Walker's Jared Padalecki Talks the Challenge to "Defend The Ranch"

Tonight's episode of Walker brought Cordell face to face with some of the worst experiences he could imagine, from the death of a friend to a deadly hostage situation involving his own family. The new Walker, though, isn't the Texas Ranger series of old, and so we know that's going to hang over his head for a while, rather than being a one-and-done that reinvents the series as one following a solo Ranger. Originally the season finale before The CW ordered more episodes for the show's premiere season, it became a particularly emotional episode which will inform the remaining five episodes of the 2021 season.

Titled "Defend the Ranch," the episode saw Cordell dealing with some dangerous criminals who threatened to kill his family. Meanwhile, he's got to figure out how to prevent them from getting across the border.

Series star Jared Padalecki joined ComicBook for a chat about the episode. There are spoilers ahead, so turn back if you haven't

Coming into Walker, how has it been different? Obviously with Supernatural, a lot fell on you and Jensen's shoulders for a lot of years, but being a solo lead on a show is a whole other animal.

Yeah, you know what's funny is that with Supernatural, it was Jensen and me for so many years. But for a lot of those years, it was just Jensen and me. So, Walker, I'm more, maybe, the solo lead, but we have such an awesome and extensive cast. I mean, we have Lindsay Morgan, who's my work partner on the show. Then we have Keegan Allen, who's my brother on the show. I have kids, I have parents. We have the captain of the Rangers.

And so, there are a lot more ways to flesh out this world that aren't just through the eyes of Cordell Walker, which has been nice, because we get to see the kids at school. We get to see Captain James and Mickey Ramirez at work. We get to see Stan Morrison. We get to see Bonham and Abeline around the ranch. We get to see Liam at the district attorney's office.

And so, it's actually worked out ... Scheduling-wise, it's worked out really well. I think the biggest difference for me is, back on Supernatural, I wasn't a producer or an executive producer. And so, if I got home from a long day, I was done until I filmed next. Whereas now it's like, well, I'm home from long day, but they need me to watch the dailies, or the network cut, or some casting videos, or talk about tone notes for the next episode or the next season.

And so, there's always something to do. I mean, fortunately, I really care about this show, and I'm really proud of it, and I really enjoy working on it and trying to solve that puzzle. But it certainly has been a change. And also filming at home in Austin as opposed to in Vancouver just means that when I get home, I'm a husband and father. Whereas in Vancouver, when I got home, it was empty apartment, and I could just brush my teeth and go to bed. Whereas now it's like, "Hey, dad, come play." So there's not a whole lot of quote unquote free time.

Walker can be a serious show, but it's got fairly bouncy tone a lot of the time. There's a lot of humor baked in. How do you strike a balance with that kind of tone that people are used to, when you have an episode like this week's, where things are very dark and very serious and sad?

Well, this week's episode obviously, it was originally our season finale, because originally we were supposed to be 13 episodes before we got picked up for season two and had an additional five episodes added. And so, it's a bit- This episode, for better or worse, is a lot heavier. It's a lot more action packed. It's a lot deeper and at times darker, and that's what the nature of the beast.

We left with 10, and I think the humor and the lightness in episode 13 comes from the characters who are going through a tragedy, trying to make the most of it and trying to find a silver lining in what's going on.

I talked to Molly a couple of weeks ago, and obviously her character is going to have a lot of emotional fallout from this. And it's not necessarily been the easiest season for her in general. Do you think that Cordell has the capacity to really be there for her given everything he's already gone through?

I think Cordell, I think part of his journey of season one so far has been tying to find that balance and not doing the best job of it, but trying as best he can to be there for his daughter, to be there for son, to be there for his brother, to be there for his father, to be there for his mother and his partner and his boss.

And so, that's something that Cordell is going to have to face very obviously in episode 13, when he's dealing with more loss and more danger. And he's never realized that whatever track he's on right now, is it going to work out for everybody in the end? And so, he will work to find ... He does work to commit more to that work-life balance, but he has to make some dramatic and drastic changes.

One of the things we've seen about Cordell is that prior to the start of the show, he didn't necessarily have a great work-life balance, but his wife was keeping him anchored a little bit. Do you think that the reality check of this death in his immediate circle, and the ripples that it's going to have and the danger that his family's in, is going to help him recenter that balance a little bit?

Yeah. It's going to force him to make a dramatic change. He realizes very clearly in episode 13 that he can't just make everything work the way it's been going. And I think that's one of the things that has really been important to us on the show is that this isn't a show about law enforcement. This is a show about a human being who has work and who has family and who has friends, who needs to make it all work and needs to find the best way to do it. So it's really a universal theme here of, "This isn't working. So what do I need to change to do this better?"

And so, Walker faces that in a very, very intensive way next Thursday. And we'll see that he's ready to take it on head first.

So far, the season has felt really tight. Going forward, how do the next five episodes pace out? Are they as compact as these are, or is it starting to build towards the next big thing for next year?

Well, I think when we originally got our pickup, we were given 13 episodes. And so, it did, and that's a very astute observation. We did have to kind of compact 18 or 20 or whatever episodes into 13. But now that we know that we have, after those first 13, now we were picked up for 20 something more, because we had five additional and a full season pickup afterwards, whatever a full season means.

So we're able to now delve into some of the things that we weren't earlier. And so, we are excited about being able to flesh it out. Like I mentioned earlier, with your question about Supernatural being Jensen and me and this being kind of me, but a lot of other characters, we get to see a lot more of their worlds. We get to really flesh out the Walker world, because we know we have the time.

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How is Cordell going to be impacted by all of this longer-term? Outside of like the practical element of him having to recenter his world a little bit, this is the first major death to really touch his life since he lost his wife and basically went off the rails. For you as an actor, I imagine that has to be a whole process of thinking through like, "Okay, emotionally, how's that going to fit?"

Yeah. And we'll see that on camera. Emily could have been a fluke. It was a horrible, horrible fluke, if there was one. But I think as much as Cordell was and is and remains gutted by the loss of his wife, that could have just been one of those, lightning strikes every now and again. But now that it's happening again, he really has to admit to himself that something has to change. And so, we will see how he decides to approach those changes and how deeply he's willing to go with a dramatic and drastic change in order to change the trajectory of the way he's been living his life.