The CW series turned everything -- and we mean everything -- on its head in Wednesday's episode, titled "The Haunting of Nancy Drew," with one stunner of a twist: Nancy Drew (Kennedy McMann), the eponymous sleuth, isn't actually Nancy Drew. Not really, anyway. She's actually the daughter of Lucy Sable, aka Dead Lucy, the woman who's been haunting Nancy and Horseshoe Bay all season long. Yeah, like we said -- bombshell.
The game-changing revelation played out in dramatic fashion when Nancy, upon clearing her father Carson Drew's (Scott Wolf) name as a suspect in Lucy's murder trial, discovered he hadn't been 100 percent honest with her about who she was, after a DNA test (from Lucy's hair sample) revealed their DNA actually matched. It turns out, on that fateful night Lucy died, Carson and Kate Drew (Sara Canning) were there by the cliff and learned that Lucy -- who was at her wit's end after receiving a not-so-subtle threat from Ryan Hudson's father -- was pregnant.
Before she jumped off the cliff, her final wish was for Carson and Kate to raise the baby as their own and to protect the child from the Hudsons. And when Carson went searching for Lucy in dark waters below, all that was left was her bloody white dress (the same one stored away in a chest up in the attic). So, like the loyal friends they were, the Drews did exactly that, moving away from Horseshoe Bay to keep the baby's origin a secret and only returning when Nancy was a teenager. "She's me... the baby is me," a stunned Nancy confirms.
To get the scoop on this huge twist, ET hopped on the phone with executive producers Noga Landau and Melinda Hsu Taylor for a complete breakdown on what this means for Nancy moving forward, how this affects the rest of the series and what's next.
ET: Holy mother of a shocker! When did you first get the idea for this twist that Nancy Drew isn't really Nancy Drew? What were the conversations like in pulling off this huge game-changer?
Noga Landau: When I pitched the show to The CW, this was always the story of the first season and it was always going to be the twist that Nancy learns. So, it's been in the DNA of the show, literally, from the very first scene. The thinking that I always say -- and I say it like, five times a day -- is that in a show about a girl who likes solving mysteries, nobody knew that she would be the greatest mystery of all.
This reveal changes everything about the show moving forward. Did you have any hesitations or worries about pulling this off?
Melinda Hsu Taylor: We are fortunate to work with a fantastic team of eight other human beings with really smart brains, and two more for season 2, who were freelancers and are now part of the staff. We have this great timeline in the writers' room. We put together the clue trail and thinking about when things should lay out exactly. And initially, this was going to be the end of episode 13. There were discussions; should it be 15 or 18 or 22? We wanted to do this very exciting twist near the end of the season to keep people coming back for the next six episodes, to teach them how to watch the show going forward.
I've watched shows as an audience member where, at the end of season 1, they solve something really big and it's time to move on to the next season. We didn't want to give people the option to do that. We wanted to keep them hooked and learning the new way that stories unfold, which is still serialized but also starting to lean a little more into standalone, for lack of a better word. We're going to have a mystery and we're going to finish some things up week by week. Other things are going to stretch out with emotional arcs and romantic journeys and ghostly influences over a longer [period of time]. We wanted to let the audience know there's more to the show than, "Who killed Dead Lucy?"
Landau: We want our audience to know that the mystery can be wrapped up and solved at any point. There's not some timeline where it's all going to come together in episode 22 and that will be the end of the season. .
Who among the cast knew about this Nancy reveal? Did you tell Kennedy early on or was she kept in the dark?
Hsu Taylor: Scott and Riley [Smith] always knew. Sara Canning, who plays Kate Drew, knew early on. I remember exactly when I told her. She didn't know during the pilot, but by the time we were filming episode 2, I told her. So she's known since mid-July.
Landau: I feel like Scott's really the one we told, because he's the one holding the secret, so he knew it all from the beginning. Kennedy started to figure it out. She is Nancy Drew both onscreen and off-screen. We were keeping Riley updated throughout.
Hsu Taylor: Kennedy, I couldn't tell you exactly when. I think she suspected, but at some point before the holidays last year, I think she was told.
This changes everything for Nancy Drew. Everything she thought she knew about who she was and her life has been a lie. How devastating is this for her? How is she grappling with this new truth?
Landau: A lot of this is going to play out in episode 17 through 22, for all different shades of how she deals with this bombshell that's hit her life. And the answer is in many different ways. There's not one way you react to news like this.
Hsu Taylor: We wanted the rest of the characters of the show to be in the know very soon too, because I just like it when a character on the show forces this out. If it's not blurted out, they should be forced into a situation where the only best thing they could say is the truth.
This also changes Nancy's relationship with Carson, who she always thought was her dad. How does this change their father-daughter bond?
Landau: What we can say is that it goes to many emotional steps as the two of them work out who they are to each other moving forward. A lot of dramatic, heart-wrenching moments, but also a lot of moments of realization. It shows many different sides of the characters now that they have to re-evaluate who they are, especially for Nancy. She also has to figure out, "Am I a Drew? Am I Lucy's daughter?" What we will say is that no matter what, the show is always going to be called Nancy Drew and that now means something in a much bigger way.
Hsu Taylor: And Scott Wolf said something interesting, which got him excited about playing the character going forward. He doesn't have this burden of this secret. Meanwhile he's being held accountable to Nancy and the rest of the world for things he chose to do in the past -- even though he had the best intentions and wanted to protect Nancy, there's definitely a huge ripple effect moving forward.
Can you confirm that Ryan Hudson is Nancy's biological father?
Landau: Episode 17 will be all about that.
You've mentioned that Nancy's friends will all be in on the truth about her identity. Who in the group has the most surprising reaction? Is there a danger that one of them could cut ties with Nancy as a result of this?
Hsu Taylor: I think they actually really bond around her. It maybe causes them to look back on their own pasts or have an awareness of what's going on with her. If anything, it brings them closer together.
Can you set the table for how this revelation fuels the remainder of the season? I imagine this shake things up dramatically.
Landau: They are about to enter a whole new mystery, where the stakes are incredibly high for each one of them. What they have to do is continue to work together as a team. There is going to come a point where there is a major conflict. They're going to have to figure out where they effectively split up or stay together as a group.
We meet Detective Tamora (R.J. Hatanaka) for the first time and he's incredibly suspicious of Nancy and the crew. How tight of a leash is he going to have on the gang?
Hsu Taylor: I think you can say, in the most fun way, because he is a cop so he's not going to put up with their shenanigans, but he's also not going to break the law himself in investigating them. So he has to go toe-to-toe with them moving forward. We'll see more from him and we hope to see lots more of him. But I think you're going to really enjoy how he brings another flavor to the show.
He's also in possession of the missing skull. What does he plan to do with it? What's his motive? What's his next move?
Hsu Taylor: That comes back in episode 20. Tamora comes back in 19. It's really fun to see him onscreen. We like that actor very, very much.
Landau: R.J. is really capturing the character in a really fun way. He is a fun antagonist. He is an antagonist.
Let's talk romance. When did it become apparent that Nancy and Nick weren't going to last? Is their love story done?
Landau: Anything is possible. You never know who will start falling in love, and in and out of love, and what life-shattering events are going to come along that changes people's relationships forever. But that's what makes it exciting. In the books, Nancy was always dating Ned Nickerson, but in real life, especially in a crew like the Drew Crew, that might be a little more like what we see in the show, where people break up and move on and love ebbs and flows.
Hsu Taylor: What we don't want to do is have a musical chairs, ping-ponging kind of feeling, because I don't think it's honest to real human relationships and not fair to the portrayals of the characters. I will say, we are a slow burn.
Nancy took the next step with Owen in the last episode. What is your plan for them, romantically?
Landau: Well, they certainly do like each other a lot.
Hsu Taylor: Yeah, she goes to him for comfort. I would encourage everyone to watch episode 17.
I just don't fully trust Owen. Should Nancy be holding him at arm's length? Give us a temperature check on this guy.
Hsu Taylor: Nancy's really into him, and we've thrown bread crumbs [throughout the season] of the darkness in the Marvin family's past, which may or may not have anything to do with him. But he is aware of the family not being angels.
Nick and George decide to take their friendship to the next level. What made you decide that this was a pairing you were interested in exploring?
Landau: That came about organically around midseason, when we started breaking the episodes. We noticed that George and Nick were being drawn to each other as we were breaking stories. We, as a collective writers' room, started to go on the journey of their relationship with them. It has been a little bit of a slow burn and it will continue to be. We really want that relationship to unfold in a realistic, grounded way.
Incorporating American Sign Language (ASL) into Ace's story has been so seamless and really added another layer to his family history with his father. Can you talk about that process?
Hsu Taylor: We wanted to cast somebody who came from that background, because it helps with the character -- partly because it helps with the character. As we were breaking episode 8, when Ace is in a coma, we were like, we wanted to tie this to trauma in Ace's past. His dad was almost killed as a result of [a past case]. We did a really wide casting search and Anthony Natale [who plays Ace's dad, Captain Thom] is so wonderful and one of the nicest, warmest human beings I've met. Alex Saxon has really stepped up and learned ASL and worked with a coach beforehand and has been very, very respectful about how Ace's world would be perceived, so he's thought about how he would be approaching it. It gave us more opportunities for story, which was very exciting.
With six more episodes left this season, how would you describe this final run?
Hsu Taylor: Well, they failed to pay the toll and we saw Nancy vomit the seaweed, so it's not good. The last six episodes are the aftermath and the fallout of disturbing the Agleaca spirits and how they have to try to get it back to [normal], basically.
Landau: And to unwind the mystery behind the spirit.