In line with her 30th birthday, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, who plays the sweet, queer younger sister to the hilariously sardonic Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) on the Syfy series of the same name, came out publicly in a heartfelt, thoughtful post about her journey. She'd played Waverly, one-half of the beloved couple "WayHaught," opposite Katherine Barrell's Officer Nicole Haught, on the supernatural western for three seasons when she took the step to come out publicly (Barrell came out in an interview with Diva in 2019). It turns out that Waverly was a significant piece of Provost-Chalkley arriving at coming out when she did.
In an interview with Inside With the Advocate the day before she returned to shooting Wynonna Earp's season 4 in Calgary, and with a Pride flag as her backdrop, Provost-Chalkley spoke candidly about the path she took to come out. She touched on how her journey was strewn with obstacles along the way, including her early perceptions of what being queer meant in the world and the fact that she had no bisexual representation to turn to when she was younger. She also discussed the moment working on Wynonna Earp when she knew she would publicly address her sexuality.
Provost-Chalkley, who founded the nonprofit Start the Wave, about "empowering and supporting projects that create positive change worldwide," had made the decision to come out to align with her 30th birthday. As the day drew closer, she found herself in virtual solitude as the pandemic was on the rise and social distancing and shelter-in-place measures were put into place throughout the world. As friends began having to back out of an in-person celebration, Provost-Chalkley said it offered time for reflection.
"In some ways, I think it was really positive because it gave me space to fully live this coming-out that I had decided was really important for me to step forward in my truth and do publicly, though I had come out to my family earlier in the year," she told The Advocate. "It was the sort of the last step, really, was speaking to the beautiful community that helped me get to where I am internally."
Wynonna Earp premiered in 2016, and by the show's second episode, there were undeniable sparks between Waverly and Nicole. The series, from Emily Andras (Lost Girl), imagines Wynonna, a descendant of Wyatt Earp, as the heir who's the only person who can put the supernatural revenants (the villains of the Old West that Wyatt killed) into their final resting place. There's horror, humor, and heart in the series that has resonated with fans who saved it with a grassroots campaign when the studio had it on the chopping block. And an important piece of the fan base includes queer women who identify with and cheer for WayHaught, a couple that has defied the tropes and pitfalls that have long defined lesbian and bisexual female characters in TV and film.
Fans have come out in droves and gathered annually at the queer convention Clexa-Con, many of whom are "Earpers" who love and identify with the series on a visceral level. But the series was game-changing for its star Provost-Chalkley as well.
"I feel like I've come so far. These few years -- so much growth and understanding has come my way. And I feel so grateful in many ways that Waverly was the catalyst for me to have the courage to address those parts of myself," she said. "Had I not been gifted this beautiful bisexual character to play, I may not have got to this place now."
There's a scene in the show's second episode in which Nicole flirts with Waverly, and in Provost-Chalkley's reaction as Waverly, there's a moment when it looks as though the light switch was flipped for the character. While she doth protest too much that she's in a relationship, it's clear that she's open to considering something else.
"When I got cast as Waverly Earp and I sat down and I opened that episode 2 script where I saw that Waverly was going to encounter Nicole Haught," Provost-Chalkley said. "I'll never forget it. I had my cup of coffee to my left, sat in this armchair in Calgary, and I opened the script, and I was just like, 'Oh, fuck. Oh, my God. This is where I'm going to have to address this. This is where I have no choice but to dive in and listen.'"
"I was nervous that I was going to fall in love with my costar, and all of these totally outrageous ideas in and around my sexuality because it had been so suppressed for so many years. One thing I'm realizing now is that the more you suppress your sexuality, which is such a key component of you are, the less you have an ability to find and connect with who you are inside," she added. "If you're shying away from such a key, integral part of who you are, how are you supposed to have conversations with yourself to know who you are as a person?"
"I was incredibly nervous but also excited in other ways to have an opportunity to live this through a character's shoes, which is a mad, magical turn of events," she said.
But it wasn't easy for Provost-Chalkley to arrive at the place where she felt as though she could come out. She cited a lack of bisexual visibility and her desire to fit in as factors.
"Deep down, I've always known that I was queer since I was 9 years old. Over, sort of, my earlier years, I had a few experiences that were rather jarring and sort of discouraged me from continuing down that path," she said, adding that she dealt with "inner turmoil" about her identity.
"I didn't have any representation of bisexuality in my life, so I wasn't aware that it was a spectrum and that we all sat somewhere on that spectrum," she said. "I wasn't privy to those conversations, or I hadn't found that on my journey yet, so it just lived in my head. It lived in this slightly dark world of criticism and fear, ultimately."
Because of the pandemic, Provost-Chalkley missed out on enjoying her first Pride event since writing her coming-out blog post, but she said the feedback she's received since taking that step has only been encouraging.
"I have only seen positive things since I came out, which is amazing and really confirms everything I said previously about it being such a safe space," she said. "I just feel even more proud to be part of this community of kindhearted individuals that are so supportive and loving on so many levels."
Watch the interview with Provost-Chalkley above and Wynonna Earp's season 4 premiere on Syfy on July 26. And watch other episodes of Inside With the Advocate, which features an array of virtual stories with LGBTQ+ artists, trailblazers, and allies including Rosie O'Donnell, Emily Hampshire, Harvey Guillen, Ross Mathews, Kalen Allen, Sherry Cola, Fortune Feimster, Brandy Norwood,Bruce Richman, Tonatiuh, Josh Thomas, Ser Anzoategui, the Indigo Girls, Sara Benincasa, Dustin Lance Black, Alphonso David, Jonica "Jojo" Gibbs, Lena Hall, Mary Lambert, Elijah Mack, Rahne Jones, and Thomas Beattie.