Matt Barr and Justin Johnson Cortez have a lot to tease following the premiere of the CW’s Walker Independence at the ATX Festival in Austin. The pair star as Hoyt Rawlings and Calian, respectively, in the CW Walker prequel spinoff which was recently picked up to series.
Barr brings a certain swagger to Hoyt, a character who is getting a second life after he was killed off early on in the Walker series.
“Those are my favorite kind of characters to watch. They’re really dynamic, right?” Barr said of antiheroes like Hoyt. “Redemption stories are just more fun. I remember watching Point Break and being obsessed with the Bodhi [Patrick Swayze] character who’s an actual criminal robbing banks but you’re absolutely rooting for the bad guys. Now the antihero has become very much in vogue. What’s fun is that no matter what Hoyt does and no matter how many steps backward he takes we feel that nobility in him. I think that will follow him forever as long as he’s pursuing the right and noble thing.”
After Abby’s (Kat McNamara) husband is murdered in the first moments of the pilot episode, she is left for dead. She survived thanks to the Apache tribe who tended to her injuries and Calian, her Native guide who takes her to Independence, and an uncertain future.
“When this opportunity came up, I was a bit nervous because I wanted to make sure that the character was going to be represented in a positive way,” Johnson Cortez, who is Yaqui and Latino, said.
He continued, “I think there’s a little bit of the West in Calian, as well, and he should be unpredictable and a little dangerous. But what was really important to me is that we see him smile and that you’ll see him laugh. I didn’t want to represent the same old image of Native American characters on screen, so I’m excited to dive in deeper and show the complexities behind this character. Show how much fun they can be.”
Barr is proud to be part of a show with an organically diverse cast that represents the Americans that were around at that time authentically and their contributions to the melting pot that the United States is today.
“Across the TV landscape, there are attempts at diversity that can feel forced or like it’s treated as a novelty. It feels like you’re almost taking steps backward and even insulting,” he shared. “So to do it in an organic way is something special.”
Walker Independence will take viewers on a journey with these characters in the present, but will also dive into ther past and what led them to Texas.
“I can tease a little bit about Hoyt’s family which has a background that intersects with the Alamo, bringing in some real Texas history,” said Barr. “It informs why he is the way he is and why he’s chosen to lead the life he lives. I’m excited to explore that more.”
The new role helped Barr, a native of the Lone Star State, come full circle in a way. He made his TV debut on Walker, Texas Ranger where he shared a small scene with Chuck Norris.
“The show was filmed in Dallas where I grew up and they shot one day on one of my friend’s ranches so they pulled me in as an extra. I remember Chuck and Clarence Gilyard running and they say, ‘Where did he go?’ and I pointed to the left so they went that way. I had no words, but I pointed. When I went to school after that, I walked in like I was Tom Cruise.”
As the writers of Walker Independence are plotting the stories for Season 1, Barr hopes they may invite Norris to appear. Maybe even help Hoyt out by pointing him in the right direction, perhaps?
The character of Calian is reserved and most comfortable in the outskirts of Independence, but as he makes new allies, could this change?
“Getting Calian into town, we wanted to be able to tell this story authentically and not like, oh, he finds this white woman who is strong and beautiful and captivating—that can’t be the reason. That’s not the story we want to tell,” shared Johnson Cortez.
He added, “We don’t want to tell the story of this Indian assimilating into western culture. But there is a way to tell this story by sharing his interests and curiosity in the town in the expansion of the West authentically. That’s going to come out when exploring his past through his history and experience in the world up until that point.”
But does that mean there is no possibility of a love triangle between Abby, Hoyt, and Calian?
“Hey, I’m not saying that at all!” Johnson Cortez said slyly.