Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Katherine McNamara On Walker Independence's Modern West And Career Memories - Exclusive Interview

 Katherine McNamara is the queen of playing empathetic and badass characters all rolled up in one spitfire package. In fact, she was an actual Queen when she played Mia Queen on "Arrow" — and fans can't get enough of her role as Clary Fray in "Shadowhunters" and Sonya in "The Maze Runner." Now, she's playing Abby Walker in the "Walker" prequel "Walker Independence," where she gets to don some 1800s-inspired corsets and blaze a new, modern trail in the Wild West.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Katherine McNamara spoke about all things "Walker Independence," including working with "Supernatural" alums Jared Padalecki and Mark Sheppard, the contemporary twist on the series, and why fans will love Hoyt Rawlins (the OG edition) and her onscreen dynamic with Matt Barr. McNamara also discussed reuniting with Dom Sherwood for their "Shadowhunters" podcast, the biggest unresolved plotline she wants Mia Queen to close in the Arrowverse, and working with Dylan O'Brien and the rest of "The Scorch Trials" cast. 

Jared Padalecki turns another set into a family

Jared Padalecki is an EP on the show, so how much have you gotten to work with him, and what have been some of the highlights of that experience?

While we've been dying to get Jared on the show as a character, we haven't quite done that yet, but he's been such a wonderful influence. I grew up watching "Supernatural" and got to know him a little bit through The CW world over the last couple of years, and he's always been so kind. We've had a lot of lovely conversations and phone calls, and he has extensive experience leading a show. I have some experience leading a show as well, from "Shadowhunters" and things like that, but he has such wonderful advice, especially when it comes to "Walker."

I've fully gotten the Jared Padalecki Ted Talk on what it means to be a Walker and tried to put as much of that in as possible. What it comes down to is [that] he creates such a wonderful family environment as well and  allows for everyone to have a sense of collaboration and a sense of enjoying the experience of making the show, as well as telling a good story. That's all any of us want going into this.

Embracing classic Western tropes

What has your experience been like on the horseback riding aspect of the series and some of the other classic Western tropes?

It's been great — from the corsets to the horseback riding, to running around in 1870s boots in [dusty] deserts of New Mexico. It's been really fun. I love putting blood, sweat, and tears into productions and getting in the trenches with the crew and with the cast, and having a challenge when it comes to a project. This has [proven] no different than "Shadowhunters," "Arrow," or "Maze Runner" in that sense.

It's been wonderful to build this show with the cast and crew and the creatives. Everyone on this project is so dedicated to telling this story in the way that we want to tell it and to creating a family and creating a world that audiences can really connect [with]. That's what's so interesting about our show is that it very much is becoming an allegory for today. We have this opportunity coming into 2023 now, where we have a bit of a reset to the world and a bit of an opportunity to create something fresh and something new.

That's what people are doing in the West. It's a bit of a new world where everything is a shade of gray and nothing is really defined fully in society itself, having an opportunity to have a clean slate. These folks have an opportunity to create the world in which they want to live and to create the community that they want to exist in, and the community they want to leave for their [descendants]. It's very exciting to get to bring this to life with such a wonderful group of people.

A slate of empathetic characters

You've played a lot of badass characters that are also deeply empathetic. Is that something that you look for in roles? How do you think your characters like Abby, Mia, and Clary would get along?

They would get along. They're all very headstrong women who, while they all [are] very different and have very different drives, they all want to ultimately do what's right for the people that they love — to fight for that loyalty, and to fight for doing the right thing, even if the ways of doing it aren't necessarily black and white. There [are] a lot of shades of gray to all of these characters, and particularly for Abby in this world of the West. You never really know what means you're going to have to take in order to accomplish your goals. Seeing how that changes the society woman from Boston will be rather exciting.

Did you [carry] any aspects of your previous roles with you to Windy?

Yes and no. There's a certain tenacity to these characters. That's what I love about my job, that I get to tell a million different stories and live a million different lives and step into an entirely different person. That's what was truly exciting about this show, is that it's such a completely different genre and a completely different kind of character.

I've gone from wearing combat boots, leather, and jackets and walking like Stephen Amell to being a lady, wearing a corset every day, a giant dress, and learning to wear three skirts, jump on a horse, and do all of these different things and exist in a world of posture and a world of society and refinement that I have not had an opportunity to physically embody in a very long time.

You've worked with an incredible slate of actors over the years. Are there any of your former co-stars that you'd love to head over to Independence, and what kind of role could you see them taking on?

There's so many, and truly, I've poked a bunch of friends going, "Hey, why don't you come play cowboys with us?" It provides such an exciting world. Exactly what we're trying to do with "Independence" is bring in an entire myriad of characters, both expected and unexpected. The more folks that we can bring in that might be a surprise would be rather interesting.

Two Hoyts are better than one

Were you a fan of the original "Walker" before getting "Independence"? Do you think that Abby would be proud of Cordell and the current Walkers?

I'm a Kansas City girl myself. I love a Western. That's what's most exciting about this show, that we're bringing that nostalgia and that familiarity of the genre while also having an opportunity to reinvent it and to subvert a lot of the things that you would expect from a Western.

I did have a chance to check out "Walker," and Abigail would be proud of her great, great, great, great-grandson [for] trying to uphold the family name and also keep the family together while still doing what's right for the community.

Matt Barr completely won over fans as Hoyt in the original "Walker." What do you think fans will love about this new iteration of Hoyt and do you think he and Abby might have a romantic arc in their future?

We'll see. Abby and Hoyt definitely butt heads, literally and figuratively, from moment one. What is great about their characters is they push each other beyond each other's comfort zones, to force them to confront things they otherwise wouldn't have and parts of themselves that they otherwise wouldn't have had a chance to recognize. That is so lovely to work with. We have the best time with this banter and this back and forth that these two characters have because, ultimately, they are both trying to find a home and trying to find their place in the world, even though they're coming at it from very different perspectives.

Hoyt Rawlins fans are definitely going to see a lot of the Hoyt that they know and love in this other iteration of Hoyt. There's a bit of another side to him that might be unexpected. The world of the West is not as kind and gentle as the world of 2022 might be. You definitely see that in Hoyt. He's had to go through a lot to survive in the world. There's a bit of a darkness to all of these characters that you might not have seen in other iterations of Walker.

Has any of that rivalry, playful banter, extended into real life with Matt as well?

Matt is the kindest, sweetest, most enthusiastic human I've perhaps ever met, and that's coming from someone who is generally an incredibly enthusiastic person as well. Matt and I first met on Zoom during my chemistry read for the show, and instantly it was a wonderful feeling because I connected with him instantly. I  said to myself, "You know what? This is someone I could and would love to work with for several years." He's been the best partner someone could ask for in building a show family and in building the world of the West. He really is a lovely human.

Never enough Mark Sheppard

Mark Sheppard has proven himself to be the best in the business when it comes to playing smarmy characters. Can you tease anything about his role in the show, and have you gotten a chance to work with him yet?

I have, minimally. Honestly, I always want more Mark Sheppard in my life. It's one of those things. We all do. We all beg for him, more and more of him on the show. He has a good time. It's really lovely to see someone who has all of the stories in the world and so much experience genuinely come and want to play with all of us because that's very much the sense of collaboration on our show. 

[We're all] trying to tell a great story, push each other to do something different, and grow and change every day. Mark does that. He comes in with great ideas, a wonderful character, and great experience that it's a real joy. I don't know what I can tease much about his character, other than [it's] the best of Mark Sheppard, but with a little flavor of the West thrown in.

Ditching outdated Western tropes

Some fans have been a little wary, given the time period of the show, that it would be regressive and not tackle LGBTQ+ stories and the stories of different cultures, races, and histories. Based on the first few episodes, the show really feels like a refreshingly modern take on the 1800s. From your perspective, can you speak to some of these things that fans can expect in the show, and how this show sets itself apart from other movies and shows in this genre?

I can look to our showrunner, Seamus [Fahey], and our director of our first few episodes, Larry Teng, who's also a producer on the show. They've been so cognizant from day one. The moment I talked to them about the show, it was all about bringing new colors to the West and new life to the West. 

We often see these Westerns in this very sepia tone color scheme, and it seems very monotonous in a lot of ways. We decided not to do that. From the music, to the color, to the design, to the way the show is shot, it's entirely unorthodox and entirely unexpected. Looking at the show, it doesn't look like your same dusty western, although we are very dusty, that you might have seen in the past.

What's also great about it is all of us actors on the show, and all of the writers and the producers and creatives, we want to tell a more historically accurate version of what the West was: the diversity of the West, the cultural influences of the West, and the freedom ... [You had] this blank slate of society where you had all of these people from all walks of life, all different parts of the world, that were trying to find a place, trying to make a community, and trying to figure out what sort of a life they could make for themselves, just as so many people are today.

It's  fascinating and a lovely community to work in because every single person is bringing so much of their own history and so much of their own experience to the show, and to try and bring in as much of that as possible — the collaboration has been so wonderful.

Reconnecting with Shadowhunters (and Dom Sherwood)

You recently started a "Shadowhunters" podcast with Dom Sherwood. What has it been like going down memory lane with this show and the cast? Was there anything that you'd maybe forgotten that happened, either on the show or behind the scenes, that the podcast sparked a memory of?

Endlessly. There [are] full scenes that I've forgotten exist because it's been so many years, and we shot 55 episodes of that show. We did a lot. It's been a joy to go back and rewatch, because [it was] very similar to "Walker Independence." It was a joy to create that show. [and] the community that we created both on and off camera, from the Shadowfam, to our writers, and everyone in between, the cast, the crew, every single person we've encountered in the Shadowfam.

That's why we call it the Shadowfam, because there's a love, warmth, compassion, and support system that comes from that community — which is why we wanted to celebrate the show with the podcast, not only the stories that we told on screen and the fun of making the show, but also getting to bring some of the people to light that were "in the shadows" as it were, behind the camera, and don't often get the recognition that they're due for the influence that they had on creating the world that so many folks fell in love with.

Forever Mia Queen

Now that almost all of the remaining DC shows on The CW have been removed from the Arrowverse, there's room for Mia Queen to appear in another iteration on any of them. Is that something that you'd be interested in pursuing, and which show would you most like to cameo on in between horseback riding and lassoing?

If you need a Green Arrow, throw that sigil up in the sky, and I'll come a running — any chance to throw that suit back on again. Mia is such a special character to me and always will be. Getting to be a small part of the story of the Arrowverse and a small part of that legacy — it means a lot and it's been an honor and a privilege. I take it very seriously, that responsibility.

Absolutely, put me in all of them. I would love to dive back in and participate in any iteration. There's a part of me that cannot rest until I find William. I can't leave a Queen child out there floating in the Arrowverse without resolving that story. The fandom deserves it, and it's something that ... I love Ben Lewis so much and I can't stand that he's missing, and we haven't resolved this storyline, but I keep campaigning for it as much as I possibly can. I have zero control over the matter, but if I have any say in the matter, I will find William. I will not fail this city, eventually.

Given that you could be any iteration of Mia, is there anything about her character that you'd want to play around with? Maybe make her become a villain [or a] different origin story?

Some of the aspects we saw in [the "Armageddon" episode of "The Flash"] were very interesting. Mia is very much this lone wolf, and she has a hard time opening up to people and has a hard time being on a team. She grew so much while she was on "Arrow." Then, we saw her a year later, having been so obsessed with the hunt for her brother and so consumed by her guilt in the matter. Seeing where that pushes her and seeing her on that precipice is interesting. Getting to push that a bit farther, given whatever has happened to William, might be harrowing, but also might open up some new colors to Mia.

I would like to see Mia find some love. She's very lonely. She needs a hug, somebody to love her. She's caught between the two Diggle brothers, and who knows, maybe there's someone else out there in the Arrowverse. The Queen children need some love. That's all I'm saying.

From gladers to family

You also appeared in the "Maze Runner" series with Dylan O'Brien. Do you have any fond memories working with him and that cast? What was it like being in such a massive trilogy so early in your career?

It was amazing, and honestly, I was so grateful to be embraced by that cast. I came in at the end of the second film. I'd known Dylan a bit through the MTV world, and Dexter Darden has been a dear friend of mine forever in Los Angeles, and I adore that man so very much. He was the first to literally embrace me on set, which instantly made me feel at home.

I've made so many wonderful friends on that show, and that's the biggest thing. We all stayed [on] the same hotel floor during the filming of "Scorch Trials." I don't think anyone fully shut their door once the entire time we were filming. It was constantly movie nights, game nights, dinners and cooking, and spending time together and building that bond. They'd established that community on the first film and it carried through all the way to the end.

To this day, we all genuinely congregate at someone's place, or someone will be at a restaurant or something, and suddenly where two of us are gathered, then there [are] seven of us. Whoever's in town drifts in, because it is such a great bond. Dylan was so instrumental in that. I had not met someone and worked with someone by that point who was so dedicated to the integrity of the work and to making sure that everything was done right and served the story, and [served] the source material well.

There's no one who has more fun on set than Dylan O'Brien. He is the biggest goofball in the best way that he genuinely takes care of everyone and makes sure everyone has a good time. You can tell he's having the absolute time of his life but also creating some really amazing work. That is so admirable and not an easy task to do, but something that I've tried to carry with me as I've taken on that role in other projects.

Dylan O'Brien always finds the fun

Can you think of any particularly fun stories of shenanigans that Dylan [got] into on that set?

"The Scorch Trials" was a series of a couple of months of very cold night shoots. We were all in a very silly place on that set to keep each other awake at night. I couldn't come up with anything specific, but creating that general atmosphere of fun in an environment where you're in the desert at night, at altitude, in the dirt, running around with things exploding all the time. You have to have fun. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

That's what I always think about this world. There [are] always challenges, and there [are] always different things that come up, and it's not always an easy job, but if you love it and if you genuinely enjoy it and enjoy the people you're working with, it's the best job in the world and the most rewarding thing to get to be a storyteller.

"Walker Independence" airs Thursdays on The CW, with episodes streaming on the site the next day.

This interview has been edited for clarity. 

For a deeper discussion with Katherine McNamara of the female representation seen in "Walker Independence," check out Looper's sister site The List.