As Wynonna Earp, Melanie Scrofano has faced demons, family drama, complicated romantic entanglements and even a mysterious being in the Garden of Eden.
Sunday’s episode of “Wynonna Earp” sees Scrofano tackle a new challenge, this one behind the camera: Season 4's “Look at Them Beans” is the first time the Syfy series’ star has served as the director of a full episode.
“We had such a great prep session so I felt quite prepared,” Scrofano says of the first day of filming. “I knew that the cast would have my back, and I knew that the crew would have my back.”
Showrunner Emily Andras describes Scrofano’s upcoming episode as “insane.”
“Her episode is really crazy,” says Andras, teasing that it will be packed with humor, action sequences and winks to “Wynonna Earp’s” devoted fan base. “It was really challenging, and when you see it, you’ll see why … but she absolutely nailed it.”
Scrofano’s journey to the director’s chair started way back during Season 1. She recounts how when she was sitting at a lunch table feeling insecure one day, Tim Rozon — “Wynonna Earp’s” immortal gunslinger Doc Holliday — told her “Melanie, the universe doesn't give you anything you can't handle.”
“That, for me, was a changing moment in the way I approached the show,” says Scrofano. “Then, just totally off the cuff, he was like, ‘So are you gonna direct?’ I was totally taken aback by the question. I never would have had the confidence to even ask myself that question. … He really planted the seed in Season 1 and then it sort of just didn't leave my mind.”
She’s quick to credit many others who supported her along the way, including Syfy executive Josh Van Houdt and crew members like camera operator A. Jonathan Benny, who talked her through different camera lenses back in Season 2.
During Season 3, Scrofano shadowed director Paolo Barzman, who surprised her by having her direct a scene for one of his episodes.
Still, when it came to directing her first full episode, Scrofano admits she “was terrified of dropping the ball.”
It was “sort of the way I felt with the pregnancy in Season 2, of having to prove that a pregnant woman can carry this load, so that nobody can say pregnant women shouldn't be working,” says Scrofano. “It felt the same way with directing … because I don't want anybody to be like, ‘See, women can't do this.’”
“I might be selling a lot of people short, but that was my inner monologue: ‘Don't drop the ball. Please don't drop the ball. Don't let people down,’” she adds.
By the way the “Wynonna Earp” cast brims with love and respect as they recall working with her on the episode, it’s clear she didn’t "drop the ball."
“She knows these characters so well, and she has such an ability to communicate her vision to another actor,” says Dominique Provost-Chalkley, who plays Wynonna’s sister Waverly on the show. She “manage[s] to create such a warm and fun and ridiculous and entertaining [and] crazy atmosphere on set because of who she is. I just kept having these moments where I looked over with such pride at the fact that she was absolutely killing it.”
She describes Scrofano’s ability to be tuned into all of the departments as “a bit of a superpower.”
Katherine Barrell, who plays Waverly’s girlfriend and Wynonna’s newly anointed best friend, Nicole Haught, explains that Scrofano brings “the same energy and enthusiasm and passion and intelligence to the table” while directing as she does while acting.
“I think when you work with directors who have been actors, there's a safety there,” says Barrell. “I find it very comforting as an actor but then, especially because it was Melanie, there is a whole other level. Nicole's going through a real emotional journey through the episode, and I leaned on her a lot as an outside eye in a way that I may not have trusted other directors.”
Though she has always been attuned to the other characters’ journeys, Scrofano says directing required her to look at the minutiae of the story, including making decisions on details that as an actor she sometimes gets to gloss over.
She also explains that stepping into this side of storytelling gave her a sense of peace that she hadn’t experienced before as an actor.
“I feel like because of my own struggles with my own life — struggling with eating disorders and things like that from a young age — I do still find that I put a lot of pressure on myself in terms of the way I look,” says Scrofano. “I really struggle with it, but when I was in the director's chair, I felt free.”
“It was really powerful,” she adds. “It was just like a burden was lifted that I didn't know I was carrying.”