“Walker,” a reboot of Chuck Norris’ iconic series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” was ordered straight to series at The CW last January. And in the year since the Jared Padalecki-led procedural was picked up, the conversation surrounding on-screen portrayals of law enforcement have become increasingly critical amid Black Lives Matter protests in response to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others.
The current environment made “Walker” creator Anna Fricke and her writers “wary” to continue on with a show about law enforcement, especially as they were sorting it out in a Zoom writers’ room due to the pandemic, but they ultimately saw it as an opportunity to do something different.
“I actually feel very fortunate that we are being forced to have these conversations and it’s been an educational year,” Fricke told reporters during the “Walker” panel at The CW’s virtual press day Friday. “Given all the events that have been happening in the world, me, the writers, the cast I think initially were wary of the position we were in telling this story. And now I feel very grateful, because I think we actually have a platform to explore the story correctly and to be thoughtful. And we have really been given a chance to examine things and hopefully be telling this story in a responsible way. So we, as a show, are really trying to lean into these topics and learn from these topics and explore the lives of these characters in a very deep way.”
“Walker” stars Padalecki as Cordell Walker, a widower and father with his own moral code, who returns home to Austin, Texas after being undercover for nearly a year, only to discover there’s harder work to be done at home.
Lindsey Morgan, who plays Walker’s partner, Micki, said the world “drastically” changing while the cast was waiting to shoot the show as an unexpected “blessing.”
“Because suddenly a show about law enforcement in a very divided state such as Texas means so much more now in our world today than it would have pre-2020,” Morgan said during the panel. “So just from my position and the character I play, a big obstacle and 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 is, for the history of it, been majority conservative, and not caring too much about marginalized communities and immigrants. So I love that my character is placed in a position of these two worlds and these two kind of warring communities, but hoping to be a liaison and hoping that we can tell a story of tolerance and a story from two perspectives.”
She continued: “And also not a story saying which side is right, but this is where we are and this is who we are, and what are we going to do about it next? And hopefully our story that we’re portraying on television can inspire others in their lives and bring more tolerance and understanding to both sides of the coin and different perspectives of all the people in our world and in America… It’s become so much more than what it was before all this.
Padalecki added that The CW’s “Walker” is “not simply a story of law enforcement,” though it’s obviously a central part of the story.
“Walker is a Texas Ranger, as is Micki (Morgan), as is [Coby Bell’s character, Captain Larry James]. But our [show] is more a story of human experience,” the “Supernatural” alum said, “So we’re not just trying to simply say, law enforcement good, law enforcement bad, law enforcement in the middle… We get into the human experience and politics. And [Violet Brinson and Kaley Culley, who play Walker’s children, Stella and August] at their school and how the issue of race and the issue of how minorities are treated– Because let’s be honest, it’s not a law enforcement issue, it’s in politics, it’s in school, and so we’re trying to deal with these issues that are very real in 2020 and 2021.
“You don’t have to be a police officer or know a police officer for this show to make a difference,” Padalecki said. “We deal with the issues that are real, right now, across many different mediums. So that’s what we’re setting out to do and I think we’re doing a great job of it so far and I can’t wait to see what Anna and the brilliant gang of writers are going to keep bringing our way.”
“Walker” premieres Thursday at 8/7c on The CW.