After Walker executive producers Anna Fricke and Seamus Fahey killed the character of Hoyt Rawlins (Matt Barr) in their CW Western drama, they regretted it, Fahey said during a Television Critics Association press tour panel.
"We started to think about, 'What did you we do wrong with our lives?' But also with the creative choice," he said with a laugh.
That led to text messages between him and Fricke about how they could continue to work with Barr and with the Rawlins bloodline. And thus, the idea of Walker Independence was born.
Barr noted that when Fahey first came to him and said, "What if we went back in time?" he replied, "What, like two years before?" But no, the show is set in the 1800s, as part of the executive producers' desire to subvert expectations fans of the franchise might have. "How do we have a fresh approach, a new take?" Fahey said was the goal.
In addition to being set more than a hundred years in the past, in order to follow ancestors of beloved Walker characters, Walker Independence also centers a female lead more than the flagship series does. Katherine McNamara plays Abby Walker, the great-great-great-great grandmother of Cordell Walker (Jared Padalecki) on the flagship series. She is heading West with her husband when tragedy strikes (aka her husband is murdered), and she ends up having to chart a new path for herself, which includes making a detour in Independence, Texas, in order to try to get justice for her husband.
She can't do it alone, though, which is where 1800s Hoyt Rawlins comes in, but also an Apache man named Calian (Justin Johnson Cortez).
"I always thought of the modern-day Hoyt as a Golden Retriever with an unloaded gun, and 1800s Hoyt is like a German Shepherd: He's nice until you cross him, and then he's gonna bite. He's more dangerous; in the 1800s Wild West you had to be," Barr said.
Both versions of Hoyt have "recklessness in the DNA," he continued, and are "still trying to figure things out and get in their own way."
This attitude means he and Abby will butt heads a lot, and that may be putting it nicely. But since he knows the small Texas town she end up in well, and she is an outsider without any of her usual comforts, let alone money, power, or status, she will likely come to lean on him more than either of them expected.
"The world of the West is not always the most happy place to be, for lack of better word," McNamara said.
Walker Independence airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. beginning Oct. 6 on The CW. Walker has a Metascore of 51, but Walker Independence does not yet have a Metascore. Learn more about Walker Independence here.