Interview: Justin Johnson Cortez on Season 4 of ‘Walker’

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Justin Johnson Cortez made his way into the Walker family starring as Calian in Walker: Independence, the prequel to the hit CW show. After the cancelation of Independence, fans saw Justin head to Austin for the season 3 finale of Walker, playing Detective Luna from Corpus Christi.

His role was further expanded for season 4, and he became a pivotal part of what would end up being the final season of Walker. After the series finale, we talked to Justin about his time on Walker, Luna’s fate, and more.

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Nerds & Beyond: You were on Walker: Independence and then made the jump to Walker. Were there any similarities in the atmosphere of the sets? Did it feel familiar to you?

Justin Johnson Cortez: Oh, absolutely. I may have mentioned this to you before, but it felt like you were going to your family’s house. It’s your cousin’s house or something. It definitely felt familiar. Everyone there is super warm. The culture is very similar, so it’s a very inviting set. Everyone does a great job, and they’re very supportive of everybody else around them… just a positive place to be. I think a lot of that comes from the top down. I think Jared [Padalecki] put a lot of that in place from the beginning. Steve Robin, the producing director, he’s incredible… a kind person, open to letting you [know] what’s in his head, and open to sharing information. And then obviously Anna Fricke is one of the coolest people, and she has this amazing heart. John [Patterson] as well, the line producer, he was awesome. So it’s all these amazing people at the top, and it just goes down and you can see it. They made me feel at home. I loved it. I was so nervous going in, and they really put you at ease.

Nerds & Beyond: Did you know about Luna’s arc and what his fate would be beforehand?

Justin: I did, I did know what was going to happen. Anna called me and we kind of talked about where it was all going with Luna. I knew about the Luna/Cassie stuff. I think before Ashley [Reyes] had heard, Anna kind of told me a little bit about it. I was like, “Well, does Ashley know about this? Make sure you share all this, because I didn’t want to spill the beans.” And she’s like, “Oh, I’ll call her.” And I think she texted me, “You’re good.” Because I was like, “Oh, I want to call her,” but I didn’t want to jump the gun if she hadn’t filled her in. Even people on set didn’t know, a lot of the crew didn’t know what was happening. They were just reading as the scripts would come out and they would always have questions like, “Where’s this going?” I kind of wanted it to be a surprise. I didn’t want to tell anybody what was going to happen. It’s heartbreaking, but it was, to me, really good storytelling, and I was really happy that I got to be a part of it even if it was brief.

Rebecca Brenneman/The CW

Nerds & Beyond: I think it’s great that even with the short amount of time we saw Luna, he made such an impact this season.

Justin: That means a lot to hear. I do think it was a great story for Cassie’s character as well, and Ashley and I talked about that a bit. Then the episode afterward was hard to watch. I did ADR, just recording the voicemail message, and I’m watching her do her performance and I was in tears. I was like, this is heartbreaking, just feeling for Cassie and what she went through. I thought they did such an amazing job writing that and I’m glad that people felt impacted by that.

Nerds & Beyond: I love the karaoke scene. Were you nervous at all about singing? What was filming that like?

Justin: I don’t sing in real life. I did as a kid. As a kid, I was fearless. There was this place that my parents would go to when I was around 9, 10, 11… around that age. I can’t really remember exactly, but I would go up there and do karaoke all the time. I thought it was just the funniest thing. I didn’t care. But as I got older, I didn’t do it. It terrifies me. So when Anna reached out, it was like, “Hey, do you sing karaoke?” And I was like, “No, I don’t do that.” And then Casey, one of the writers, came up to me, he happened to be on set. He’s like, “You’re gonna do some karaoke.” I was like, “No, please don’t put me through that.”

I was legitimately nervous. As Justin, I was very nervous. As Luna, I was less nervous. So, once I kind of got into that headspace… it’s a lot more fun. I ended up having a blast doing it. The director was incredible. She was so sweet about it all and she was encouraging, and she’s like, “This is lovely. This is great. It’s all working.” And I was like, “Okay, good.” I saw the end product, and I love the cut that they did from the karaoke into the bungalow. I thought it was really great. They protected me really well. They made me feel much better about myself than I think I was feeling about myself in the moment.

Nerds & Beyond: You had really great comedic timing with Luna, too. Do you think you’d want to step into any comedic roles in the future?

Justin: Absolutely, I love comedy. I’m a huge goofball at home. That’s all I do. My wife’s probably sick of it because all I do is joke around. I do voices and characters, and I play with my kids all the time. We love to laugh. I think, as humans, we love to laugh. Us as a family, we love to laugh. And me, personally, it’s just one of my favorite things, when you’re just in that role. And comedy, for me… I’ve always had fun when I do it. I just don’t get to do it a lot. I would absolutely love the opportunity to do more comedy, that would be awesome.

Rebecca Brenneman/The CW

Nerds & Beyond: Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes moment?

Justin: Oh, those are always so hard for me, because I can’t lock them in. They just happen and everything’s going by. I was feeling so much at the time.

Speaking about laughing, Jeff [Pierre] makes me laugh so much. We’d be doing a scene, and I don’t know what it is, but he just makes me laugh. Sometimes I’d have to not look at him when he’s doing the scene, especially the big scenes where there’s a group of us inside the bullpen.

There’s this one moment where I had to say municipalities, and for some reason, I couldn’t get the word out properly, and it ended up becoming a big thing, and Jared, Jeff, and Coby [Bell] were all making fun of me. It was all in good fun, and it was worth getting made fun of because I was just screwing it up. The more you mess it up, the more you get in your head about it. You’re like, “Why can’t I say this word right?” And then it’s like, you get it right, and you try not to show that you felt it, and you try to just keep doing the scene. But part of your brain is going, “Yes!” It’s just sometimes those words just don’t fit in your mouth properly.

The good thing about this set, especially when Jared’s there, is that everyone’s very at ease and everyone’s having a good time, so it doesn’t make you feel like this pressure of like, “Oh, I’m screwing everything up,” which was a bonus.

Nerds & Beyond: The last time we spoke, it was right before your episodes of Walker aired. Now having gone through all of it and it’s finished, how was your overall experience being on the show?

Justin: It was awesome. I think getting the opportunity to play Luna was so great on multiple levels. It’s a great cast and crew, I love being around them. Great energy to be in Austin filming. It’s a full town, you go to the lake on the weekends, you go for your runs. It was just such a cool environment to be around, even when I wasn’t on set. Getting to play a modern character was really great and I’m happy that people got to see a different side of me from Walker: Independence, so that felt really good. Just the comfortability of going to work and knowing that everyone kind of has your back and you’re safe, and everybody wants you to put your best foot forward. You don’t always get that, unfortunately. I’ve been very lucky with the things I’ve worked on that I do get that, but there’s always a little bit of fear there. This is a tight-knit group of people, and they care about each other, and it felt like a family. It felt good to just be part of that family.

Also, Matt Barr and I got to hang out in Austin, even though we were not in the same… Well, we were in [the same] episode, but we never worked together in the show. But getting to hang out with him on our days off was always the best. He’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. It was just a great roller coaster ride for me. I loved it.

Briar
Briar
Briar is the Editor-in-Chief of Nerds and Beyond. She has been running the site since 2015 with the goal of being a unique, professional news site dedicated to all the things she loved - and providing fans with the best content available. Briar oversees the day-to-day operations and runs all of the social media. She loves all things Disney & Walker. You can follow her @thebriarroseee.

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