Jared Padalecki on making the jump from Supernatural demon hunter to Texas Ranger in the reboot of Walker

Jared Padalecki on Texas Ranger.
Jared Padalecki on Texas Ranger. Pic credit: Rebecca Brenneman/The CW

The hats and the horses are still the same, but other than that, The CW’s reboot of the Chuck Norris action series Walker, Texas Ranger is a fresh take on the character.

The new Walker is more of a family drama with none of the kung fu fighting associated with Norris.

Cordell Walker (Jared Padalecki) for 2021 is a widower and father, who returns home to Austin, Texas after being undercover for nearly a year, only to discover there’s harder work to be done at home with his two teenagers — daughter Stella (Violet Brinson) and son August (Kale Culley). 

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“Our Walker is not simply a story of law enforcement,” Padalecki told reporters in a junket for his new CW series. “Obviously, Walker is a Texas Ranger, but ours is more a story of human experience, and so we’re not trying to simply say good law enforcement, bad law enforcement, in the middle.

“We get into the human experience, politics, Violet and Kale’s characters at their school, and the issues of race and how minorities are treated. We’re trying to deal with these issues that are very real in 2020 and 2021.”

As Walker tries to reconnect with his kids, he also finds out that his former colleague, Larry James (Coby Bell), is now his Ranger Captain, and he is assigned a new partner – even though he is used to working alone — Micki Ramirez (Lindsey Morgan), one of the first women in Texas Ranger history.

During the conversation, Padalecki also talked about how Walker came to be, making the jump from a demon hunter to a Texas Ranger, and more. 

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Monsters & Critics: Were you a fan of the original series with Chuck Norris?

Jared Padalecki: I did grow up in San Antonio, Texas, and Walker was certainly on the TV more times than I can count. I don’t know if I would win a trivia game about the original Walker Texas Ranger, but I did grow up watching the show.

M&C: Why Walker?

Jared Padalecki: A few years back when there were a lot of human beings coming from south of the American border into America and our society seemed to want to put people in cages and separate families. I read a story about a law enforcement agent who couldn’t bring themselves, simply put, to put a 3-year-old in a cage and take them away from their parents. They said something to the effect of, “I have a 3-year-old and I couldn’t bring myself to do that.”

That empathy and that emotion struck me as someone caught between the inevitable rock and a hard place, where you’re bound by duty, but you still have a moral code and you see people as human beings, not as perpetrators or heroes.

And so, we started talking about how interesting it would be to see that story told, where somebody who is a proud government worker for law enforcement still thinks to themselves, “There might be a better way. Some of these laws are old and they’re not nuanced.”

[Executive producer] Anna Fricke and I talk a lot about the edge of the coin. You know, they always say there are two sides to a coin — heads or tails, but there’s also a third edge to the coin. The third side of the coin is the edge. And so, where is that where somebody is bound by their duty and by sense of safety and helping themselves and helping others, but also a family man or woman, who has friends and family from all walks of life? Where does that meet?

We talked about wanting to pose questions as opposed to proselytize our beliefs and just force answers down our viewers throats. And so Anna and I talked, over a year ago now, about developing a story where we could dance around those topics and those subjects, and try and make people think when the episode is over, “What would I do if I were in the same position?” Not, “Well, they said to do this,” and “They said to do that,” but more like, “Man, I don’t know what I would do.”

In this world, we all find ourselves in situations where we know what is expected of us, but we also feel like maybe what’s right is just South or North of that.

And so, trying to find that balance, which we all, as parents and as sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, inevitably find ourselves in. So, that’s how it started, and then Anna worked her magic and genius, and now we’re making a TV show.

M&C: How much of a change was it going from Supernatural to Walker?

Jared Padalecki: Certainly, after shooting Supernatural for 15 and a half years, it was a change. To give a shout-out to Anna and our writers, the character they wrote for this version of Walker is so crystal clear and different than Sam Winchester, that I’d have to try really hard to bleed the two together. And so, it was a lot of work, but it was a seamless change from 15 years on Supernatural as Sam Winchester to the next 15 years on Walker as Cordell Walker.

M&C: This is your first time starting up a new show in 15 years. What does that experience feel like? How different is it than it was starting up Supernatural all those years ago?

Jared Padalecki: Very different. The world we find ourselves in is very different, you know? And so, it’s been trying, but teaching, too, to meet the cast and crew. We all got tested today, but usually we see each other wearing masks and we’re six feet apart, and we’re not really supposed to talk to our fellow crew members.

That’s been the most difficult part in not being able to seamlessly build a family. I will say that in three short months, we’ve built quite a family. We’re all passionate about the show and the stories we’re telling, and so the passion and the love for the work, certainly gives me energy.

Walker premieres Thursday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/7c on The CW.

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