Jared Padalecki On What Makes His 'Walker' Reboot Different From the Original

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"It's important that we represent people that aren't always represented and help provide a voice to the voiceless."

As the eyes of a ranger return to television, don't expect the new Walker (CW, January 21) to be anything like the original Walker, Texas Ranger. "I'll start with what we take from the original, which is that this is a show about a guy named Walker who happens to be a Texas Ranger," says Jared Padalecki, who stars in and executive produces the reboot. "It's a really different show. I don't think it could be more different than the original." This version is more about helping "provide a voice to the voiceless." Padalecki first found success on Gilmore Girls, followed by a 15-year-run on Supernatural. "I don't know how to say it other than it's really just been a series of blessings, an embarrassment of riches." Last year's finale of Supernatural was interrupted by the pandemic, but when they were able to film safely, it proved an emotional experience for the 38-year-old actor. "Every time I read the finale leading up to filming, I cried." That said, in the era of reboots, he still holds out hope to return to the part. "I guess there's still that carrot on a stick I keep in the back of my head. Hopefully one day."

How does your version of Walker differ from the original?

I'll start with what we take from the original, which is that this is a show about a guy named Walker who happens to be a Texas Ranger. It's really a different show. I mean, I don't think it could be more different than the original. And I watched the original, I grew up in Texas and it was on all the time. It was a big show here. You know, a lot of us Texans are very proud Texans. But it's a very, very different character and we're very aware of the times we live in right now. It's very important that we represent people that aren't always represented. This show is more trying to help provide a voice to the voiceless, whereas the last show was more purely like "I am hero, hear me roar" kind of situation. I hope I don't sound like I'm disparaging it. I watched it growing up. I wasn't a super fan by any means, but I certainly saw more than I can count. But this show is very much about somebody who's a family man who happens to be a ranger, not a ranger who happens to have a family.

Texas definitely inspires a reaction in people. What do you hope this show does for Texas?

Texas is very diverse and a giant piece of property. If you drive from Austin to El Paso, it's 10 hours just to get out of Texas. I think Texas runs the gamut. It's kind of like a small microcosm that's sort of a part and parcel of a larger nation. You know, we're a red state this year, but in Austin, for instance, it's very blue voters. If you drive five hours North or four hours West, it flips on its side. It's not heads or tails, and it's not a double-sided coin, it's a three-sided coin: there's heads, tails, and there's also the edge. So I think a lot of Texas focuses on that edge.

It's been a long road to get here, but it has my entire heart. I hope you join us on January 21st for the premier of @thecwwalker. #SPNFamily meet the #WalkerFamily pic.twitter.com/1QbOYH5ikX

— Jared Padalecki (@jarpad) December 14, 2020

You also executive-produce Walker, a first for you. What's that been like for you?

A lot of what I'm doing here on Walker is stuff that I, frankly, did on Supernatural, like helping maintain the integrity of the story. I've been in TV for 20 years and counting, and I've done like 400 episodes of television. I've also been paying attention. I haven't just been showing up to work saying my lines and going home. I've been paying attention to what works, what doesn't work, the way the trends are headed, as far as our habits on set and our work style and helping to save money and save time and help kind of run a set and make sure that morale is up and that people are working hard and they know they're seen and appreciated, keeping everybody motivated and helping the integrity of the character. We're a brand-new show and with COVID restrictions and everything, our writing staff and the rest of our producers, by and large, have to stay on the West Coast, so I'm here to represent them, and I'm there to represent the studio and the network. The CW has a long relationship with me and vice-versa, and so they trust that I'm going to do what's best for the show, not what glorifies me. That's a big blessing that they know who I am.

Do you want to do more behind the camera?

I hope to do just that. I do love acting, and we have an awesome cast and they're wonderful people, super talented, and that's always fun. But for me, it's the practice and the rehearsal and the puzzle pieces. The producing part and trying to find pieces that work and go together seamlessly has been really exciting.

How much of Walker was shot during the pandemic, and was it difficult getting the show together during all this?

It's definitely affected the prep of the show. All our meetings are done via Zoom and even our morale on set, which is so important to me, is just difficult because when they call cut, you can't walk over to the grips or the electrics or props or wardrobe or whatever, and shoot the shit. You're not allowed to and you don't want to be responsible. I'm a young enough healthy enough guy. But the problem is, if I get it, then I put a couple of hundred people out of work. So I'm just trying to be responsible.

Supernatural ran for 15 years, which is so rare for a TV show. How do you feel about playing Sam Winchester for the last time?

It was really difficult. Every time I read the finale leading up to filming I cried. Legitimately, my eyes were watering and I was teary and sort was like, "Oh, this is going to be difficult." When you think about 15 years in anybody's life, that's kind of like kindergarten through college. That's 80 hour weeks with the same group of people as if you never moved. So it was a family and it's still, I still consider it a family. I miss our crew terribly, and I miss our fellow cast members. I think there's a part of me that still hasn't dealt with it a lot. And maybe this is like living in denial or something, but the way Supernatural is, people can always come back. Like part of me is always going to hope and pray that we get a chance to go sit in the Impala again and call each other Sam and Dean. I guess there's still that carrot on a stick that I keep in the back of my head. Hopefully one day. I'm sure it can happen. I mean, I died several times on Supernatural and came back. So hopefully I can do it one last time.

Another rarity is that you've been working on a TV series every year since 2000, with Gilmore Girls, Supernatural and now Walker. Do you not like taking breaks?

I've thought about that a lot. Hey, I don't hate vacations. I fucking love them! I'm a really simple dude. I love nothing more than waking up and not leaving my house, you know? When I lived in Los Angeles and was on Gilmore Girls, you get invited to parties. I never went. I didn't give a shit. I was like, well, "I could just stay home." And so I would just stay home.

As far as being a part of shows where it was kind of lightning in a bottle, I don't know how to say it other than it's really just been a series of blessings, like an embarrassment of riches. I mean, I work really hard, I take my job really seriously, and I care a lot. That being said, I have several friends who are better looking than I am and more talented than I am and probably smarter than I am who haven't had the same good luck I have. So I don't take that lightly. Every day I wake up, I try to earn it, and I think what that does is it helps me be prepared. There's some quote, I'm going to butcher it, but it's like success happens when preparation meets opportunity. And so I guess for me, if someone is willing to hire me, they're not going to waste their money, I'll give them all I got. And I guess that's all I've really known how to do. I don't know if I need to send you a Venmo for a psychiatry appointment, but maybe it's partially imposter syndrome or something. I can't believe my own luck. So I'm going to work harder than I feel I need to, to try and earn it.