Wynonna Earp’s Savannah Basley Provides Insight into The Clanton Heir

Over four seasons, viewers have seen the toll that being the Earp heir has taken on Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano). It’s a role she didn’t ask for, but one she has to bear all the same. Similarly, in Season 4 of Wynonna Earp, viewers were introduced to another family that bears the weight of their own curse. The Clantons are the Earp rivals and being the Clanton heir comes with its own set of responsibility and lack of choice. Now that Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) got rid of Mam Clanton (Paula Boudreau), Wynonna shot Holt (Ty Olsson) in the back, and Billy (Billy Bryk) has been made into a reaper, the title of Clanton heir has fallen to Cleo (Savannah Basley). 

Yes, the former Purgatory magistrate with a penchant for chili cook-offs (for FREEDOM!), now has a small army of reapers at her disposal and ready to use against the Earps and for who knows what else. Basley recently spoke to The TV Junkies about stepping into the role of Cleo this season, as well as what it was like to join the Earp crew. She shared what she loves about playing Cleo, as well as what it was like filming those intense Clanton family scenes, and gives a look into what Cleo may still have in store this season. Basley also stars in the upcoming SYFY series Surreal Estate, co-starring Wynonna’s Tim Rozon, and previews what to expect from that series.

The TV Junkies: Wynonna Earp is in its fourth season with a very established cast and crew. What was it like for you being new to set and joining the fun?

Savannah Basley: Honestly, they are one of the most welcoming cast and crew that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. From the moment you step on set and go into trailers, whoever is in there welcomes you right away. 

TTVJ: Were you a fan of the show before you joined?

SB: I actually hadn’t seen the show before I auditioned for it. So I had no clue as to what I was getting into. [laughs] I remember we were shooting the scene with the water guns, and I thought, ‘OK, this is cool!’ Also, my first episode was the one that Mel directed and that was an amazing experience. Mel was incredibly welcoming! They are all genuinely sweet people. I’m always one of those people who think, ‘OK, but are you actually this nice?’ They are genuinely great people and it’s very refreshing. 

TTVJ: Cleo is such a fun and interesting character. I think many Earp fans like her and root for her a bit even though we know we shouldn’t. What did you find the most intriguing about her when you first got the role?

SB: There was something else to her that I really wanted to show. People aren’t just evil to be evil. Bad guys never think they are the bad guy. They think they’re doing the good thing. Cleo is kind of trapped in her own strange legacy. I really enjoy being able to show that there’s always two sides to everybody. The worst people in the world can still hold a puppy and laugh and smile. That’s the same reaction that everybody else has. 

For me, it was really about giving Cleo humanity, and there was a little bit of that that Emily was giving me, so I was really trying to cling onto that. A big thing for me is understanding my characters psychologically and thinking, ‘What was her trauma? What is it that pushes her? Why is it that Cleo desperately wants her mother’s attention and affection?’ So it wasn’t about playing someone that was evil, but playing her as someone who just desperately wants a mother’s love.

TTVJ: In the Cupid episode you had some really great scenes opposite Tim Rozon. How did what Doc say help Cleo get her confidence back? Also, what’s it like working with Tim?

SB: Tim is a very generous actor, even when he’s not on camera. The thing with everyone on that show is that you’re so comfortable being on camera and with whoever is behind the camera. I felt so blessed about being on that set, and it’s why I think Cleo is able to really shine and flourish. I felt like I was permitted to do these things and there was never a chance I’d be wrong. There was never a chance that what I did playing Cleo was going to be wrong. There’s a lot of confidence in that and during those scenes I felt like I had permission to feel vulnerable in front of them. It all comes out naturally when you feel comfortable. That scene felt natural, especially because Paolo [Barzman, director] just really let us feel the scene out. That confidence and comfort really helped me bring out the sensitivity in Cleo.

TTVJ: Those scenes were just beautiful, but I really want to know what it was like to shoot the Instagram filter look when Doc fell under the Cupid spell? It was such a great effect that they came up with.

SB: I was the first one who had to do it. I had the sun in my eyes, along with the set lights, and a fan was going. Tim was also there and Paolo is like, ‘Think of your lover’ in his beautiful accent. It was right after I was crying, so my eyes were itchy and I’m trying to look sexy. It felt like I was riding on a boat with my eyes open. I just kept thinking, ‘Look sexy! Look sexy!’ Dom looked amazing in hers! She was like a model. It was interesting trying to do it and I just didn’t want my eyes to cross. [laughs]

TTVJ: With everyone else in her family dead or turned into a Reaper, Cleo is now the Clanton heir. What does that role mean to her and any hints as to what she will do next?

SB: You never know what Cleo is going to do next. Cleo doesn’t even know what Cleo is going to do next. She’s just a bad bitch and has got some things in store. As much as it sounds super selfish, she doesn’t mean to be selfish, but I think she’s really about doing what Cleo wants at this point. She wants to break free and be able to go do something, she doesn’t know what, but she wants the option to choose.

TTVJ: You recently posted some photos on Instagram of Paula. What was it like building this Clanton family unit with her, Ty Olsson, and Billy Bryk?

SB: It was a lot of fun playing the family scenes. First of all, Paula is actually the sweetest person. When we were in the van driving to set I’d constantly think, ‘How is this possible? She’s an amazing actor because she’s the complete opposite.’ Ty was also just hilarious. So the family scenes were so fun to play off each other because there’s so much tension and layers. Each individual of that family had their own motivation that adds tension to the scene. There’s secrets they are keeping from each other, in addition to the giant one they are keeping as the Clantons. 

The one scene in particular in the first half sitting around the table was amazing to film. There was so much energy and we all kept giving more, and more, and more. Even if you weren’t on camera you were giving your all, and we just had so much fun playing that scene, these characters, and those secrets. We got a little carried away, but that’s the best thing about Wynonna. You get so into the scenes that you are playing that you forget they are filming. You know you’re acting, but you’re having so much fun playing these characters and you kind of forget you’re filming. I feel very blessed to be a part of this show.

TTVJ: You guys don’t have a ton of scenes together, but it seems like you and Martina Ortiz Luis got really close during shooting. What was it like finding that friendship and might we get some scenes between Cleo and Rachel down the road?

SB: I will let you know now that there are some scenes in the future. I absolutely adore Martina! She’s so sweet and funny. She’s a vibe. [laughs] Martina felt like a little sister which was really fun. This is the first show she’s ever done and did absolutely amazing. A lot of our filming time tended to be the same and in the same area so we’d have a lot of breaks off together. She’s just a fun, sweet person to be around and we really enjoyed killing time together. We love rings and so we’d go shopping at these little stores to find random rings we could buy. She has the tiniest fingers and they’d have to bring out extra trays for Martina. 

TTVJ: I know you’re not on Twitter, but you do have Instagram. What’s it been like getting to interact with the infamous Earper fandom?

SB: Amazing! I’ve never had a fanbase of a show interact with me before. It’s really cool to be able to see people enjoy what I’m doing. I’m just starting out and this is one of my first series roles, so the fact that people enjoyed what I was doing made me have one of those moments like, ‘They like me. They really like me!’ To be able to see people relate or love to hate her is such a cool experience. 

I feel super blessed and no, I don’t have Twitter. It’s too anxiety inducing, but my fiancé has it so I’ll go on his. Martina sends me stuff, and my agent sends me stuff, so I do see it. I feel really giddy inside when people like it. A young woman just drew some fan art and that was really flippin’ cool. 

TTVJ: In the future, when we’re on the other side of this pandemic, I hope you’re ready for an in-person convention where people can come and just yell “For freedom!” at you all the time.

SB: Yes! That was also an introduction to what we were doing. Every time I would do something they’d just say ‘More! Can you be a little bit more of a bitch?’ I loved filming that scene and it’d be amazing to do a con. I’ve never done one and I hear they are very exciting. Tim loves his cons. 

TTVJ: Is there anything you can share about your upcoming series with Tim, Surreal Estate, or who you play?

SB: My character’s name is Zooey L’Enfant and I’m the receptionist of the Roman Agency. Tim plays Luke Roman and he has experience in selling troubled homes. These are haunted homes or ones where weird things just start happening. We try to figure out what’s going on with the home and help sell it. We clear any ghosts or supernatural activity that may be happening. Zooey is just a badass receptionist and there’s so much to her. I’m not as neurotic as Cleo, but it’s also a very fun character that I’m super excited about. Working with Tim again was really awesome and it’s an interesting storyline. It’s nothing terrifying either or super scary. So if you’re someone that doesn’t like that they you can still watch it.

Wynonna Earp airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on SYFY and CTV Sci-Fi.