Jared Padalecki and the 'Walker Independence' Cast Preview Their 'Western for the Next Generation'

'It's a real picture of the West, if you look deeper. A lot of history books truncate,' the executive producer said.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

Matt Barr in 'Walker Independence'

The CW

Walker Independence in its current form was first a gleam in creator and showrunner Seamus Fahey's eye when he was working on the flagship series, for which he had created and then killed off the character of Hoyt Rawlins (Matt Barr).

"Everyone was mad at him, me included," Walker star and executive producer Jared Padalecki, who also executive produces the spin-off, said about that character decision at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas on June 4.

Padalecki shared it was January 2021 when they were watching that infamous episode that he, Fahey, and executive producer Anna Fricke were discussing a prequel spin-off that could lean harder into Western tropes. However, in creating theirs, they wanted to subvert some expectations, not only of the genre, but also of characters, calling it a "Western for the next generation."

"A lot of Westerns ave revolved around a strong male lead," Padalecki noted. But Walker Independence has a strong female lead in Abigal Walker (played by Katherine McNamara), "an outlaw who's actually a nice guy but maybe found himself on the wrong side of a situation," and also a Native man named Calian (Justin Johnson-Cortez), who is caught between two worlds: "his tribe and what we now call the West."

"I'm always a little nervous playing a period piece, playing Native, because historically ... my characters, it doesn't end well for them," Johnson-Cortez said, admitting he was a little nervous about taking this role on. What convinced him in, though, was the producer team reassuring they were "going to do it right. They reassured, 'We're going to listen, we're going to tell this story as honestly as possible,'" he said.

"It's not too unlike the world I live in now," he continued. "I'm mixed...and just like in the show, you find allies in situations maybe you're not fully comfortable in. It doesn't mean you're not interested, but you're cautious. Augustus is an ally for him and his eyes into the town."

Augustus, played by Philemon Chambers, is a deputy sheriff, which Padalecki said was inspired by research that discovered about 30% of lawmen in the real Independence during this time period were Black. Their Independence is not solely based on the real Texas town, though: It is a composite of Waterloo (which became Austin) and the real Independence, Padalecki revealed.

Walker Independence will follow the first generation of the Walker family after Abby arrives in the titular Texas town from Boston, Mass. in the 1800s. She is the first of the family to live in Texas, but the family tree will be vast and wide, Padalecki teased, noting that to say much more would include spoilers.

"The Boston accent as we know it didn't quite exist yet. So, we didn't want to have something too modern for Abigail," McNamara said about why she isn't doing an accent (at least yet) in the show. "We want to pay homage of that world of education and properness of the East, but I'm pretty sure Abby is going to devolve into the world of what these ruffians are experiencing."

When Abby arrives, she meets Hoyt's ancestor (also played by Barr), and the two get off to a rocky start but eventually will have to come to an agreement to help each other. She is an outsider in town with a mission she fears no one will understand because she is the outsider, while he is well-known in town but as a criminal.

"Abby's not afraid to push boundaries and push buttons," McNamara said. And she starts with Hoyt and Calian. The latter is a help to her right away, but the former pushes his own boundaries and buttons with her.

"I love those characters in movies and TV where they can make really poor decisions but they have this noble quality ... There's his underdog in Hoyt; he wants to do the right thing," Barr said.

All of the characters have troubled pasts and are trying to reinvent themselves in Independence, as well as trying to decide what they want the town to be.

'There's something wickedly romantic about Texas justice," Barr said. "Life is so political now, especially after the pandemic. The West was simplified: It felt more black and white. Human nature's the same thing: We fight and die for what we love ... and I think the Western is the simplified sandbox of that."

Padalecki said that they anticipate real Texas history to play into the show, but "the primary story is more universal. It's not a Ken Burns documentary, so if you're living in Australia in 2022, it's a story about discovery than just about Texas."

As the show follows the characters' individual journeys of discovery for the season, Padalecki acknowledged that some conflict will come from characters trying to change the town into things other characters are reluctant about. They have a roadmap for three seasons right now, but Padalecki acknowledged the need to allow for flexibility as they begin to fully flesh out episodes. His best example was the fact that the last time he was at this television event was for Gilmore Girls, a show he was on for more than 50 episode but started as a two-episode guest arc. He joked about the next 10-15 years of exploring the origin story of the Walkers.

"It's a real picture of the West, if you look deeper. A lot of history books truncate," he explained, specifically calling out how the railroad system was built on Chinese labor, which is depicted in the show.

Walker Independence does not yet have a specific premiere date announced, but it is on The CW's fall 2022 schedule for Thursdays at 9 p.m., right behind the third season of Walker. Watch the trailer for Walker Independence here.

UPDATED: This story was updated on 6/5/22 to reflect that The CW removed the colon from the show's title.