Jared Padalecki and Wife Genevieve on Working Together Again for CW's 'Walker' Reboot (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
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After 15 years spent fending off demons and a multitude of adventures in the Impala on Supernatural, Jared Padalecki puts on his cowboy hat and boots in The CW's Walkerreboot. Admittedly, the 38-year-old actor wasn't planning on jumping in so quickly onto another TV show, only months after Supernatural ended. But the universe had other plans.
"Being part of the Supernatural family, it was an intense experience and it really shaped who I am. I met my wife, we had kids and I had a great time doing it. Filming in Vancouver 15 years with my family living in Austin, Texas, I wanted to stop having a camera pointed at me and I wanted to eat barbeque and Tex Mex and get fat and stop doing squats," he shared with former Supernatural co-star and ET's Matt Cohen. "Then this story came up... and it was one of those situations where it was such a blessing and opportunity to work in Austin, the headquarters of the Texas Rangers."
In the new series, a reinterpretation of Chuck Norris' 1990s Walker, Texas Ranger, Padalecki plays Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, a widower and father of two teenagers who returns home to Austin after being undercover for two years, only to discover there’s harder work to be done at home. As Walker attempts to reconnect with his family, he finds himself with a new partner in Micki Ramirez (The 100's Lindsey Morgan), one of the first women in Texas Rangers history, while growing suspicious about his wife’s death (Genevieve Padalecki).
As Padalecki describes, Cordell is "a different character than Sam Winchester that it became seamless. It was sort of like, 'OK, I've lived with Sam Winchester for 15 years but this character is so different,' and his motives and his idiosyncrasies are so specific that I was like, 'I would love to give this a shot.'"
He noted that his Walker won't strictly follow a weekly procedural formula with splashy action and fight scenes -- that signature DNA will still be there -- but it'll be more along the lines of a drama centered around a broken family.
"This Walker is not a cop show as people would probably assume it might be because of the original. This Walker is more of a family drama, it's more about human experience than it is about Walker, Texas Ranger wheel-kicking people walking down the street," said Padalecki, who watched the original series as a kid growing up in Texas. "He's a guy bound by duty but who has a very real connection to those around him and sees people as people."
That's not to say issues currently plaguing the country won't be addressed on the series, from border conflicts to racial injustice to politics within law enforcement. They most certainly will.
"We confront head-on a lot of issues we're dealing with. The way people of color are treated and the way minorities in general are treated, not only just with law enforcement but with school and with politics and with industry in general. I think a lot of what we try to do in the show is give voice to the voiceless in the best way that we can," Padalecki said. "We're still trying to entertain and we can't just be a dark, dramatic show that makes people sad. We want to make people laugh and cry and think... We're a very different world -- a world of a lot more accountability and a world where we really have to deal with issues that have been ignored for so long."
It's been a minute since Padalecki has launched a show and he confessed he's feeling nerves about starting a new chapter with Walker.
"I feel pressure no matter what kind of show I do, no matter what kind of role I play or story I tell," he admitted. "Ultimately, I feel pressure and a responsibility to tell this story that [showrunner] Anna [Fricke] and the group of writers and I are setting out to tell. And so, I'm just trying to tell the best story I can. This guy is different and he has a different story to tell. He lives in a different world. 2020 is very different than 1995."
There are Supernatural Easter eggs sprinkled in just by the mere presence of Mitch Pileggi, who appeared on a handful of episodes and portrays Padalecki's onscreen ranch owner father, Bonham, and Padalecki's real-life wife, Genevieve, whom he met on the set during its fourth season and plays Cordell's late wife, Emily. "We have a few Easter eggs and we hope to keep them coming your way," Padalecki teased.
As for Padalecki and his better half reuniting onscreen again for the first time since Supernatural, "it's a vacation for sure," Genevieve mused.
"It's really, really nice being back. We met working together and it's how we fell in love, was working together," she continued. "I honestly feel like we are at our best when we are working together, which I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing! But we both really love to work and we're hard workers and continually like to challenge each other and amplify each other. We're very curious and we're constantly trying to grow, and it's a great opportunity for us to be able to do that and then go home. It honestly helps our relationship."
"She put her work aside for many years, as women so often do and they make that ultimate sacrifice... So it's awesome for me to see her [on set]," Padalecki marveled. "We met when we were in our 20s and single and now we're both parents and spouses. To see her get on set and just kill it and do an awesome job, it's a whole new level of appreciation and admiration I have for my awesome wife."
Even though Genevieve's character meets a tragic end in the first episode, her presence will be felt throughout the series as Cordell tries to figure out the truth behind the mysterious circumstances surrounding her violent death.
"Family is certainly the heartbeat of the show and with that heartbeat, Emily Walker really was that integral part of that family who really kept it together, kept the family unit together," Genevieve said. "What you're dealing with is the ghost of her and all of these family members are hit with the major trauma and often with trauma you're either stuck in that moment or you have to make mistakes and fumble your way through that. You'll see those characters have to figure that out and really deal with the ghost of her who latched behind."
Helping Cordell on that journey is his new partner, Micki Ramirez, who very much keeps him on his toes and levels up in wit, toughness, street smarts and intelligence.
"I felt very close to this character, who she was in her core and how she's grown up in these worlds and had the experiences that she had with racism and sexism, especially growing up in Texas. That's a big plight of hers and her story felt very personal to my story and I loved how much of a pioneer she was," Morgan tells ET. "She's so fearless in breaking new ground and being a crusader of who she is and what she embodies and single-handedly trying to change law enforcement in the state of Texas, where it can be very divided. But I see her as a liaison to all kinds of communities and she's hoping to create change within the greater sphere of Texas and law enforcement and society by being that middle person and hopefully bringing two different perspectives that weren't seeing eye-to-eye together and finding a more tolerant ground to live on. To me, that felt like such a beautiful purpose and beautiful cause."
Morgan also offered a glimpse into Micki's working dynamic with Cordell, calling them evenly matched Texas Rangers.
"I love their dynamic. It's not the same run of the mill where you have two new partners where either they hate each other at first and then fall in love or they're instantly attracted to each other and it's romance from the start. I love that they're two different people who very much have their own agenda and their own lives and they're being forced together. But because they're together, they're learning so much about themselves by meeting the other person and by seeing the other person and by learning from that other person," she said. "I feel Walker brings out a little more out of Micki than she is allowing herself to be. Micki feels restrained at work and she has to be a certain type of way. She feels like she has to be completely by the book and she has to be always toeing the line because she has a lot on the line by being one of the first women, first Latina and Mexican American members on the force."
Walkerpremieres Thursday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
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