LOS ANGELES, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The original Walker, Texas Ranger featured Chuck Norris roundhouse kicking bad guys for nine seasons. Jared Padalecki plays the Texas Ranger in The CW's new series, Walker, inspired by the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I read a story about a law enforcement agent who couldn't bring himself to put a 3-year-old in the cage and take them away from their parents," Padalecki said on a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel.
Padalecki observed a conflict between one's job and empathy for the people law enforcement were asked to police. The 38-year-old actor and first-time executive producer hoped to bring that moral complexity to the episodic drama.
"They always say there are two sides to a coin: heads or tails," Padalecki said. "But, there's the third side of the coin, the edge of the coin."
In the new series, premiering Thursday, Cordell Walker (Padalecki) returns to Austin, Texas, after a two-year undercover assignment. His wife's murder becomes a priority for Walker to solve, along with new cases of Texas crime every week.
The border separations were one example of the sort of crime story Padalecki wanted to tell. He promised Walker would not be preachy about any issue.
"We wanted to pose questions as opposed to proselytize our beliefs and just force answers down our viewers' throats," Padalecki said.
The case Walker investigates in the series premiere addresses cartel drugs.
"We find ourselves in situations where we know what is expected of us," Padalecki said. "But, we also feel like maybe what's right is just south or north of that."
The morally complex cases are not limited to Walker's beat. Padalecki said Walker's son and daughter, August (Kale Culley) and Stella (Violet Brinson), witness issues minorities in Texas face when they go to school.
"It's not a law enforcement issue," Padalecki said. "It's in politics, it's in industry, it's in school."
Padalecki added that the Walker family remains a constant presence in Cordell's life. Mitch Pileggi plays Cordell's father, Bonham; Molly Hagen plays his mother, Abeline; and Keegan Allen plays his brother, Liam.
Even outside the immediate family, the ensemble is just as important to this incarnation of Walker. Walker's partner, Micki Ramirez (Lindsey Morgan) and Capt. Larry James (Coby Bell) also are family.
"The families that are built aren't just simply blood," Padalecki said.
Padalecki connected with showrunner Anna Fricke during the last year of his previous CW series, Supernatural. Walker was going to premiere in fall 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the show until January.
Growing up in San Antonio, Padalecki remembered watching the Norris series on television.
"I don't know if I would win a trivia game about the original Walker, Texas Ranger, but I did grow up watching the show," Padalecki said.
The new show has filmed in Austin since the fall under COVID-19 safety protocols. Padalecki said the new protocols posed a challenge with a new crew because different departments are required to work separately and avoid interaction.
"The most difficult part is not being able to so seamlessly build a family," Padalecki said. "I will say that in three short months, we've built quite a family."
Walker premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. on The CW.