This Thursday's series premiere of The CW's Walker brings viewers the story of widowed father Cordell Walker, played by Jared Padalecki (Supernatural, House of Wax), returning home after almost a year undercover to reconnect with his family and former law enforcement colleagues. This ambitious reinvention closely follows Walker through his journey as he tries to balance all the new details in his old life as the circumstances surrounding his wife's death become increasingly more suspicious. During The CW's virtual press tour, the cast and executive producer explained how they attempted to capture the spirit of the original while telling a contemporary family drama.
Growing up in San Antonio, Padalecki watched his fair amount of Chuck Norris as the titular Texas Ranger but admits he probably would not win a trivia game about the original. It was the recent indefensible events at America's southern border that inspired Padalecki to tell stories with not just two sides of the coin, but also "The third side of the coin, the edge of the coin." The drama asked questions rather than proselytize the writer's beliefs and force answers down the viewer's throats.
Jared Padalecki: "I read a story about a law enforcement agent who couldn't bring themselves (to) simply put a three-year-old in the cage and take them away from their parents. And they said something to the effect of, you know, I have a three-year-old, I couldn't bring myself to do that. And, and that empathy and that emotion struck me as something, you know, caught between the inevitable rock and a hard place where you're bound by duty, but you still have moral code and you see people as human beings, not as perpetrators or heroes. And so Anna and I talked, over a year ago now, you know, we were delayed with the quarantine pandemic. And so we talked about developing a story where we could dance around those topics and those subjects, and try and make people, when the episode is over, think, you know, "What would I do if I were in the same position?'"
Walker unexpectedly finds common ground with his partner, one of the first women in Texas Rangers' history, Miki Ramirez- played by Lindsey Morgan (The 100, Beyond Skyline). Miki is quick to school Walker on his maverick ways. Growing up without a television, Morgan was not too familiar with the original series but she does take the responsibility of playing a Latina Texas Ranger very seriously.
Lindsey Morgan: "Though I love Chuck Norris and I'm a big fan of all of his Kung Fu-ness, and just a big fan of Kung Fu in general, I love that we're bringing a, a new world to Walker and I love that I get to represent, as a Mexican American Latina actress and also being a Latina ranger on the force in the Texas Rangers. You know, I feel like it's pretty historical and monumental, and I feel very honored that I get to represent that in this world.
Based on the premiere, we can expect Walker to be much more of a family drama than an action-packed blockbuster extravaganza. His ADA brother Liam gave up his life in New York and has been trying to fill in during his brother's absence, raising the challenge for Walker to resume his place in the family. How is Walker's return going to shake up Liam's world? Keegan Allen (No Escape, King Cobra) illustrated how Walker's return will affect his life.
Keegan Allen: "Liam stepped in as a father figure character, for a while. And we get to see that obviously Liam very much cares for his family and he wants to be there for his brother. And there's a really interesting relationship between the brothers, it's a deep love and a deep respect, but, obviously, there is a bit of consternation amongst the family with his return and, and Liam wanting him to step up to the plate as a, as a father, to these, to these children and to the family in general. So it's a wonderful ride through the first season of this character and we get to see, you know, how that plays out. I don't want to spoil anything or… But I, there is a, you know, there is a convergence of, of force at one point… there is something about Liam, he really cares about his career, he really cares about his family and we get to kind of see him how he deals with all of that."
Episodic television veteran Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files, Supernatural) has been tapped to play Texas rancher/ father Bonham Walker. Stoic and not one for long-winded, sentimental speeches, Bonham will do anything for his family. Pileggi explains more about the elder Walker and reflects on his appearance in the original series.
Mitch Pileggi: "I think, I think the character is gonna develop as time goes on. You won't just see him being difficult and taciturn like that after a certain point…I actually did the original, the original Walker. I did an episode of it and… Yeah, that's how old I am. I've got, I've got a Canadian nephew who's so excited at the fact that I did, I did an episode of it. Cause he said, 'Oh man, you got to fight Chuck Norris.' And I was like, 'No, I got to fight Chuck Norris's nephew.' And, but, it was, it was, it was interesting. So I can, you know, I was, I was there for (The original series). I think that this, this character is, is not just what you're gonna, you know, what you're seeing in the first episode, I think he's, he's going to grow and develop as time goes on."
Padalecki explains further: "What appears on the outside is a facade is not always what's going on on the inside. And so, Mitch and Bonham both embody this sense of, you know, a stern, taciturn and terse, parent, father figure patriarch, who has got a big old heart and really just as trying to do the best they can to show love in the way they know-how and to show support the way they don't know how."
Walker Presents Law Enforcement Take In Tune with Current Societal Issues
It is impossible to discuss a fictional lawman and overlook the recent national conversation about law enforcement and their relationship to Black and other communities of color. Writer and Executive Producer Anna Fricke (Being Human, Valor) and the cast share their thoughts on law enforcement and its role in perpetuating systemic racism.
Anna Fricke: "I feel very grateful because I think we actually have a platform to explore the story correctly, and to be thoughtful. And we have really been given a chance to examine things and hopefully be tying the story in a responsible way. And so we, as a show are really trying to lean into these topics and learn from these topics and explore the lives of these characters in a very deep way"
Lindsey Morgan: "In a way, it became this unsuspected blessing because suddenly a show about law enforcement in a very divided state such as Texas means so much more now in our world today than it would have pre-2020. So just from my position and, and the character I play, a big obstacle and learning challenge that I face daily is, where do I fit as a Mexican woman in a majority, majority Caucasian law enforcement team in a state that is, you know, for the history of it, been majorly conservative and not caring too much about marginalized communities and… immigrants. I love that my character is placed in a position of these two worlds and these two kinds of warring communities, but hoping to be a liaison and hoping that we can tell a story of tolerance and a story of, from two perspectives. And also not a story saying which side is right, but this is where we are, and this is who we are, and what are we going to do about it next?"
Coby Bell: "I mean, look, we live in a country that's built on racism, literally built on racism and the aftershocks are still being felt in the law enforcement system and the political system. But at the same time, I think it's important to tell stories about the people that are trying to do it right. You know?"
Jared Padalecki: "Our 'Walker' is not simply a story of law enforcement. And that is certainly something that we deal with, obviously, Walker is a Texas Ranger as is Micki as is Coby or Captain James. Ours is more a story of human experience, and so we're not just trying to simply say law enforcement, good law enforcement, bad law enforcement, in the middle."
Sequel? Re-do? Reboot? The CW's Walker is a reimaging that is far from your daddy's Texas Ranger. A modern take on the famous lawman- so why keep the name? Even if they have never watched an episode of the original series, most folks will automatically associate the unstoppable force Norris was in Walker, Texas Ranger. Fricke explains her thoughts on keeping the iconic name.
Anne Fricke: "The characters share the same name, Cordell Walker. I never really thought about a different title. We shortened it to Walker, because, as Jared was just saying, this is a human experience, you know, it's not just about the Texas Ranger. It is about the life of this character and the family and friends around him. And so that's why we sort of wanted the flexibility. We joke about it in the writers' room all the time, you know, like what if he weren't a ranger, especially when, when we were at the height of, of a lot of turmoil. But obviously, we're, we're staying, we're staying in this career, don't worry, everyone calm down…. we wanted to keep the familiarity. We understand that we're inheriting a legacy and in this, in this role, and we want to respect that. And we also wanted to indicate we're doing our own thing."
Over the course of the series, Walker will also attempt to reconnect with his creative and thoughtful son August, played by Kale Culley (Me, Myself, and I, 6 Below), and his headstrong, somewhat rebellious teenage daughter, Stella played by Violet Brinson (Sharp Objects, The Veil). The onscreen siblings explain that the relationship with their father might just be at its breaking point.
Kale Brady Culley: "I think the way that the story is being told is so brilliant because, at the start of the show, we see everybody together and after the series of unfortunate events starts to unfold, the whole family just kind of grows apart and we all kind of have to find different ways to cope with whatever we're going through with…. I don't want to say too much, but Walker and August get into an argument and there's just pain inside of August because he doesn't want his dad to leave again. And he's just trying, August is the peacemaker of the family. He just tries to get everybody together and, back into the place that we were from the start. And so I think it's just a, a roller coaster of trying to connect the family back together."
Violet Brinson: "I mean, obviously the relationship between Stella and Walker is one of my favorite things to film, because it's so complicated and messy, and there's just a lot of anger and pain, but there's also like so much love. And it's just, it's really interesting to explore, and then getting to film with Jared is obviously amazing… essentially it's just the whole family aspect with all the love and the hurt and the healing from such a horrible loss"