‘Nancy Drew’: Scott Wolf Makes His Directorial Debut with a Twisty, Emotional Hour

Nancy Drew - Scott Wolf
Preview
Colin Bentley/The CW

A major chill hits the hotter-than-ever Nancy Drew tonight, as a cold front collides with the gang’s ongoing search for the Frozen Hearts Killer. Ironically, the episode “The Voices in the Frost” was directed by one of the most warm-hearted residents of Horseshoe Bay, Carson Drew himself, Scott Wolf.

After 30-plus years in front of the camera, Wolf stepped behind one for the first time to helm an hour that sees several Drewlationships (let’s make that a thing) taking new turns, including one that will leave a lot of fans wondering what the hell is happening once the credits roll. But before that twist, was took some time to catch up with the newly minted director and genuinely good guy about working with his stellar ensemble and the joys of a cast that owns their characters.

So this was your first time directing ever?

Scott Wolf: First time directing!

So of all the other shows that you’ve done, which were probably much easier to direct, you make your directorial debut with ghosts and effects and all the Nancy Drew stuff.

Yes, yes, yes. [Laughs] Interestingly, I think one of the reasons why I finally raised my hand after all of these years is because of what this show is and how creative it is. We’re kind of making a little 42-minute movie every week and that level of ambition [is attractive]. When I started out, the job of director didn’t call to me back then, and now seeing how much goes into making our show and how artful they are and how you really have to be a filmmaker to make an episode of this show…that just kind of shot my hand into the air. The showrunners and Larry Teng, our producing director, have been so instrumental in kind of marching me towards the starting line.

Scott Wolf as Carson in Nancy Drew

Colin Bentley/The CW

On most shows when the actors are directing, they usually shadow the director of maybe the episode before, or a couple episodes before. Did you do that, too?

I did. Because I’m on the show, when I’m not acting, I was really able to kind of shadow little bits and pieces of lots of different people. We have one great director named Ruben Garcia who’s done a handful of episodes for us, and I asked him if I could fully shadow him last season because episodes 13 and 15 filmed concurrently. So I basically was just on his shoulder for that whole experience. And one of the upsides of the Zoom world we’re living in is that I was able to be part of pre-production and prep and post meetings and things that would’ve been difficult to have access to otherwise. So that was a huge upside, too.

You could even drop into the writer’s room down in L.A., correct?

Literally. Melinda Hsu Taylor and Noga Landau, our showrunners, have been the most gracious bosses and partners in this whole endeavor and have just given me an unbelievable amount of access and the ability to really have conversations about every step of the process.

Now you understand that this episode in particular is going to upset or at least get a strong reaction from various fandoms.

I do. Yes, I do! [Laughs] And I don’t think it was accidental that they gave me an episode that was heavy in relationships and leans on the performances of our amazing cast. You know, there’s obviously always some supernatural and scary stuff, but this one really is all about people’s hearts and minds and yes, there are twists and turns here that are going to have multiple fandoms, multiple nations, on the edges of their seat. I will be getting some cards and letters, I think, yeah. [Laughs]

Nancy Drew - Tunji Kasim + Leah Lewis

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You will definitely wanna keep an eye on your social feeds after the show. Without spoiling anything, the way you handled the resolution of the George (Leah Lewis) and Ned (Tunji Kasim) storyline was so lovely. That must have been so much fun to direct those two.

Oh, it was. The story you’re talking about with Leah and Tunji…they’re such fine actors, they’re remarkably talented, they show up prepared and they know their stuff. And because it was my first time, it was important to me to square up with all of our cast, even though they come fully loaded with what’s going on with their character and they’re ready to go. I wanted to just have conversations about the story that I saw and hear the story that they were seeing

So I did as much plumbing of the story with everyone as possible before we actually hit the floor. In that particular case, there’s a scene at the end of the show, the scene that resolves their story, that to me was kind of the emotional linchpin of the whole thing. From the first time I had read it, I’ve never not been half a mess. [Laughs] And someone said something beautiful recently that I loved, which is when something can feel both surprising and inevitable, you know you’ve got the makings of a really interesting, cool story. And in this case, I see what you’re saying. Our writers and producers do such an incredible job of crafting a story that just kind of tracks in terms of greater plot and the supernatural elements, but also in terms of people’s relationships and the characters.

I also had a personal connection to that story that I was able to share with those guys, but it really was an example of just, “Point the cameras at these remarkable people and let them do their thing.” And I’m almost most proud of that section of the show for just kind of knowing when to stay out of the way.

Scott Wolf as Carson in Nancy Drew

Colin Bentley/The CW

The emotional maturity that these characters have all been developing over the course of the seasons, it’s starting to really come to bear where they’re making decisions based on futures rather than just feelings.

I think that’s exactly right. For the first seasons of shows, when you’re building characters and stories, everything is immediate. Everything is about “What does it mean right now?” So the beauty of getting a chance to direct an episode and tell this story in Season 3 is that we’ve got all three facets: There’s the now, there’s what it means moving forward, and then there’s also all that history, everything we’ve seen these characters live through with each other. We’re not just being told about their histories, we’ve lived it with them. And it just makes all those moments that much more resonant.

It all feels incredibly beautifully complicated and I’m so grateful because Katie DiSavino, who wrote the episode, is just an incredible writer and an incredible partner. She was so gracious with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better writer or a better episode.

And how was it directing your costars?

It’s funny, because Melinda asked me afterwards, “Was it weird?” And you know what, the first scene with everyone, each actor, the first time we stood on the floor together and I was standing in this other role, there was just a shred of weirdness, of like, “Well, what is this, who are we and how does it work?” [Laughs] And then really quickly, I mean like just after rehearsing a scene once, everyone just was like, “Oh yeah, this is what this is and this is who we are.”

When I shadowed last year, one of the things that I realized was that directing these things is a challenge, you know? It’s a ton of work and anything that gets easier, anything that’s seamless, anything that just falls into place just makes your life so much easier. It allows you to focus deeper into the work you’re trying to do and get more specific. I don’t wanna give too much away, but there’s a moment at the end of the episode, prior to the scene that we were just talking about, where Nick and George pull up in their truck. I gave Leah this one little note and it was just like a positional thing, this little idea that you sometimes might have to really work and work and work and make clearer and clearer and refine with an actor. But literally, I said it once quickly and she just took it and ran to the hills with it and made it so full and funny and painful and glorious. And those are the kinds of things where you go, “Yes, I have a really badass group of artists at my disposal.”

Nancy Drew - Kennedy McMann

Shane Harvey/The CW

What about Kennedy [McMann]? She has been your most regular scene partner, so there must be some sort of unspoken language by now.

A hundred percent! You know, at this point I could start to say something to her and I could see in her eyes, like, I don’t need to finish, she knows, she’s already right there. She hears, she knows what I’m saying almost before I even form the words. So yes. And she’s maybe the most, if not the most, facile actor that I’ve ever worked with in terms of taking a note and folding it into the performance seamlessly. Kennedy has this ability to innately take it in and make it feel like it was always there and that’s pretty remarkable. I probably felt the most pressure directing her because of all that we’ve shared.

One thing I wanted to add is, not only was the entire cast and crew their normal, talented, professional prepared and incredibly intuitive selves, but they really went to bat for me, you know? It was like the home team was directing and I could just feel how much it mattered to them that it went well. And that meant the world to me.

I gotta say, that Drew Crew are good kids.

These are the best kids, Damian, these are the best kids.

Nancy Drew - Kennedy McMann + Scott Wolf + Riley Smith

Colin Bentley/The CW

The only thing that I’m bummed about is that you didn’t get to direct Riley Smith and make Ryan Hudson do something mortifying.

[Laughs] Me too! He was definitely the one missing piece of this. Knowing that we weren’t gonna get a chance to do that, he was bummed about it. I was bummed about it.

Instead, you wind up getting Tunji in what had to be freezing water!

And by the way, he was like the most game. He was so above game for that! One little anecdotal thing was, we were shooting a piece of it where we couldn’t see who was going in the water. Literally we were gonna just shoot the feet and elbow of his stunt double, right? And then word came from inside this area where all the actors were staying warm because it was freezing cold out there, that Tunji wants to do this shot. And I said, “No, it’s just gonna be the feet and the legs, we won’t even see it’s him.” And so that gets relayed inside and you know, 10 seconds later, it’s “Tunji wants to do the shot” and I said “Tell him I’m not letting him do a shot. It’s freezing and we won’t even see it’s him.” And we needed to keep him dry for this other thing. Another 30 seconds later, I turn around and he’s standing behind me going, “I wanna do the shot.” And what I loved about it was, he was just all in. I so loved his commitment level, the idea that anyone else was going to do this didn’t feel right to him. He just was so committed to doing every part of it and embracing it all.

That must be the best part of TV, getting to really take ownership of characters.

And to be able to tell their stories. You get into the third season of a show like this and like we were saying earlier, now we’re telling stories of people that we have known, right? And people we care about, that we have ideas about where we hope they go. That feels unique to what we’re able to do in television and one of the things I’ve loved most about it. So to get to direct an episode that feels like it’s in this pretty great sweet spot where we’ve built a lot of things [together], that made it a really great, rich experience.

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Three months after his introduction, the historic character is ready for his close-up.

Well, you crushed it. So I look forward to a Season 4 episode from you, as well.

Thank you! And me too.

I’m sure I will be talking to Melinda and Noga at some point, so I’ll just drop that in their ears.

Yes! Do that if you would, and the check is in the mail. [Laughs]

Nancy Drew, Fridays, 9/8c, The CW