When Jared Padalecki saw news stories about a law enforcement agent who balked at separating immigrant families at the border, he thought there might be a potential series worth exploring.
“I have a 3-year-old,” the “Supernatural” star says during a Zoom conference. “I couldn’t bring myself to do that. You’re bound by duty but you still have a moral code and you see people as human beings, not as perpetrators or heroes.”
Meeting with producer Anna Fricke, he tossed out ideas and the two landed on “Walker,” an update of the “Walker, Texas Ranger” concept.
“We shortened it to “Walker’ because it’s not just about the Texas Ranger,” Fricke says. “It’s about the life of this character and the family and friends around him. We sort of wanted the flexibility (but) we wanted to keep the familiarity. We understand that we’re inheriting a legacy and we want to respect that. We also wanted to indicate we’re doing our own thing.”
Because the coronavirus pandemic slowed the end of Padalecki's long-running series “Supernatural” and the start of “Walker,” producers had time to explore what the characters could be.
Lindsey Morgan, who plays Cordell Walker’s partner, Micki Ramirez, was among the beneficiaries of the wait. “Though I love Chuck Norris and I’m a big fan of all his kung fu-ness, I love that we’re bringing a new world to ‘Walker,’” she says. “I love that I get to represent as a Mexican-American Latina actress and a Latina Ranger on the force."
Straddling two worlds, she says, "we can tell a story of tolerance from two perspectives."
While “Walker, Texas Ranger” painted its lawman as a bit of a lone wolf (he had an uncle and, later, a wife), the new edition will include a brother, two children and his parents.
That family dynamic helps extend the series’ reach.
“Ours is more a story of human experience,” Padalecki says. “We get into the issue of race and how minorities are treated. Because, let’s be honest, it’s not a law enforcement issue. It’s in politics. It’s in industry. It’s in school.
“We deal with the issues that are real, right now, across many mediums.”
When the series was ordered, the Black Lives Matter movement hadn’t started and COVID-19 wasn’t an issue.
“While I was waiting for the show to begin, the world began to drastically change,” Morgan says. "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 than it would have pre-2020. The learning challenge that I face daily is, ‘Where do I fit as a Mexican woman in a majority Caucasian law enforcement team in a state that has been majorly conservative and not caring too much about marginalized communities and immigrants?’”
The revisionist “Walker,” she adds, has become “so much more than it was before all this.”
Keegan Allen, who plays Cordell’s brother, Liam, says family becomes a sticking point, too. “Liam stepped in as a father figure (to Cordell’s children),” he says. “He wants him to step up to the plate as a father. There’s a convergence of force at one point.”
Violet Brinson and Kale Culley, who play Padalecki’s TV children, say the family relationship is “complicated and messy.”
“There’s just a lot of anger and pain but there’s also so much love,” Brinson says.
“It’s a roller coaster of trying to connect the family back together,” Culley adds.
Interestingly, Padalecki’s real-life wife, Genevieve, is also in the series. Working together, she says, “is one of the most amazing things that’s happened for our marriage.”
“Walker” is pretty good for Padalecki’s career, too.
Fricke and her writing team created a character so different from his “Supernatural” persona, “I’d have to try really hard to bleed the two together,” he says. “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 as Cordell Walker.”