luis) presence really helped Nicole this season and what it’s been like having Ortiz Luis join the cast.

The TV Junkies: Nicole went through a lot this season and experienced some pretty heavy trauma. She worked and has come through a lot of hardship to once again be sheriff and have her relationship with Waverly stronger than ever. What was your impression of the journey she went on this season?

Katherine Barrell: We’ve seen Nicole in a way we’ve never seen her before. She was out of control, really broken, not trusting herself, not particularly strong, but I think it’s important from a storytelling perspective to see her not at her best. I loved getting to see how she pulled herself out of that place and let other people help her. She has a hard time letting stuff go and the chicken kicking was a metaphor for a much bigger feeling for her. She didn’t really recognize herself anymore or see herself as a person that would step away from her job. She really had to come to peace with the fact that she made a mistake. It’s really hard for her to feel like she doesn’t live up to other people’s expectations, or her own expectations for herself. It was really nice to see that vulnerability from her and see her come through it to the other side where she found her happy again. It’s a reminder for all of us, when we go through these really dark periods in our lives, that there is another side. If we can just hang on and fight through then we’ll get there eventually.

TTVJ: Since you mentioned “chicken kicker,” what did you think when you read that was Nicole’s secret?

KB: For myself, I always knew it had to be something more than her getting drunk and chicken-kicking. That would be mortifying for an “in control” kind of person, but I really latched onto the fact that it wasn’t about the chicken or that one day. That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and the nail in the coffin. Every ounce of how she saw herself or felt like she could help had been taken away from her. She was afraid of who that person was because she didn’t recognize that version of herself. It was totally ridiculous and I always wondered what it was going to be. That moment was a culmination of a lot of different things for her.

TTVJ: Did you practice kicking that chicken because it looked like you had a pretty good leg?

KB: [laughs] The first time we did it I missed it. The second two times I got it and gave it a pretty good whack! Unfortunately, it did really explode and it exploded off camera on our crew and our director which was also hilarious. I was the only person who got to enjoy it from that angle. It harkened back to my memories of being a soccer goalie. 

TTVJ: It was nice to see them really put your athletic skills to good use. [laughs]

KB: It’s good to come with some skills. Some people can dance and others can sing. I can sort of kick a soccer ball.

TTVJ: Nicole made a huge sacrifice for Waverly when she became the Angel Shield. What was she thinking at that moment and why was she so willing to do that?

KB: The most important thing in the world to her is Waverly and she’s willing to do anything to save her. Honestly, in that moment if they were like ‘you can never leave this 8’x8’ room,’ then she would be like, ‘that’s fine.’ There was absolutely no bargain that she would’ve said “no” to at that moment. It’s a really beautiful and natural fit. There’s something special about the fact that she can’t leave the Ghost River Triangle and that’s her fate, but I don’t think Nicole ever wanted anything different than that. There’s a beautiful moment with Nicole and Waverly at the end of the whole season, but she doesn’t want to be anywhere else anyways. It’s okay for her and she’s not afraid of it as long as she gets to be with the woman that she loves. She’s experienced a lot of things in her life, traveled, and had adventures but that’s not what she wants anymore. She wants this new chapter. Not only is this perfectly suited to who she is to be a guardian, shield, and protector, but to stay and have Waverly there, it’s everything she wants.

TTVJ: A permanent staycation sounds a little daunting after a year plus in quarantine. Do you think the Ghost River Triangle has beaches we don’t know about?

KB: I’m hoping for that! At least it’s not just her house and more a whole region. I’ve never been 100% sure what encapsulates the Ghost River Triangle, but I think she’ll have enough to do. I’ve always hoped that she and Waverly have kids one day so she’ll be busy with that.

TTVJ: Now that Dark Waverly is gone and Nicole has become the Shield, WayHaught seems ready to move forward with their wedding. I know you can’t spoil anything, but what can you preview about the finale?

KB: It so met and then surpassed my personal hopes of what it would be. There’s a lot of romance, but there’s still a lot of action, too. There’s a lot of decisions that are made and choices, but I definitely think that the audience should be ready for a lot of plot. I don’t have a sexier word for it, but this isn’t a slow episode. It’s a mustang-pace as is usual for Wynonna Earp.

TTVJ: Wynonna and Nicole have come so far and their friendship is so strong. It was great to see Nicole stand up to Wynonna in order to go into the fog after Waverly. How did that moment help prove how far those two have come in their friendship?

KB: It’s so beautiful to see that they are sister in-laws now and connected. There’s also a very deep trust between them and they spent a lot of years not trusting each other. They want the same thing, to protect Waverly, the people they love, and the place that they love. They trust that in each other now. It’s also a huge moment when Nicole has to choose between going to save the townspeople and going to try to find Wynonna and Waverly. That is her saying, ‘OK Wynonna, I trust you with the most important thing in my life.’ Up until this point they’ve always been double checking each other’s work. In these episodes they are now ‘I trust you completely and know you’re going to do everything you can. I don’t doubt you.’ I think that was a big moment for both of them and a final step.

TTVJ: It’s been so great to watch the bond between Rachel and Nicole form and grow stronger this season. What do you enjoy about that relationship and working with Martina?

KB: Martina is so amazing and I can’t say enough great things about her. Wynonna was the first time she stepped on a big set, and she did so fearlessly, at a young age, and into a pre-established work environment. She did an amazing job of it and was so fearless. I admire that so much. She’s such a talented performer and has that unteachable quality of being an amazing entertainer. She’s going to go so far in her career and I’m so impressed with her. 

As much as Nicole took Rachel under her wing and protected her, I think Rachel really saved Nicole. If Nicole didn’t have Rachel to keep her grounded, remind her who she is, and give her something to focus on, I don’t know how she would’ve gone on. Nicole so badly needs a job and to be a protector. Rachel was the only thing she had left and it kept her there.

TTVJ: Martina has been a really great addition to the group for sure.

KB: It’s also so nice to just have a young person around. [laughs] We’re all old people and it’s been six years. We needed someone young and cool.

TTVJ: You need someone to do the TikToks.

KB: That poor girl trying to teach us! Her character on set, and the character’s energy, was really needed and provided such great balance.

TTVJ: A LOT of Earpers were pretty happy about Nicole’s Stetson making a reappearance this season. What are your thoughts on that coming back and if you had to pick a favorite uniform from all the seasons what would it be?

KB: Selfishly, it’s Season 2 because it was so comfortable and stretchy, but it wasn’t the right uniform for the character. We definitely landed on the right one and that’s where we landed in Season 3. The reappearance of the Stetson was so perfectly done by Emily and such a perfect, fun nod without having a change in uniform again. I think the fact that they made it into something fun and kinky was really awesome. The Season 3 uniform, where we got to with the light blue shirt was the perfect uniform, but selfishly I still like the stretchy shirt.

TTVJ: A lot of Earpers followed you over to Good Witch and you recently shot the upcoming season of that show. Can you preview what’s ahead for your character Joy this season?

KB: I’m really really excited for the upcoming season of Good Witch. It’s a completely different world from Wynonna Earp and I’m just so appreciative and grateful for all the people that have come along for the ride. We tap much more into the magic this year and the fact that we’re witches with powers. The show has a really lovely tonal shift this year into exploring some sadness, darkness, and regret with these characters. It’s a shift for Good Witch and one that a lot of us on the team really enjoyed. We’ve had a lot of good conversations about how exciting it was to tap into this unchartered territory. Things get pretty dramatic and there’s some dark forces that come into play this season. It’s been really fun to explore that. 

As for Joy, she’s settling much more into her family after making the decision to stay in Middleton. She’s been on her own since her mother passed away and so it’s really nice to see her settle in with her family and feel a lot more grounded. It opens her up to a little bit of romance and she’s feeling more ready to open her heart up because of how supported and loved she feels. That’s been really awesome to see and I’m very excited for her new romance in this chapter of her life. It’s a great season and I’m very proud of where we were able to take it this year.

Wynonna Earp‘s Season 4 finale airs Friday, April 9 at 10 p.m. on SYFY and CTV Sci-Fi.

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