Walker

‘WALKER’ Creator Anna Fricke Talks ‘Bittersweet’ Series Finale – Interview

Four years of bad guy chases, hostage situations, relationship rollercoasters and bustling family breakfasts have come to an end with The CW’s cancellation of Walker.

The show, a reimagination of the original Walker, Texas Ranger from the ’90s, premiered on the network in 2021. Starring Jared Padalecki (House of Wax, 2005) as Cordell Walker, it chronicles the struggles that come with balancing his taxing career as a Texas Ranger and raising teenagers Stella (Violet Brinson, Sharp Objects 2018) and August (Kale Culley, Peel 2019) after the murder of their mother Emily (Genevieve Padalecki, Hated 2012).

Alongside Padalecki, Walker features a top-notch ensemble, including Keegan Allen (Pretty Little Liars, 2010) as lawyer and youngest Walker brother Liam, Coby Bell (Burn Notice 2007) as Captain Larry James, and Jeff Pierre (War Dogs 2016) and Ashley Reyes (American Gods 2021) as fellow Rangers Trey Barnett and Cassie Perez, among many others.

Over the course of the show’s four seasons, there are countless nail-biting moments, the most recent being the Rangers’ takedown of The Jackal, a serial killer who once pushed Captain James to alcoholism because of his elusive nature. However, these stressful plotlines (and Cordell’s numerous kidnappings, despite his 6’4″ stature) are always countered by quality family time, whether Cordell’s mother Abeline (Molly Hagan, Sully 2016) is whipping up a massive breakfast or they’re gathered at the Side Step bar, co-owned by Walker and love interest Geri Broussard (Odette Annable, The Unborn 2009).

Despite these stories resonating with the masses, and fans excitedly waiting for Padalecki to announce a Season 5 renewal on Instagram, the post that came announcing the abrupt cancellation was not what anyone — cast, crew or fans — expected. The series finale aired at the end of June, giving all of the characters a well-deserved end to the trauma and hope for a brighter future. For example, Cordell and Geri are enjoying a normal family getaway with the kids, while Cassie lands the lieutenant position and attempts to heal from the death of her new love Detective David Luna (Justin Johnson Cortez, Gift of Fear 2023).

On the heels of the finale, PopHorror spoke with Anna Fricke, the creator of Walker, who is saddened to say “goodbye,” but extremely proud of the quality television that was made.

PopHorror: To start, Anna, I have to tell you… I’ve watched a lot of stuff over the past few years, and this show has by far been my favorite. I just can’t say enough about it.

Anna Fricke: Oh, that’s so kind of you! Thank you. Especially since there’s a lot on.

PopHorror: I loved the series finale. I feel like it ties up so many storylines with a little bow, while keeping things somewhat open-ended. Walker is finally enjoying some normal family time, Cassie has some semblance of a happy ending. Was that the original plan for this season, or did things kind of shift along the way when you guys found out the show wasn’t coming back?

Anna Fricke: We actually did not know the fate of the show when we wrote the finale, believe it or not. And so where everyone ended up this season was always the season plan because we felt like this season, it was Walker himself closing one chapter of his life, which was him facing the empty nest, and that was, of course, his fear all season and what his life was going to be in the quiet, which is something we referenced all season long.

So we had known that we wanted to have some closure and some happy endings as opposed to ending members of the Walker family in peril as we had done before. We wanted everyone to sort of have new beginnings, which we gave to each character. But they were supposed to be jumping off into a fifth season. We didn’t want to wrap things up completely. We did find out about the fate of the show a ways into the prep or maybe even the filming of that episode. And I was weighing, between myself and the writers and our producers and Jared, of course, “Do we want to change anything that we have in the finale? Do we not want to have a cliffhanger as we do now? Is there anything we wanna shift?”

And we thought it about a lot and it just didn’t feel right to try to slap on one scene that was gonna sum everything up. No matter what happened with this show, I wouldn’t want to look back and be like, “That was it,” a hastily pulled together ending where people didn’t really earn where they were going. And so some things are open ended, but it felt better to leave things that way than to do a hasty ending. And I do hope it’s still a satisfying one for the fans. I know that everyone is really craving some sort of closure and I hope that this offers some of that. But it’s a little bittersweet because it’s not how I would have ended the series maybe. What we said inside, me and Steve Robin, our producer/director, we were like, “Is this the lights off at Cheers?” It’s not, but hopefully it does offer a good ending.

Walker

PopHorror: I follow a few of the cast members on Instagram and I saw they’ve been posting some really emotional things since they found out. What were those final days like on set?

Anna Fricke: It’s just been brutal. My husband Jeremy Carver is also a showrunner, he was like, “God, it’s like a funeral.” We’re all sort of crying every day and we had the last sound mix last Monday. And it was so emotional. I just, I can’t say enough about this group. We’re just very close. The cast and the crew are all really like a family at this point. So those final days on set, we didn’t know it was the end. So it was sort of like high hopes and very emotional about the end, but we didn’t know the fate of the show. But just in case, we did have a great wrap party and most of the writers, almost all of them came out, which isn’t always the case. We film in Austin, most people live in LA.

We were all together and it was really special even though we didn’t know it was the end. We did have really great closure with each other. And of course, last week they had a screening in town in Austin with the cast and crew that was there. So it’s like a very drawn out goodbye. And we had a sort of LA crew goodbye party. I mean, there’s just been a lot of goodbye parties, but a lot of these people have worked together before and are gonna work together again.

So the last days of shooting were really special and I was there with Blythe Ann Johnson, who I co-wrote the finale with, and we were out on [the water] in a second boat that was following them [Bonham (Mitch Pileggi, The X-Files 1994) and Abeline], the camera boat. We had hesitated, we were like, “I don’t know if we need to be out in the boat. We’re not gonna be contributing to anything there, you don’t need us there.” And John Patterson, our line producer, and Steve Robin, the director, just really guilted us into it. And it was a really special day. And then afterwards I said, “Can you imagine if you weren’t on the boat?” But the last scene we filmed was that last big family scene, where they’re on the farmhouse. That was the last thing we filmed and that felt appropriate.

Walker

PopHorror: Was that the big graduation party?

Anna Fricke: It wasn’t the graduation party, it was the big family scene when they’re setting up for the party, when the whole family is there and they find out that August got into college everywhere. It’s a small scene content wise and it actually was not initially in the network cut because we were running over time, but then the network was gracious enough to allow us to do a slightly extended episode. So it’s back in there.

PopHorror: One of the things I love most about this show, obviously you have those scenes where they have to catch the bad guys, The Jackal and everything, but I just loved that the heart of the show is family. I always loved those big breakfast scenes and all the different dynamics. Can you speak to that?

Anna Fricke: That’s really what this show has always been about for me. Just the kind of writing that I have done and the kind of writing I’m drawn to, I always joke that I would not be the top of anyone’s list to do a Texas Rangers show. It doesn’t totally seem like me, but what I did, and actually how Jared always put it, was, he’s a father and a widower who happens to be a Texas Ranger. Which is not to say that the Ranger part’s not important because obviously that was a huge engine of the show. But at the end of the day, it really was about a man putting his family back together. And that’s what mattered to me.

And those breakfast scenes, Steve Robin always called those an “Anna Fricke special” because I love that in my own household. My own family is very chaotic and a lot of coming and going, and I really love being around the family table. And so that’s sort of where I loved returning. And it’s funny because Season 1, we started filming the show right in the middle of the pandemic. And at the time, we were figuring out how to film and in the beginning, it was no food, no one can be sharing anything, no eating or drinking. And I kept writing all these dinner scenes and the crew is like, “You’re killing us.” We figured it out.

PopHorror: I have to ask you about, I think what had to be the saddest moment of the whole series for me personally, Luna dying. And poor Cassie, she finally found a normal guy [after unknowingly dating Grey Flag leader Kevin Golden (Jake Abel, Malignant 2021)]. Can you talk about the decision behind that?

Anna Fricke: I know! It’s funny, Geri [Carillo], one of our writers who the character Geri is named for, she said to me at the end of the season, “Can I just ask that we not kill love interests next year?” Season 5, we weren’t gonna kill a love interest, I will say that. But my short answer is, drama. First of all, we knew we wanted to bring Justin in, that’s why we brought him in at the end of Season 3. But we also knew in a practical way, he’s gonna be increasingly in demand. We knew that and we knew that we weren’t gonna be able to make him a regular. That’s just a practical answer, but it’s like, “How can we get the maximum impact out of him?” And the phrase we always use on the show is “maximum heartbreak.”

And he is such a great actor, such a great guy and they had such wonderful chemistry that we had to ruin it! But also, we really wanted to give Cassie a big story and something big for her to wrestle with, for her sort of final arc in those last few episodes. And so that was a lot of it too.

Walker

PopHorror: And was it ever a discussion to have her and Trey actually get together and date at any point? Or was that off limits?

Anna Fricke: I’m laughing because there’s internal debate. I never wanted them to be together. I know they have chemistry and a lot of people pick up on it. It was never my intention that they date, but I know they’re obviously very attractive and they’re in close proximity all the time. Some people would say to me, “Look, obviously they’re getting together,” and for me, I wanted to show them being friends and really what that friendship was and having them matter to each other, and adult men and women kind of figuring out like, ‘Wait, I really care about you and like you, but is it OK to feel that way and not be romantic? I guess it is.” So yeah, it was not my intention, but other people might have wanted that to happen.

Walker

PopHorror: As the creator, over these past four years, is there one thing that you’re most proud of, or just one favorite moment from that time?

Anna Fricke: I’m proud in general of the dynamic of the show. I’m really proud at what a happy place it was to work, both in Austin and in LA. We really made it a priority for people to have lives, for people to feel respected. We’ve tried to stay on top of things. Jared and I had a really good working relationship where we Zoomed every Friday morning to just talk about everything, to make sure that there was nothing that was being unsaid or that anyone was being left out. The communication on the show was really excellent. And the level of respect in the cast and crew and with the writers, it’s hard to find. Not every place is like that. We also had a really diverse group of people and everyone I think got to tell the kinds of stories they wanted to tell. So that’s what matters to me.

PopHorror: If given the opportunity down the line, would you continue these stories on another platform?

Anna Fricke: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We really had a great plans for the future. And the wonderful thing about it being such a big ensemble is that, we were always kind of thinking about, “Well, this could spin off and this could spin off.” Obviously, we tried with Independence and that was just unfortunate timing with the sale of the network and it also being tricky to make a period show always. But I love these characters. I mean, it’s why I joked even with people about like, “It doesn’t matter if you’re killed on Walker because you’ll come back.” Look at how many times [Hoyt Rollins actor] Matt Barr (Blood & Treasure 2019) came back. I think he was on this season more than he was Season 1. But yeah, I love this family. I wasn’t done with them.

Walker

PopHorror: Do you have any final words for the fans who have stuck with the show for these past four years?

Anna Fricke: I’m really grateful to the fans and I know so much of it, obviously, it’s Supernatural fans, which I appreciate because my husband also ran Supernatural. It all sort of feels like a really connected family affair. And I know that initially a lot of people came for that, but I think, I hope that they stayed for the heart of the family and for some of the exciting situations that we had. And I’m just really grateful by how closely they followed. I’m someone who tries not to read the comments, but people would send me things that fans said and little things that they noticed. And they really noticed things. Sometimes you write something or you film something and you’re like, “Ah, no one’s gonna get it.” But they really loved Easter eggs, and so it was fun to put those in there. We really felt the love.

PopHorror: I get that. I’m a fan of Jared’s from back in the Gilmore Girls days. But while watching Walker, I cared about what was happening with Larry and Bonham, etc. just as much as Walker. They were all such great stories.

Anna Fricke: Yeah, I agree.

PopHorror: Was there anything else you wanted to add?

Anna Fricke: I’m curious how people will react to the end. I personally love the cliffhanger. It’s a little shout out to some old school WB days. So hope people enjoy it.

Thanks for speaking with us, Anna! Walker can be watched via The CW and Max.

Photos by Rebecca Brenneman/The CW and The CW. 

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