After 15 years of 'Supernatural' demons, 'Walker' star Jared Padalecki ropes a 'very human' new role

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Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
·5 min read
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As monster-hunting Sam Winchester on 15 seasons of “Supernatural,” Jared Padalecki had all manner of terrifying things happen to him on screen. In a pandemic world, however, having a ne’er-do-well spit in the face of the heroic new star of CW’s “Walker” – without a mask! – somehow seems more shocking than being possessed by a demon.

Don’t worry, members of the Padalecki faithful: It’s a special-effects loogie that flies in the actor’s face during the Thursday's premiere of the “Walker, Texas Ranger” reboot (8 EST/PST). “Believe me, there was a lengthy meeting about how to do the spitting,” says creator and executive producer Anna Fricke.

After more than a decade of being TV bros with Jensen Ackles, Padalecki gets the solo spotlight with “Walker.” In the revamp of the 1993-2001 CBS show starring Chuck Norris and tons of martial arts, Padalecki stars as Cordell Walker, a Texas Ranger who has been away from his family for a while following the tragic, mysterious murder of his wife, Emily (Padalecki’s real-life spouse, Genevieve Padalecki). He returns to Austin to be father to his children – thoughtful son August (Kale Culley) and rebellious daughter Stella (Violet Brinson) – and partner to a new female Ranger, Micki (Lindsey Morgan).

Cordell Walker (Jared Padalecki, center) returns home to Austin and has trouble reconnecting with kids (Kale Culley and Violet Brinson) in "Walker," a new reboot of the 1990s Chuck Norris TV show.
Cordell Walker (Jared Padalecki, center) returns home to Austin and has trouble reconnecting with kids (Kale Culley and Violet Brinson) in "Walker," a new reboot of the 1990s Chuck Norris TV show.

“On ‘Supernatural,' we treated our world as reality. We were telling a science fiction thriller horror story,” Padalecki says. “So to go to a new show that's shot in a very real way, and we're not hunting God or Lucifer or angels or demons of any sort, has been a fun new world to immerse myself in."

“Walker” thus far has been a joy for Padalecki. He grew up in San Antonio and dreamed of living and working in Austin (where the show is also filmed), where he has lived for the past 10 years, and now he gets to do that “at the tender young age of 38.” He’s an executive producer on the show, though he’s used to living and breathing whatever series he’s on: “I don't feel right unless I do it with everything I’ve got.” And Padalecki can authentically channel a character who has spent important time away from his children after spending much of 15 years in Vancouver to film “Supernatural.”

“A lot of what Cordell goes through in the first couple of episodes is a lot of what Jared Padalecki went through,” he says. “I was off working a job that took a lot of my time and a lot of my bandwidth and a lot of my energy and focus.” He recalls being sent back to Austin last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic before “Supernatural” had finished its final season, “and when I got home, Gen was sort of like, 'All right, well, pick up the garbage and make sure the kids don't kill each other.’ I was like: ‘Then what? What do I do with these things? They want to play with me, but it's hot outside.'

“Our reimagination of ‘Walker’ is a very human story about a person who maybe hid themselves in their work for a long time, because that was easier for them than dealing with the very human issues that affect us all.”

While Padalecki showed a lot of heart on “Supernatural,” “it was really important to Jared in this role to play a man,” Fricke says. “He had kind of grown up on that show." With the new series, "we wanted to show someone who was a little more war-torn. When we meet Walker, he is not in a great place, and it takes him a while to pull himself together."

Sam (Jared Padalecki, left) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) hit the road in their Impala one last time in the "Supernatural" series finale.
Sam (Jared Padalecki, left) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) hit the road in their Impala one last time in the "Supernatural" series finale.

In addition to drama, Padalecki gets to show off some of his horseback-riding skills: He has taken lessons, and he owned a horse with his wife when they lived in L.A. for a couple of years. “I had more experience on horseback going into ‘Walker’ than I had experience hunting demons going into ‘Supernatural,’ ” he quips.

But being able to rope bad guys on a TV show mid-ride is a new weapon in his holster. In fact, Padalecki keeps a few lassos around the house in case he needs to rope his kids for fun. “They're going, ‘Do me, do me!’ and so they would scooter by me and I'm just sitting there in the driveway roping them.”

Genevieve Padalecki plays Jared Padalecki's wife in real life as well as on "Walker."
Genevieve Padalecki plays Jared Padalecki's wife in real life as well as on "Walker."

Like the '90s show, the new "Walker" features plenty of action and a two-fisted nature. Old-school fans will recognize at least one face: Mitch Pileggi, who guest-starred in the original series, reappears as Padalecki’s onscreen dad. “We're very committed to letting the audience get a clear picture of what the show is going to be about,” Padalecki says, “but as we carry on, I'd love to have everybody (from the original cast) on the show.”

So who’s the likelier guest star: Karate icon Norris, or his former partner Ackles?

“Man, I've been blowing Jensen's phone up!” Padalecki says. His “Supernatural” co-star is soon traveling to Toronto to film scenes for the new season of Amazon’s “The Boys,” “but you'd better believe that as soon as he's back in Texas, I'll be knocking on his door and telling him we need somebody bowlegged to get up on a horse and ride next to me.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Walker': 'Supernatural' star Jared Padalecki ropes new starring role