Walker star Jared Padalecki on how his new character differs from Sam on Supernatural
The actor discusses everything from the reboot's inspiration to getting used to his shorter hair.
After 15 seasons of Supernatural, Jared Padalecki is swapping Sam Winchester's luscious locks for a cowboy hat as he returns home to Austin for his new series, Walker. The drama, which is a reimagining of the Chuck Norris-led Walker, Texas Ranger, follows Padalecki's Cordell Walker as he grieves the recent loss of his wife and grapples with balancing his duties as a father and as a Ranger.
For Padalecki, Walker presented a chance to get more involved. In addition to starring in the series, he serves as an executive producer, which means you'll catch him between scenes watching casting videos, talking about upcoming scripts or schedule changes. "It's a couple of full-time jobs," he tells EW.
But after spending so long saving people, hunting things on Supernatural, it was important that Padalecki's next gig feel different, something he thinks they've accomplished with this series. "Our shooting style on Walker is a little grittier, so if someone's not perfectly lit or they get covered up slightly in a take, we keep it," Padalecki says. "It's a really quick-paced shooting style. It's taken some getting used to, but I really enjoy it and I love the way it looks. It looks very different from Supernatural, which is neat because you don't want to just do the same exact thing. Otherwise I would've stayed on Supernatural."
Below, Padalecki discusses how Walker came to be, what fans can expect, and what life is like with his new haircut.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know the idea for this all started with you, so how did it come about?
JARED PADALECKI: We'd already announced that season 15 of Supernatural was going to be the last, and it was at the same time of all the border migrations and families being torn apart. I read something talking about how some law enforcement officials couldn't bring themselves to put a kid in a cage and take their parent. They found themselves going, "I can't. I know I'm bound by my, duty but this just doesn't feel right." I remember reading it and going, "That's so interesting to me, I want to read more about this. I want to hear about who this person is and what drove somebody to go, 'I signed up to serve and protect, not to possibly endanger.'" They were bound by duty but also had their own moral code.
You didn't plan to act in this originally, correct?
Right. I did want to get out of acting. I didn't want to get out of the business entirely, but I was like, I need to figure out who I am, spend some time with Jared. Also I wanted to take some time after Supernatural to mourn and grieve Supernatural. But then I was like, if someone wants me to be in it, it'd have to film in Austin. If I wanted to film anywhere other than Austin, where my family is, then I would've stayed on Supernatural. The primary reason that Jensen [Ackles] and I both decided to let Supernatural rest, at least for now, was that our wives and kids lived in a different country and we'd see them four days a month sometimes. Then we realized Austin is the headquarters of the Texas Rangers. Then [my manager] Dan [Spilo] asked me if I had any showrunners I'd like to work with, and the first name out of my mouth was Anna Fricke. Dan said she probably had a deal somewhere, and sure enough we found out that Walker, the property, was owned by CBS studios and that Anna had a deal with CBS. It was kismet.
What was your relationship to the original Walker, Texas Ranger?
I wasn't a superfan but I grew up with it, I saw most of the episodes. It was part of growing up in Texas. It was huge all over, but it was certainly huge here. But this show is very different. It's not called Walker, Texas Ranger, and that's for more than one reason, but largely it's because this is not a show about a Texas Ranger who has a family. This is a show about a family man who goes to work as a Texas Ranger. It's almost like more Gilmore Girls than Supernatural.
How is Cordell Walker different from Sam Winchester?
He's a bit more Han Solo than Luke Skywalker. He's not necessarily the super-pensive, super-research-oriented, read-the-instruction-booklet guy. He's more a shoot-from-the-hip guy. He trusts his instincts. He's also very much a father and a widower. What drives him is trying to figure out how to exist as a father after having lost his partner, who was doing all the heavy lifting at home, and still having a job that demands a lot. It's a lot of what Jared was going through. I'd get home from Vancouver and [my wife] Gen had been with the kids for two weeks sometimes and I was like, "Where do I fit here because, I gotta fly back to Vancouver in 24 hours to film for another two weeks?" So I'm trying to do the best I can, but my kids are used to my wife. The parallel feels very real. But Sam and Cordell are both haunted. They both went through a terrible loss and they have a really difficult job. Sam, in a strange way, probably dealt with it in a healthier way than Cordell. Cordell probably drinks a little bit too much, and he's more caustic than Sam would be.
There's a larger mystery in the series of what happened to Cordell's wife, but will there be a more procedural element week to week as well?
We didn't want this to be like, "Hey, this is the first scene and there's a bad guy and he just stole a bunch of watches from a jewelry store, and we look for him and we find him and then we all toast and high-five at the end of the episode." Plus we can't high-five during COVID. We Zoom-toast. No, Walker being a Texas Ranger and needing to do the kinds of things that Texas Rangers need to do is very much a part of the show, and I think a lot of this first season is trying to show the audience how difficult it can be to care so much about your family and your friends but also have a very demanding job that could save lives if done well. There will be episodes where the Rangers get a case and they're called in because it requires a little out-of-the-box thinking that maybe other law enforcement agencies aren't allowed to do, so we do have that.
Most important question: In the trailer, there's a very impressive moment when Walker jumps a fence on horseback. Is that you on the horse?
No, that was not me. That is me driving the car, and that is me riding the horse and roping. I do ride horses. I'm not a black belt in horse riding, but I did spend a lot of time riding and roping [for this]. But we shot that early on. I certainly would've tried it, but I think their thought was, "We have a 12-day pilot, we don't want our lead actor/executive producer to go down with a broken foot on day 3." So my stuntman and our stunt coordinator did that part. I had a funny conversation the other day where someone was like, "You're not really a rodeo guy, so how can you play a rodeo guy?" I was like, "Listen, for 15 years I played a guy who hunted demons and who was Lucifer for a little bit, so I certainly have more experience doing rodeo-type things than hunting demons and vampires. I think we'll be all right." [Laughs]
Have you gotten used to the shorter hair yet?
It's weird. I'm getting accustomed to it. I've spent the last 20 years of my life in beanies. I'm wearing a lot more baseball caps and cowboy hats these days because otherwise I just look a little odd. I still love my beanies and I'm wearing one right now, but it's a lot less work, which is great. And I never, other than on set for Supernatural, I never did my hair anyways. So this is definitely a change. I love that it's a very obvious visual change from Sam Winchester. And feels different. I certainly feel more like a Ranger than if I had hair down to my shoulder, so that helps. I'm getting used to it.
Walker premieres Thursday, Jan. 21, at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.
Walker (TV Show)