‘Walker’ Showrunner Previews Upcoming ‘Family Soap’ Starring Jared Padalecki
If everything went according to plan, a pilot for “Walker,” the upcoming “Reinterpretation” of the 1990s, the Chuck Norris-directed drama “Walker, Texas Ranger” in the spring of 2020 and the production team would have been able to make adjustments on characters, plot points, or even casting after seeing what worked on that first episode before going on the series.
But there was nothing on a standard schedule about 2020, and "Walker" landed a direct serial assignment on the CW after being unable to shoot a pilot during a pandemic-forced production stoppage. Now the new series about a widowed father and Texas Ranger (played here by "Supernatural" Jared Padalecki) is being presented internationally by the ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group at Mipcom without the decisive, world-defining series premiere being shown on the screen.
For showrunner Anna Fricke, the delayed start of production meant more time to work with the authors' tweaking scripts and make important changes to ensure the end product pays homage to the original while being as specific and thoughtful as possible for today's audience.
"It's still a love song for Texas and the character is obviously still a Texas Ranger and an outsider with a very strong moral compass. I'd say that's a strong run-through" from the original, "Fricke tells Variety.
But the racist reckoning and calls for police reforms in the United States in recent months have also inspired the writers to delve deeper into the talks about the changes that need to be made.
"This should always be a show set up for conversation on either side of the fence, and that Walker is a character who can see things both ways - we call him the edge of the coin," she explains. "We found that we were inadvertently set to have these conversations in the characters of Captain James, a black man, and in Walker's new partner, a Latinx woman. Given the extra time, we adjusted the pilot slightly, since Captain James, as the new captain who was promoted while Walker was on a case, is really here to make progress in the department and to keep an eye on corruption. "
The cases in "Walker", continues Fricke, offer unique situations and perspectives than the usual police procedures, since "rangers are involved in other cases" than police officers. But she also notes that the show's primary focus is on Walker himself and the relationships he has with everyone from his late wife (played by Genevieve Padalecki in flashbacks) to his teenage children (Violet Brinson and Kale Culley), his parents (Mitch Pileggi and Molly Hagan), his brother (Keegan Allen), his new boss (Coby Bell) and his new partner (Lindsey Morgan).
“The original Walker had very strong family ties, mostly with his uncle, with whom he spent a lot of time. I would say this show is even more of a family drama just because Walker now lives on the ranch with his own parents. So it's a real cross-generational story, ”says Fricke, who classifies the show as a“ family ”soap,” says.
For the global audience, which Padalecki knows from his 15-year hunt for demons, the devil and ultimately God himself in "Supernatural", the actor admits that he is his former character and the lessons he learned from this show, will flow into every job I do. "The character of Walker and the character of Sam Winchester share some fundamental similarities, as both start their respective shows grieving (Sam lost his college girlfriend in the pilot of Supernatural while Walker lost his wife here), and both are it's good guys to make the world a better place.
According to Fricke, however, Walker is more of a family man, which will set him apart from Sam. "The brothers on 'Supernatural' have always been so isolated from each other, but the story of season one [of 'Walker'] really is a man who brings his family back together and who his kids are now," she says.
There are also plans to "make Padalecki look a little different" to further separate the characters. "This is someone who literally grew up on the network with 'Gilmore Girls' when it was the WB," says Fricke of Padalecki. “That's why it was important to him to be honest, to be a man and to be his own person. We've talked a lot about it being a little more unkempt. His character on "Supernatural" is usually clean-shaven, but [we] add that grown-up side to him. "
"Walker" will be filming in Austin, Texas, which is where the show takes place. Fricke feels "lucky" to be doing so to truly "capture the essence of Austin". With health and safety concerns still very high in the US amid the ongoing pandemic, Fricke notes that her authors' room is also going through certain scripts looking for places to remove the contact between the actors.
"We took all the handshakes out. We start family scenes with everyone already seated, so we skip the hugs and things like that," she says. "Our production team is very conservative. We have conversations with actors about what makes them feel safe. So while there is romance, a lot of it is implied. In general, we try to get a lot of old school implications [like] wistful glances. It is a real dilemma to think about how to approach filming in a time of COVID. "
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