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Katherine McNamara is no stranger to worlds far removed from our reality, having starred in sci-fi fantasy series “Arrow” from The CW and Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.” Her role in “Walker: Independence,” the 1870s-set prequel series to The CW’s “Walker” starring Jared Padalecki, is akin to her previous portrayals — in heart and strength — even if she’s trading leather jackets for corset dresses.

“Abby is very much a woman who has agency in a time when a lot of women didn’t,” McNamara told TheWrap in an interview, “and a woman who’s thrust into a situation she wasn’t prepared for and into a world that she knows nothing about and has to find her way and make a family and build something out of a tragedy.”

Walker Independence — “Home to a Stranger” — Pictured (L-R): Justin Johnson Cortez as Calian, Matt Barr as Hoyt Rawlins and Katherine McNamara as Abby Walker — Photo: Richard Foreman, Jr. /The CW

“Independence” sets its crosshairs on Abigail Walker, a strong-willed Bostonian woman on the cusp of a new era as she and her husband journey to the frontier Texan town of Independence, where he has been appointed sheriff. But before she can begin her new life, she witnesses his cold-blooded murder, forcing her to scrape her way to town to solve the mystery of his killing, including new sheriff Tom Davidson’s (Greg Hovanessian) possible involvement, and seek justice (or revenge). Along the way, she meets an eclectic group of would-be friends willing to help, including charismatic criminal Hoyt Rawlins (Matt Barr), Apache guide Calian (Justin Johnson Cortez), burlesque dancer Kate (Katie Findlay) and restaurateur Kai (Lawrence Kao).

“At its core, it’s all about these people that are just trying to find their way and trying to find their place in the world and trying to see what they can create and what they can leave behind,” McNamara said of the show’s “reinvention” of the Western genre and its inclusion of people historically left at the margins of such depictions. 

Read on for TheWrap’s full Q&A with McNamara, including how the show honors the “Walker” legacy and what mysteries will be unraveled further into the series. 

TheWrap: At TCAs, you talked about how one of your dream roles was to be in a period piece. Could you talk about how this part came about?

KM: This pilot came about as any other acting job would, but it turned into something quite a bit more. I remember taping for this pilot and then quickly doing a chemistry test on Zoom with Matt Barr and suddenly I was on set in the middle of a Western, but what instantly struck me about this whole team is just the warmth and the heart that everyone is putting into telling this story and the commitment to telling what is hopefully a more historically accurate version of a Western.

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Speaking of, ‘Independence’ is told through Abby’s eyes, bringing a woman’s perspective of the genre to the forefront, as well as including folks from diverse backgrounds who have previously been shut out of Westerns. What’s your take on the universe this show sets up and how the Wild West acts as a symbol to every character’s understanding of identity?

I think it’s brilliant. All of the characters you see in the town of Independence are akin to folks that were in Texas in the 1870s — we just don’t often get to see their stories told or hear their perspectives. It’s such a wonderful reinvention of this genre, and you really get to see that it’s almost becoming an allegory for our world today. You get to see all of these characters who want a fresh start, who are trying to create their own sense of justice and create a world in which they want to live. And that’s sort of what all of us are doing now coming out of the pandemic, we’re all looking to start fresh and really learn from what we’ve been through and create a world that we want to leave behind for our great-great-great-great grandson, Jared Padalecki.

You’re known for your roles in the fantasy space; was this experience similar to any of your previous portrayals, perhaps in stunts or otherwise, or does ‘Independence’ require a totally different approach?

Yes and no, I mean, it’s very different. I’ve spent the last almost 10 years of my life in leather jackets, super-suits, combat boots and suddenly I’m in 1800s boots, four skirts and a corset. It’s an entirely different experience for sure. But still, just as Clary [in “Shadowhunters”] and Mia [in “Arrow”] were, Abby is very much a woman who has agency in a time when a lot of women didn’t and a woman who’s thrust into a situation she wasn’t prepared for and into a world that she knows nothing about and has to find her way and make a family and build something out of a tragedy. I think those are the stories we like to see is people reinventing themselves and rising from the ashes and overcoming whatever obstacles are put in their way.

The series begins with a great trauma Abby endures, and she’s forced into a situation where she has to persevere. There’s a unique mix of grief, fear and grit that she embodies. Could you talk about your take on the character and how you view her evolution throughout the show?

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We get to see a woman who starts out in the most joyful time in her life. This is the love of her life, she’s starting fresh, getting to go forth and live their dreams and all of a sudden, all of that literally burns up in front of her and so very quickly she changes and has to make a choice of whether to become a victim of her circumstance or to create a new life for herself — maybe it wasn’t the life she imagined, but it’s arguably the life she was always meant to live. You get to see this woman just survive and try and balance in a world [where] she doesn’t know who her friends are, she doesn’t know who she can trust. You see very quickly that she is a lot more capable and more intelligent than maybe even she realizes.

There’s a great camaraderie that begins to develop between Abby, Kai and Kate, as well as a trusting relationship among Hoyt and Calian. Could you speak to how this show centers those relationships, and also how off-set friendships inform the ones on-screen?

We have an incredible group of people both on and off-camera, building this show together. It’s such a joy to go to work every day because I’m surrounded by people that are mentally so committed to telling this story and so passionate about it, but just lovely individuals to spend hours and hours with be it rain or shine or corset or blood or whatever it is we’re dealing with on the day. What else is so lovely is that each of these character relationships is so rich, and we’re all a little bit obsessed with each other and each other’s work and these characters. Those that we get to build on screen are so enriched by that. You really get to see all different sides of [these characters] and peel back the layers as you get deeper and deeper into the series.

For your character, what sense of justice or closure do you think she’s seeking for her husband’s murder?

In the West, justice is never black-and-white. Because the world is new and law and justice in the West is not necessarily what it would be in Boston, if Abby really wants to avenge her husband’s death, if she really wants to get true justice for what happened, she’ll have to figure out what she’d be willing to compromise and what she’s willing to sacrifice and what lengths she’s willing to go in order to accomplish that — whether it be justice, revenge or somewhere in between.

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Walker Independence — “Pilot” Pictured (L – R): Matt Barr as Hoyt Rawlins and Katherine McNamara as Abby Walker — Photo: Anna Kooris/The CW

What can fans of the original series expect with this new take on the universe?

It’s still a Western — you’ve got wagon chases and drama and beautiful costumes and dance numbers, you get so many things. That sort of blend of adventure and romance and danger and heart and gut-wrenching sadness, but these huge beautiful moments of comedy and heart. At its core, it’s all about these people that are just trying to find their way and trying to find their place in the world and trying to see what they can create and what they can leave behind. And it’s all about legacy. That’s what we’re trying to uphold with the ‘Walker’ legacy and hopefully, folks will get to see a new vibrant, interesting take on a genre that they know and love.

Despite the huge part Abby’s husband played in her life, we don’t know much about him. What can you say about who he is and what will we discover about him?

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As Abby gets into trying to avenge her husband’s death and find out why he was murdered and what actually happened that night, she’s confronting a lot of things. Just as everyone else in Independence, Abby’s running from something and clearly so was her husband. Having to confront her own past and maybe the reasons why she didn’t immediately go home to Boston and having to confront who her husband really was and what he was really up to and what took them out West are things that we will find out later.

New episodes of “Walker: Independence” premiere Thursdays at 9 p.m. PT.

This interview has been condensed and edited for concision and clarity.

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