‘Wynonna Earp’ Star Katherine Barrell Talks Hallmark’s A Nutcracker Christmas, Season Two and Empowering Women Worldwide
Katherine Barrell has quickly become known as Officer Haught, the Waverly-wooing, revenant fighting, bulletproof badass on SyFy’s Wynonna Earp, but this holiday season Barrell is trading in her Western ways for something Hallmark fans will rejoice at: A Nutcracker Christmas! The two hour feature premieres December 10, 2016 and stars Person of Interest’s Amy Acker (Lily), Sascha Radetsky (Mark), and Sophia Lucia (Sadie), and follows the story of a woman’s childhood dream of dancing in the New York Ballet’s The Nutcracker.
Barrell is no stranger to warming the hearts of millions of fans worldwide, so I anticipate this soon-to-be holiday classic will strike a chord with even the Grinchiest folks this season. This actor, director, and producer is not only starring in several tv shows and films, but she’s working on a few or her own original ideas as well as getting involved with Girl Talk Empowerment, an organization geared at spreading positivity for young women. And whether it’s protecting a fictional town from hellish beings, or spreading some holiday cheer this year, Barrell shows no signs of slowing down in the realm of her craft.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with the humble and brilliant Barrell, and can I just say, this gal is not only talented but extremely sincere. The passion she puts into her work both on and off screen is admirable, and inspiring. We not only spoke about her roles in A Nutcracker Christmas, Workin’ Moms and a few others, but discussed at length how Wynonna Earp has impacted her career, and life. The show she says gave her purpose, is now currently filming its second season in Calgary, Canada.
Without further ado…
MCKENZIE MORRELL: You have a lot of projects coming up at the end of 2016 and in the new year but before we dive into everything you have going on, let’s talk about A Nutcracker Christmas. It premieres December 10 on Hallmark. What can we expect from the movie and your character?
KATHERINE BARRELL: The movie stars Amy Acker who plays Lily an aspiring Ballerina who dreams of being a professional dancer but some personal tragedy gets in the way of that and the curveballs that life throws at her keeps her from living her dream. I play her sister Beth who encouraged Lily from a young age to pursue her dream and keep focused and was really her biggest fan.
MM: Since it’s the holiday season, do you have a favorite Holiday themed movie or tradition that you look forward to every year?
KB: I really like watching Griswold Family Christmas.
MM: Lily had a dream when she was younger, how about you– did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? Was this what you envisioned for your future or was there something different that you had in mind?
KB: I think I’ve always wanted to get into storytelling. I thought about going into psychology when I was a teenager but I decided from quite a young age that I wanted to work in movies and cinema and telling stories. I’ve always loved it.
MM: That’s amazing. Obviously you said that the movie stars Amy Acker and Sascha Radetsky. I had a fangirl moment because I watched Amy in Angel and Sasha in Center Stage. How was it working with everyone on set? Were you able to have some fun on your down time?
KB: Yeah, we got on great. I didn’t work too much with Sascha but I worked a lot with Amy and she’s fantastic. We got along super great. It was wonderful to work with her. She’s a really wonderful lady.
MM: It was probably cool to go from doing scifi to more of a holiday, cheerfully themed movie.
KB: I actually shot a comedy between the two and a horror movie as well. It’s been a year of very different projects for sure.
MM: You’re all over the place, which is great for your career! [Laughs] If you had to pick one holiday cookie to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KB: My mom makes these Jewish cookies called rugelach around the holidays which I really love. They have cream cheese in the dough and a fruity jam in the center. They’re like little crescent rolls and they’re delicious.
MM: Oooh, yum. While we’re on the topic of sweets, I like to throw in a question about donuts because I’m a donut enthusiast. If you had to create a donut based on your dog Bernie’s personality, what would it be?
KB: He’s sitting on my lap right now. I think it would be something quirky. He’s very quirky. So maybe something with pop rocks at the top to add a little bit of a surprise at the end. And the frosting would probably be something like chocolatey and the donut itself would be something very sweet, very fruity inspired.
MM: That sounds delicious and it sounds like your dog is awesome. Getting back on track, In addition to A Nutcracker Christmas you also have a show coming out in 2017 called Workin’ Moms. Can you tell us about that show and how it differs from role you have had in the past?
KB: Workin’ Moms is a half hour comedy. It’s an awesome show and I think it’s going to be really well received. It centers around a mommy and me group. It’s a bunch of young moms that get together every week and discuss everything from breastfeeding to porn. Then it follows these moms into their everyday lives and you watch the theme of the mommy and me trickle into their lives and how it comes up for them. It’s a fantastic show. It’s really funny and very smartly written. I think a lot of parents will really identify with it and even if you don’t have kids, everyone is at that time in their lives where you feel like you have to do everything. From your late twenties to your early forties, you’re running around and feeling like you have to be everything for everyone. It’s the busiest time of your life when you’re juggling family and partners and jobs and trying to have a social life and watching yourself start to age. All these things come up and it’s a fascinating part of life and the show does a good job of examining and for all of its funny moments but for also its moments that can be really tough. So that’s Working Moms.
MM: That’s good to have a universal theme even though it’s geared towards moms that you can have people relating to it. That’ll be awesome.
KB: Even people who have been parents, it’s a really great exploration of that part of life and what it feels like.
MM: We’re looking forward to seeing it! Now, you’ve been busy, not only acting but directing as well. When can we see some of those projects and can you tease anything about that?
KB: I have two projects I directed that are running the festival circuit right now. One is called Cannonball and that’s a tribute that I made to my late producing partner who passed away two years ago, very suddenly. And it’s an exploration of what does it feel like to lose somebody in an instant that wasn’t supposed to go. The other one is called Dissecting Gwen and it’s an ensemble comedy about a woman who is trying to decide if she wants to have a baby or not. She hyperventilates and passes out on her bathroom floor and wakes up inside her psyche and is able to debate the topic with her different personalities inside her head.
MM: In addition to these projects, you’re also at the helm of Kit Media, how did that come about and the initial evolution from actor and producer to director?
KB: I’ve always wanted to direct. I wrote in my grade eight year book that I wanted to be a film director. So it’s really always been something I wanted to do but I feel like directing is something that takes a lot of time to get to the place of being a good director. I feel like you have to do a lot of different jobs before you can really direct because the jbo seems to encompass so many other skill sets. I found that being an actor first was a great way for me to learn how to work with actors and get the best performances out of them. Basically when I finished theater school I partnered with my partner Kent Nolan who Cannonball is dedicated to and we just started trying to make our own work. We got sick of waiting for the phone to ring and we wanted to make our own movies and tell stories and not wait for someone to give us permission to do what we love. We started a production company and worked together. A couple years later I wanted to do other projects and he was working on other things. I made my own company which was Kit Media and I started producing under that company.
MM: Do you have any intention of trying your hand at writing?
KB: I’ve written a little bit but I’m really not a very good writer and I have a couple people I work with who are fantastic writers. I let them do the writing because they’re so good at it. I think you can only be good at so many things and writing is definitely not one of my skill sets.
MM: At least you can note that and then you can be great at other things and hone in on those.
KB: I’ll create stories with my writing partner, Rebecca [Hales]. We’ll beat everything out and go through it and outline the whole script but she’s the one who breathes the life into it and puts it on the page.
MM: The creative input is obviously extremely important so you have that going for you as well. I would probably be shunned by the fandom if I didn’t throw in some Wynonna Earp questions. I know you can’t talk too much about it but thankfully the show has been renewed for season two. Can you tell us anything about working on the show or anything about your experience on the show so far?
KB: Working on the show so far? Well I fly out tomorrow to go to Calgary for season two. So far it’s been an incredible experience. It’s really changed my life and this show really changed my career. This character being so beloved by this amazing fandom is something I’ve never experienced as an actor, playing a character that meant so much to so many people. It’s really bad ass. I feel like it gave my work some purpose. Often times I find that acting gigs are a little shallow and you don’t see if your work is putting any good into the world. With Nicole, I was really fortunate because I was able to experience first hand the good that can come from being an actor and what’s coming from my work and how it was affecting people in a positive way. That’s been the highlight of the whole experience is getting to interact with these amazing fans and learning how much this character means to them.
MM: Everyone loves Nicole and I was at NYCC and the audience for the Wynonna Earp panel was filled with cosplayers and Wayhaught enthusiasts. Did you have any idea the impact this role would have on this fandom. Did you have any idea that she’d be sticking around?
KB: I didn’t, no. When I was originally contracted I was going to do six episodes. I guess they liked what I was doing and it ended up carrying through to the end of the season. I had no idea. Emily [Andras] told me that this character would probably make a pretty big splash but I didn’t know what that meant or the extent of that or what that would look like. I was pretty naive. But I’m grateful for that. When you have expectations sometimes things don’t meet them so when you go in with no expectations things are a surprise and a wonderful experience. I’m really glad that it worked out the way that it did.
MM: Your character was a real surprise to me because I have to admit that I thought that she would turn out to be a revenant or working with the bad guys. I had a feeling it was too easy for her to be good and come in there and be awesome. But Emily proved me wrong and I’m glad to see that your character is sticking around and that she’s had a positive impact on the LGBTQ community.
KB: Absolutely. Me too.
MM: The internet wanted to know one fact that people in general might not know about you?
KB: I used to be a leatherworker. That’s an interesting fact but I think I’ve mentioned it before. I was apprenticed with a leatherworker for a couple years and I learned how to make leather boots by hand. I started a small leather working business for a few years in my early twenties. It was called Scarlet Swan. I made industrial style satchel bags.
MM: You might want to bring that back. I’m sure your fans would be all over that to get stuff you’re making.
KB: I totally should. It’s an unbelievable amount of work. I need a studio space for it. I would do it on the floor in my apartment and the neighbors would get upset that I was banging away. But one day when I have a big house in the country I can take it up again.
MM: You’re busy so it’s hard to get everything done. I had a question about your involvement with Girl Talk Empowerment and the Pink Box program. Are you still doing that with them?
KB: I am! The Pink box is an awesome initiative that Girl Talk Empowerment has done. Girl Talk Empowerment is an organization based in Toronto that sets up mentorship programs and leadership workshops for young girls, teaching them valuable lessons like positive body image, how to take care of yourself in a healthy way, confidence, leadership skills, project management skills. It’s an awesome company. I had been following them for a couple years. I was following their social media accounts and once Wynonna started I was able to get involved with them as an ambassador. The Pink Box Initiative is an off shoot that they do that delivers a surprise box of wellness products and products that fit their PINK acronym which is “Positive Inspiring Noteworthy and Kind.” All of their products fit their four pillars of what they stand for. It’s such an awesome way for women to get a really fun surprise every month in the mail and support companies that are doing great things and bringing good products and positivity in the world. I’m really excited about it.
MM: That’s amazing. It’s important to have an organization focused on young women, especially in the entertainment industry and the media and the pressures surrounding it. I think that’s admirable that you’re involved in that.
KB: Than you. I’m really proud of it. I’m a big fan of the organization and empowering women.
MM: You’ve acquired this instant fandom. How has it been interacting with fans not only on social media but via fan mail and if you see them in person at conventions and that sort of thing.
KB: It’s been really positive. I can count on one hand the amount of negative encounters that I’ve had and there’s a million positive encounters and everyone has been super kind. I get incredible letters and packages. My dog gets toys in the mail from fans. They make art of us. It’s been beautiful and so inspiring. These people have been so kind to me and supportive of my career and my goals. You can’t have a bad day when you have people sending you these beautiful messages. It’s been an amazing, once in a lifetime experience.
MM: I’m a huge fan of the show and obviously Emily’s work, we kind of go back from the Lost Girl days. It’s been great to see everything evolve. I recently chatted with Dominique and she’s one of my favorite humans ever. So I just love that the show is getting such great recognition and that the show is coming back for another season. I’m excited for what’s to come for you guys.
KB: Me too. I’m excited to see what we do next season. I’ve read a couple scripts and I’ve had friends auditioning for some of the new characters that are going to be introduced this season. A lot of really incredible, strong females are going to come into the show this year so it’s going to be an awesome season.
MM: I know Nicole has her work cut out for her with how things ended with Waverly last season so it should be interesting to see how that affects Nicole.
KB: Yeah, definitely.
MM: To conclude is there anything else you want to mention or a message to the fans?
KB: Just to say thank you again for all the incredible support and all your kind words to me on social media and your encouragement. It really does make a huge difference in my day. It makes me want to keep going and keep working really hard to be a good representative of the character of Nicole. I’m very grateful.
MM: A great way to end! Thank you for taking the time out of your day to chat with me.
KB: Absolutely. Thank you, I appreciate it.