Interview: Katie Findlay Talks ‘Walker: Independence’: Episode 12, Kate’s Backstory, Kai, and More [EXCLUSIVE]

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Jeff Neumann/The CW

With just one episode left of season 1 of Walker: Independence, the prequel to The CW’s number one-rated show Walker, we got the chance to talk to Katie Findlay all about episode 12, Kate’s backstory, Kate’s relationship with Kai, how the West was queer and much more.

Nerds and Beyond: Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to get more of a glimpse into Kate’s backstory in episode 12?

Katie Findlay: I have such a great affection for Kate. And often when I’m playing someone, they sort of sit on my ribs for the whole shooting period. And thinking about how somebody like Kate ended up here, how someone like Kate kept herself safe and busy, and well in a big city like Baltimore, what the shift would be like … it’s on my mind a lot that way. And I think that seeing Kate in a position of huge grief and watching Kate make a gigantic mistake and really show her hand in a way that blew up her life, which we do in this episode, is something that we haven’t really seen. We see Kate mostly in control. You know, she flowers around a bit and sometimes she’s Bugs Bunny, but most of the time she’s kind of got a handle on the situation. And it was really satisfying for me to bring her into Independence on the tidal wave of something that destroyed the life that she built for herself. And the fact that we get to see her coming to Independence was not necessarily a choice. Yes, it’s incredibly satisfying. Especially because I think when you play a character, you feel very protective of them and they feel like someone you know, and so when you get to show up for them in different ways, it’s very gratifying as an actor and artist.

Nerds and Beyond: I really love Kate and Hagan’s relationship, and we get to see kind of how it all started here. Can you talk a little bit about their relationship and working with Mark Sheppard?

Katie: So I say this every time, Mark Sheppard is one of my favorite people. I feel incredibly lucky to share space with him. I feel incredibly lucky to get to experience the soft-hearted, stupid, witty joy that we lob at each other continuously at work together. Meeting Hagan is one of those really delightful moments as an actor where you know the thing that will sell it is a spark of recognition in the other person’s eye, which is such a tiny thing to try to capture on television. But, Kate and Hagan meeting wouldn’t work without the natural energy I think exists between Mark and I that I don’t feel we worked for at all, so it’s a little bit insane that it just shows up whenever we need it. But when you recognize kinship in somebody for whatever reason and getting to walk in and just know that we were gonna get to play with the fact that’s there, and there was no question in my mind that it would show up, was such a treat. I always say I would do an entire show of Kate and Hagan. And I would miss everyone else incredibly, but I would also do an entire show of Kate and Hagan.

Anna Kooris/The CW

Nerds and Beyond: We see tensions continue to rise with Kate and Kai, as they continue to get to know these kinds of new versions of each other. We see here in Episode 12 how they met. What do you love about their relationship and do you think they will eventually be able to put all of that aside and be as close as they once were?

Katie: They better. My producer, Laura Terry, who is a goddamn hero, and I spend a lot of time really writing our own fanfiction for the show. And we’re obsessed with Kate and Kai. I’m obsessed with Kate and Kai. I hope Lawrence is obsessed with Kate and Kai, he’ll tell you that he’s not because he’s the coolest cucumber on the planet, but he probably is too. I love this relationship. I’ve loved it since the beginning. I think that there’s a real temptation … there was the possibility that the relationship would read as Kai having a crush, [and] Kate being gentle with the fact that he had a crush. And from the very beginning, I thought, “Hello?” This man was gorgeous. Deeply capable. He is objectively talented. The air around him is that he is a watcher and that he’s deeply intelligent. And I think that we can’t set Kate up as an observant, erudite person whose job is keeping track of the things other people don’t want to tell you and have her not see that in him. It’s not possible. Also, someone who looks like that doesn’t walk in the room and everyone goes, “Oh, adorable.” They say, “Awooga!”

There’s a quiet comfort and a seriousness to the way Kate and Kai deal with each other because there’s legitimate intimacy there and I love it. And I love that one of the louder people in town and one of the quieter people in town are in fact, so similar, and have such beautiful chemistry with each other. And I think that their backgrounds even meld incredibly well and that their lives together would be so interesting. And also, I think beneath this veneer of I’ve been lied to, I don’t know who you are, or you’re dangerous, is this idea that we both knew they were lying a little bit to each other the whole time and to have it to have all the lights in the room come on, and to have to stand there with vulnerability and say I loved you this entire time, and I’ve never known you … and now that they’re finally meeting as the people that they are, it’s even more intense and I love how delicious that is. And how … I think Lawrence actually said this to me because he’s a genius. We’re talking about where there’s a scene at the end of episode 9 where Kai and I are standing on the steps to Hagans and talking about what happened. And Lawrence said, “You know honestly, I think that this needs to feel like they have never wanted each other more …” and I was like that’s exactly it. We may be reading kind of deeply into it, but it’s our every day so we have to make it good. Yeah, I’m completely obsessed with Kai and Kate, it’s one of the very few things that I will talk about forever and I want all of it, I want it all to happen. I think it’s so brilliant.

Nerds and Beyond: Aside from Kate’s backstory whose backstory were you most interested to learn about or someone that there was a piece of their backstory that shocked you the most?

Katie: Oh my god, well, everybody breaks my heart. I will just say I can go through with a fine tooth comb and everything that happens to everyone destroys me on a personal level.

So here’s something that I see that people don’t think about … but they probably do. When you work on a TV show, all of your friends are stunningly beautiful. And then you meet them and they’re also beautiful people, which is even more irritating and inappropriate, and watching Philly and Justin meet on the show is something that I could replay until I’m in the ground. They’re both so gorgeous, Philly in this navy blue uniform, fighting for his life, writing a letter to his wife and his final moments … Justin comes around the corner shining like the goddamn sun, and these beautiful men reckoning with each other and mortality and colonialism and like, I just I also want an entire show that it’s just that. I love that continuum of tension and support and intimacy and gentleness that they find with each other.

And it’s also very earned. You see this for the entire season. You know that they knew each other before. And I think it’s really important to not just have characters say, “We’ve been friends for 11 years,” because you can say whatever you want, but to see that in them and then to give them as actors a chance to ground that relationship and that love in something and see how they got there is so important. I think that was my favorite … you know obviously, Tom and Abby’s backstory blows the entire season out of the water, Hoyt makes me want to carry Matt Barr around in a Bjorn strapped to my chest, I will marry Lucia, and get her out of here, she deserves a better boyfriend… there’s no one that I’m not in love with.

Jeff Neumann/The CW

Nerds and Beyond: We have to talk about the costumes, specifically yours. Do you have a favorite piece or outfit that you’ve worn and one that maybe you wanted to keep for yourself?

Katie: Have you ever had someone hand-make a suit for you? It’s so beyond my paygrade as a human being, like you just feel like a Duke, it’s the coolest thing on earth. I know that everybody probably wants me to say the dresses but when you spent, for me personally, when you have spent so much time in clothing that completely hinders your ability to live comfortably in the human body, the relief of a pair of pants is like nothing I can describe. I would say what I wanted to take home was both of my suits because they are absolutely beautiful and our costuming team blows my mind in terms of fancy things. Something I wear in [episode] 12, there’s a green dress I wear in 12 that is so beautiful it makes me sick, but it also literally made me sick because it’s 800 pounds and I couldn’t breathe. I’m trying to think of a fancy thing that I like and would take home … You know what? My fight night dress rocked. That blue dress, I was very, very, very into that. It was gorgeous. It made me very happy.

Nerds and Beyond: Has there been a moment throughout the entire course of the show so far that has really stuck with you?

Katie: When Kat and I shot the scene of Abby and Kate finally coming to terms with Abby deciding to sleep with Tom. I think that we had been there for like 14 hours. And for people who don’t know what that means, it’s like 14 hours in a corset with 30 pounds of skirt hanging off of your hips. Very intense. And we were so tired, we were basically falling asleep at the table. I remember when we started shooting everything just got really, really quiet and vulnerable. Sometimes you take a few broad swings at something and then you kind of get into what a real person might do. And, it just started in a place that was so tentative and real and raw, and just remember feeling very, very close to Kat in that moment. And sometimes as an actor, well for me, sometimes I have a wall up between the things I’m saying and the person I am on the inside and sometimes I don’t, and that was one of those moments where I think talking about the threat of abandonment [and] needing another person was very present. I also felt that from Kat and being on the same page as someone in a really sort of quiet, tender way at the end of a very long workday is one of those special things that makes being an actor a little bit more magical than people might understand.

I would say that I hung out all day on the day that we stabbed Greg because I was having a really bad day and our costume designer said, “Hey, you know what will cheer you up? We’re stabbing Greg. Do you want to go watch them stab Greg? You love Greg.” and I was like, “I do love Greg!” and I went to set and there are several pictures somewhere of me trying to direct him on how to be more or less dead while he’s grinning up at me and from a gigantic pool with his own blood.

I also sometimes walk into Justin like he’s a brick wall, by accident, because he’ll walk in front of me and stop moving. And there’s a scene in the finale where we all walk into Hagans and then I come in after everyone and they turn around and I go, “Guys, we’ve got a problem.” And it was the Thursday before Thanksgiving, when everybody wanted to go home, and it was the last scene of the day, and Justin and I could not look at each other, could not face each other, and he just didn’t turn around in the scene because it wasn’t worth it. We weren’t going to be able to make it [laughs]. I did walk directly into him and knock his bow off his back. I’m a nightmare [laughs].

Jeff Neumann/The CW

Nerds and Beyond: Back before the show premiered and we did a press junket, I asked about what you all would like to see on the show. You talked about how the West was queer. Now that we’re almost done with this season, what has it meant to you to be able to be in a Western that’s really never been portrayed this way before?

Katie: I said this before, but I came to many facets of my queerness later in life. That may sound really old when I say that, but I’m in my early 30s. And there were elements of my queerness that I didn’t even begin to understand until now. So the last two years has been a sort of renaissance of understanding myself and having love for myself. It’s really changed the way that I live. And when I came onto this project, Kate was always meant to be queer, but you know, they hadn’t necessarily decided that she would be queer in some of the ways that I was experiencing in my own life. I remember sitting down with Seamus Fahey, our showrunner, and running him through that and talking to him about it. And I remember I started to cry because I felt really vulnerable, saying some of these things to somebody for the first time in a professional context. I remember he held my hand. He’s a very shy, kind person and he held my hand the first time we met, and I just sat and cried at a picnic table beside a coffee shop in Santa Fe. And you know, lo and behold, every time I had a thought, or the direction of Kate’s queerness, or the texture of Kate’s queerness, I was very privileged to be given a lot of room, a lot of tenderness, a lot of agency when it came to building that and I’m very grateful.

I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel a little bit of impostor syndrome to be like some sort of representative for the queer community in this sense you know, my experience is on the backs of queer people of color, black trans women of color and people throughout history that have held space so that I could hold the space now, and people who were holding that space in 1870 so that I could learn and slowly try to recreate it now. It was very humbling and very vulnerable. You know, selfishly, it really was a gift. And I feel honored by the intention of it. I feel honored to be able to express it. It gave me room and space and drive to research and gain a better understanding of their communities at the turn of the century. And how queer communities at that time, really dovetailed into nonwhite history, Black history, Indigenous history, Chinese history, and sex work history, like everyone that was being actively erased around that time, challenged support systems within each other. And I think that that’s one of the most astonishing things that I’ve had a chance to learn more about because of the show, and because of how I was situated within the show and makes me look at the world very differently. That was a little convoluted, but I have really big feelings about it.

I think we need more queer people on the show. I think we need more different kinds of people on the show. I know everybody else also wants that, which is why I wish we had 1000 more seasons because every time someone pitches a different angle, a different identity, a different way of being. Everyone’s on board, everyone wants the time, everyone wants the space. I look forward to just every possible kind of life, every possible kind of human being rolling through Independence. As a little genderfluid bisexual, I had a hell of a time this season.

Nerds and Beyond: So we’re all hoping that independence gets to continue. If it does, what would you love to see in season two for Kate?

Katie: That’s an interesting question. I think Kate needs to build a new person to be because a lot of Kate’s life was about smoking mirrors and keeping herself safe on as many levels as possible. And now she has lost sort of two layers of that safety. She is living in a slightly more queer way and eventually, people are gonna figure it out, and she’s no longer protected by essentially being a cop. She needs to funnel her natural power as a person into real identity, the actual person that she is. And I think don’t think that will be easy. But I think whoever it is will be closer to who she really is, closer than maybe she’s ever been which is daunting.

I would love some more Kate and Kai. I mean, obviously, that’s gonna happen, I just find the relationship fascinating. I think it’s so sexy and cool. I want Kate and Hoyt to rob a train. I want to Kate and Calian to talk… ever.

Being on the show is such a treat. There’s nothing I don’t want Kate to do, there’s no one I don’t want Kate to get close to, there’s no one I don’t want Kate to argue with.

Walker: Independence will air its season finale on Thursday, March 2 on The CW, and will be available the next day on the CW app.

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