The cast and executive producers of Walker: Independence, the prequel to The CW’s highly beloved Walker, held a press conference for media last week ahead of its premiere on October 6.
I asked the cast and EPs, which consisted of Katherine McNamara, Matt Barr, Justin Johnson Cortez, Philemon Chambers, Katie Findlay, Lawrence Kao, Greg Hovanessian, Gabriela Quezada, Seamus Kevin Fahey, Anna Fricke, and Jared Padalecki, what historical moment, event, or something from a Western they love, that they’d love to explore in Walker: Independence.
Editors Note: answers were edited for clarity.
Philemon Chambers: “Heavy question … For me, I really loved The Harder They Fall, and I’m glad that Seamus brought that up. Like everybody can tell you, I watch it probably six times a day. But I just loved that. They brought characters to life that didn’t have light, that were played by different races, and now they’re being more authentic. So I love that, and I would love for that to continue.”
Katherine McNamara: “Mine is a bit of a lighter version. I grew up in the Midwest. I grew up playing The Oregon Trail computer game. I’ve always loved this idea of putting your entire life on a wagon and going out west. But there’s such a romanticized idea of it. In the pilot, we actually had a historically accurate-sized covered wagon for part of it and put in a piano and a bunch of stuff that would’ve been their life: a bed, a bunch of clothing, books. It was tiny. You put myself and one other actor in there; you couldn’t even fit the camera inside. We had to find creative ways to go from the outside. And it really just puts perspective to what people went through in that time, just to even get around.”
Katie Findlay: “The west was queer. It was queer. It was all kinds of people, all kinds of gender presentation, and I think that’s something we see so rarely. Cowboys lived together in domestic marriages that were sometimes romantic and weren’t. People ran away to the frontiers so that queer women could marry their wives and masquerade as men because women couldn’t own property. So they bound and bought a damn ranch. I am so looking forward to the opportunity to explore it, both through my own queerness and the queerness of others, which sounds like a hilarious thing to say. It’s something that’s not often touched on, sort of the, the wildness of frontier self-discovery and the kind of refuge that was available for people. I mean, not only of different sexualities and genders but of cultures. To find peace or adventure or acceptance or escape or respite from the societal norm of the time. And obviously, in westerns, that are a bunch of old, straight, white guys … you’re not gonna see that. So, I’m really delighted to have been given the opportunity to get in there and wiggle around a little bit.”
Justin Johnson Cortez: “I think for me, the historical part of it that would be really interesting to see is the reservation system at this time in history for native people. A lot of land is getting taken away, and they were getting forced into either smaller parts of their own land or getting moved to completely new places that they know nothing about. They know nothing about the land, what grows there, what food is there … and they were expected to thrive. So that could be a really interesting thing to get into, Seamus.”
Seamus Kevin Fahey: “We will.”
Justin Johnson Cortez: “I think Calian’s character and his relationship with the town right now is a really cool thing that we’re exploring because the landscape was changing so much at this time. And native people did interact as people came west. So it’s been really fun to find these relationships and find truth in them, and it’s stuff we haven’t really seen in the past. A lot of times, what we write, we have really clear examples of. I almost feel like we’re on a new frontier right now with this show and exploring these relationships that I’ve never seen shown in TV and film. And I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, but I never had the opportunity to see that. So that’s been a really interesting part of this journey for me.”
Matt Barr: “Just real quick, as the railroad moved west and these little towns sort of popped up, cause the railroad started to splinter, I always loved the idea of what they represented. Which was that American dream of like you can make what you want in this world. You know, you can build your own life. And it is what you make it. And people fought and died for it. And yet they still kept coming west, still came because of what that meant to people, to have the freedom, to define your own life. And so that sounds romantic, and it’s … we’re still doing it today, you know?”
Katherine McNamara: “Well, that’s exactly it. To follow onto what you were saying, this story is such a classic story of a western, of people who are building their own lives and choosing their own independence. But it’s such an allegory for today. We’re at this point in the world where we have a chance to, in some ways, start over and, in some ways, reset. And I think getting to see a town go through that on such a small scale, on a network like The CW, can be an example and an interesting allegory for our world today.”
Katie Findlay: “Well, because it also is the intersection of other people’s freedoms, right? Because you can hold a personal freedom, like sure, we’re going west. I want my own life. You get there, and suddenly your freedom is intersecting with the freedom of everybody who was already there. And there is potential for damage and for harm, and watching how humans try, fail, try again to live peacefully with one another under various systems that sometimes, let’s be real, really don’t work, and sometimes do. Like there’s a lot of tension and often tenderness involved in those interactions. And I think that’s thematically … what a gigantic idea to then fold up in. This little town full of people in the absolute middle of nowhere, who are all … many of them are experiencing each other, people like each other for literally the first time in their lives. There’s no YouTube; you’re walking out in the middle of the desert all by yourself. I agree with Kat that it is sort of a microcosm of quite a contentious and broad thing about the world that we live in.”
Lawrence Kao: “I think another fun thing to explore, history-wise, would be the Chinese Exclusion Act. At that time, they just stopped allowing Chinese people to come to America and not even own any businesses. So to experience that, to actually explore that if we get there, would be pretty awesome.”
Seamus Kevin Fahey: “Yeah, just to piggyback off of everybody. I mean, we’re all saying the word change a lot, and we’re all saying the word identity. And from day zero, day one onward, the idea of taking moments from history … the railroad’s coming, Chinese Exclusion Act, different Native American tribes being forced into reservations. All these historical events are happening. And I always thought it was interesting to be like, what were the very small conversations in a town, in the middle of nowhere, that were happening before these huge events that we just read about in history books. And just kind of reducing it down to characters, and focusing on like the emotional impact of that, and moments that we don’t necessarily think about when we’re in a history class. It’s called Independence for a reason, too. Everyone’s trying to figure out who they are on their own while these massive events are happening, and there’s this huge turning point of what the country was, what Texas was, what this town could be, and who these people are and how they’re gonna adapt. I think it’s just combining that, the historical backdrop of that while being excited about building the characters in a way where they’re heading toward a certain direction, and then you flip it. You flip the script; you pull the rug out from under people and have some unexpected turn.”