Earpers unite: The power of fandom key to Wynonna Earp's miraculous return to Alberta

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Last summer, Hall’s Auction Services held what was called the Wynonna Earp Final Earper Auction.

An Earper is what devoted fans of the Alberta-shot supernatural western Wynonna Earp call themselves. They were told this would be the final opportunity to purchase what was left of the props, costumes and set decorations from the first four seasons of the series. It had been off the air since April 2021 after SyFy, its American network, announced it would not carry the show anymore. No one had officially declared the series dead, but the fact that its props and costumes were being sold off seemed a distressing sign to even the most optimistic Earpers. A similar auction had been held the year before and offered everything from Wynonna’s blue-sequined wedding gown to her famous peacemaker and holster, to her blue-and-white 1994 Ford pickup, which was apparently purchased by a high-bidding Nebraskan in July 2022.

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But unbeknownst to fans, not long after that final auction talks began with American streaming service Tubi about bringing Wynonna back as a 90-minute special. After months of negotiations, it was announced on Feb. 8 that Wynonna Earp: Vengeance had been greenlit and cameras were set to roll in two weeks in Calgary and area with returning cast members Melanie Scrofano, Tim Rozon, Dom Provost-Chalkley and Katherine Barrell.

Earpers unite.
Part of the campaign for fans to save the show Wynonna Earp at Times Square in New York City in 2019. Photo submitted. cal

“You can publish this: We have auctioned everything off,” jokes showrunner Emily Andras, the ex-Calgarian who created the series based on the comic book series by Beau Smith. “We have no sets and everyone is going to be naked. That’s your headline.”

The return was announced with much fanfare through a video reunion of Andras and cast as part of an exclusive online feature in Vanity Fair under the headline “The Unkillable Wynonna Earp Will Return for One Last Ride” (more on this ‘one last ride’ business later). The story was immediately picked up in outlets ranging from the Los Angeles Times to ScreenRant and Pride.com and was met with giddy excitement online by Earpers worldwide. But not long afterwards, Andras said she began hearing from fans who had purchased those props, costumes and set decor during the summer auctions.

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“Of course, the Earpers being what they are, are already like: ‘Do you guys need us to Fed-Ex stuff back?’” Andras says. “I will say if we could get Wynonna’s truck back … I may or may not have been in contact with the fan who has that. That was the one piece where I was like, ‘Listen, if you could drive it back to Canada that would be really great.’ I’d have to woo them with some Earp swag and maybe a day on set if they sign in blood an NDA. But it’s that kind of fandom.”

Wynonna Earp: Vengeance is scheduled to air on Tubi at the end of the year. Not surprisingly, finalizing the return was a complicated process. It was dependent on Tubi being convinced the show could still be a success. Granted, this was greatly aided by the fact that Tubi’s vice-president of scripted original content, Josh Van Houdt, was a former executive at Syfy and a big Earp booster.

Wynonna Earp
Tim Rozon (as Doc Holiday) and Dominique Provost-Chalkley (as Waverly Earp) in Season 4 of Wynonna Earp. cal

But it was dependent on the main cast having the desire and availability to return. Andras says she met with the four principal cast members one by one to gauge their enthusiasm, saying there would be no hard feelings toward anyone who didn’t want to return but it would be an “all-of-us-or-none-of-us” scenario.

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“We weren’t going to do it without everybody,” Andras says. “It turned out everybody wants to come back. Without giving anything away, I think there are a lot of other side characters and people the fans love who may or may not pop up but everybody contacted us and said ‘We’re down if you are.’”

Beyond that, everyone seems to agree that one of the biggest factors for the return was the relentless fandom of Earpers, who have kept the series in the spotlight through online rallying and by organizing fan conventions worldwide. They ensured the series kept trending on social media, while the conventions allowed Andras and cast to sporadically reunite and talk about the series long after it went off the air. In the end, it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer for Tubi.

“If there is this built-up fandom clamouring for more, why wouldn’t we just service that need?” Andras says. “Half the work is done for us, as far as enthusiasm. I think (Tubi) has been very happy with the response so far on social media.”

While the series centres on the great-great-granddaughter of Wyatt Earp battling demons and other supernatural foes as part of a mysterious family curse, the show has also won acclaim for its irreverent sense of humour,  the remarkable chemistry of the ensemble cast and its compassionate portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters and relationships. The romance between Wynonna’s sister Waverly (Provost-Chalkley) and her police officer girlfriend Nicole Haught (Barrell) has been a particular favourite that fans have dubbed #WayHaught. The term has become so ubiquitous that it’s now defined in the Urban Dictionary.

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The series also earned a reputation as a scrappy underdog that was able to survive a particularly tumultuous history that included not-great ratings early on and various shutdowns in later years. All of which further stoked the passion of fans. Not long before Season 4 was set to begin production in 2019, it was derailed by funding problems and went into an indefinite hiatus. After an aggressive campaign from fans to save the show – including billboards in Times Square – Wynonna Earp finally resumed production in early 2020, only to be shut down again a few months later by COVID-19

“That’s one of the most amazing things,” says Jordy Randall of Calgary’s Seven 24 Films, which produces Wynonna Earp. “We talk about all these people who found the show and then found each other. What happened in that scenario was they found a show they were passionate about, they found others who loved Wynonna and the conventions started and there was this community. (It) was supportive and positive and they built a place where they belonged. Being an Earper is not just being a fan of a TV show, it’s how they identify in terms of their values, in terms of what they love.”

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So, one of the biggest priorities for the return is to give these fans what they want. Andras didn’t give too much away about what is in store for Wynonna and the gang but says the characters will have matured since we last saw them. Themes of family and loyalty will still be central. While Vanity Fair may have called the project “one last ride” for Wynonna, both Andras and Randall say they hope it will continue beyond this latest instalment. While nothing has been greenlit, Andras says she would love to see another season, more specials or films or even a spin-off series.

Whatever the case, she says it will be an emotional day on Feb. 20 when cameras roll again.

“It is going to feel surreal,” Andras says. “The first time I see Melanie Scrofano in costume, I’m going to have to excuse myself to blow my nose and tear up. It’s going to be crazy.”

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