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Gabriela Quezada Discusses Hispanic Representation In Walker Independence - Exclusive Interview

"Walker Independence" continues to be a refreshing spin on the Western genre, highlighting different voices from the late 1800s. Characters like Lucia Reyes, played by Gabriela Quezada, offer a perspective on the marginalized voices of the time period that have largely had their stories erased both from a historical and pop culture perspective. "Walker Independence" fills in some of those blanks, giving fans a more well-rounded representation of what the Wild West was actually like.

Small details like Lucia and her family speaking Spanish on-screen are critical so that young viewers can see themselves on-screen — and to give a voice to the cultures that helped make Texas into what it is today. Even more, "Walker Independence" highlights the story of Native Americans who had their land stolen by settlers, with characters like Calian, played by Justin Johnson Cortez.

Looper spoke to Quezada during an exclusive interview, where she discussed how "Walker Independence" has become like a family, recalled a funny interaction with Jared Padalecki, and explained the importance of representation in the series.

Matt Barr: a charmer on- and off-screen

You get to work with Matt Barr a significant amount. What has that experience been like, and do you have any fun stories from set?

Matt has been the best. He was the first person I met when I first auditioned, actually. My last audition round was a chemistry read with him. Clearly, we had chemistry, and it worked. I felt so good and comfortable with him right away that it's been so great. He's hilarious, and I feel like he's a great version of himself in the show. I don't want to give [anything] away because I feel like whatever funny stories I have are more recent from what we've been filming. I don't want to give away too much, but what you see on TV is so much [of] what he is in real life — a goofball and so sweet and hilarious. It's been really fun working with him.

I did interview [Matt Barr] for "Walker," and he's so sweet.

Yeah, he's a sweetheart. He's like a golden retriever.

Representing all voices

Your story has a wonderful cultural component to it as well. What have been some of the highlights of getting to tell this story in the context of the Wild West, where these kinds of storylines don't often feature [marginalized] voices in a positive light?

Even when I was researching for the show, I wanted to find more about Mexican women living during this time in Texas or on land that was recently acquired by the U.S. And it's really, really hard to find any information about that. There's very limited information following stories of women [of] Mexican origin or even Spanish origin. That was interesting to begin with, because it made me realize, "Oh, yeah, these stories aren't really told." There was a lot that I had to piece together myself based on reading different histories of Hispanic women living in New Mexico or in Texas and whatnot during the time.

There's definitely a need to show more people during this time, that is, during the 1800s or the late 1800s, because the reality is, these people did exist.

I would love to get more into some of the cultural context. My family, we're landowners, so we definitely have more of a Spanish background than a Mexican background, but there [are] so many stories about how Mexican people, even with Spanish heritage, were ... It was very difficult for them to keep their land, and new U.S. laws came into effect that essentially would block them from keeping their land, which we sort of get into, and I hope that we'll get more into that.

Infusing Spanish dialogue on-screen

On a related note, I also love that your [character's] family speaks Spanish on-screen, which is something that didn't use to happen [in Westerns]. How do you think that that kind of representation is beneficial to young people watching the show?

I think it's so important. What I like is that there's a little bit of Spanglish between me, my mom, and my dad, and then even sometimes [when] I'm speaking to Hoyt, I can throw a few little Spanish terms in here and there. [Regarding] my experience, half of me is Guatemalan, and my experience talking to my grandma is very much [like that with] Spanglish. I feel like my grandma never knows when she's speaking Spanish or English.

That's very much representative of the Latin American experience of many, many, many people who were born in the U.S. with Hispanic heritage, whether they're first or second generation. That there's a lot of Spanglish that goes on between them and their family. That's cool to be able to bring that to the show because it's like my character is trying to integrate it into this new world. Then there's still the roots that are shown through my speaking with my parents in Spanglish, or them speaking to me in Spanish and me responding in English.

Kat McNamara continues to be a leader

You have a few run-ins with Katherine McNamara's character, Abby. What have been some of the highlights working with her, and do you have any memorable moments from set to share?

Kat [and I] haven't had that many actual scenes together. I'm hoping that we get to work more together. There [are] so many times where I see her in crossing on set, but we're never really ... Sometimes we'll be in hair and makeup together, but we've only had a few scenes. We haven't really gotten to interact apart from in Episode 2 or Episode 3, where she sees me in that beautiful yellow dress that Kai makes for me.

Kat is such a sweetheart, and she's such a leader. She's been doing this forever, [so] it's been a great experience working with her and her work ethic. Outside of the show, when we do hang as a group on weekends, it's been really nice getting to know her.

On that note, Lucia hasn't interacted with quite a few characters as of yet. Are there any actors or characters on the show that you want more scenes with or a single scene at all if you haven't had any?

I definitely want more scenes with Katie [Findlay]'s character, Kate. I adore Katie. I would love to have more with everybody, really. I would love scenes with Kat. I would love scenes with Abby. I'd love scenes with Kai. There's some stuff coming up in today's episode [1.4] with Calian [and me], and I don't think I talk to Tom at all, now that I think about it. That would be fun, too. 

I'm hoping as the season goes on and the episodes go on, I have more opportunit[ies] to get to interact with the different characters. Everyone is so great, and that's the truth, and we all get to hang out during our off time, which is so nice. But then when I realize, "Wait, I haven't even gotten an opportunity to be with them as Lucia," it makes me realize, "Wait, we need that." Hopefully, in the near future, we'll get some more of that.

Hanging out with Jared Padalecki

Have you gotten the chance to work with EP Jared Padalecki at all? If so, did he give you any pointers or insight into the show, the world, the character?

I've only really met Jared once in person, where he came to set. Funny story — I think it's the episode that's airing tonight — I was wearing these tan gloves that are made out of leather that [is] almost my skin color. For whatever reason, he seemed to think that they were my actual hands. He was like, "Wow, that girl has gnarly, gnarly, destroyed hands." It wasn't until I met him [that] he was like, "Phew, that's not actually her hands."

[I met him] briefly, because we only got to talk a little bit while I was in the middle of shooting a scene on set, so things were moving really fast, but he's great from what I've picked up on. Sometimes he's on our Zoom. Sometimes he's on our table reads and whatnot, but hopefully, I'll be able to get to know him a little bit more as things go on.

Did any Western movies, books, or shows help inspire your take on the character?

Yeah. This is such a silly movie that I absolutely adore, but "Bandidas" with Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek is maybe one of my favorite films, and I completely forgot about it until recently. It was a movie that I watched when I was much younger, and it's so silly. My character, Lucia, is definitely not either of those characters, but it still got me into a little bit of a mood. I don't think it's all that period appropriate, the movie, but it definitely got me into a bit of a vibe. I did not grow up watching Westerns at all, except for "Little House on the Prairie" and "Bandidas." That's pretty much it that I can think of.

What would inform my character and everything more so was research, reading books about the time. I put a whole timeline [together and] did a whole history lesson of the 1800s and all the land being acquired by the U.S. and all the violence that occurred during the time. I really wanted to learn. I'm a bit of a nerd, so I was like, "Cool, I can base this [on] reality." There is so much written [about] the times. Of course, not so much, as I said, on Mexican women during the time. Research informed me more than anything else.

Carrying on the Walker family tradition

Actors from the "Walker" set frequently talk about how the set feels like a family. Has that extended to "Independence"? Do you have any examples of how the cast has been there for each other?

Oh my gosh, yeah. From the beginning, I was the last one to come onto the show, and immediately, I was welcomed. I remember I landed. We were shooting the pilot. I landed in New Mexico, I got to the hotel, and within 20 minutes, I was sitting down in the lobby for dinner with the whole cast, and we were playing board games and card games. I was welcomed right away.

Even on set, everybody is so kind. I'm actually living with the head costumer, Marian Toy, which is great, and it's really fun. I'm not always here on the weekends, but when I am here, there [are] always potlucks or dinners [and] game nights, which is all so great. It's been a great experience. It makes such a difference being able to work with people that you want to be around and people that you really do enjoy their company. Everyone's been so supportive. All in all, it's been a lovely, lovely experience.

Getting used to corset life

Speaking of that fashion, I'm loving the fashion in "Independence." What has been your favorite look so far, and what are some of the joys and trials of corset life?

The costumes are unbelievable, and it's so exciting that I get to have these costumes that are custom-made for me. It's amazing. Every dress I wear, I'm always in awe, but my absolute favorite is the one that Kai makes for me in, I think it's Episode 3, that yellow-golden-ish dress. It's off the shoulder. I love that dress so much, and it is only shown for a second, and I'm like, "We need to bring it back somehow." It needs to get some more airtime. I have a costume in Episode 10 that we just shot this week that I'm really, really excited about, but I don't want to say any more than that, but that I'm really excited about.

Corsets — I feel like I'm starting to get more used to them. It was really hard in the beginning because where we're shooting, there's altitude. We're at a very high altitude, which means less oxygen, and then you had the corset on top of that, and that's minimal oxygen. After a day of shooting, I'm like, "Wow, I'm exhausted, more exhausted than I'd think." Then I realized, "I guess I was just oxygen deprived," which is not the greatest thing. I've gotten more used to the altitude, and I've figured out a way to tie the corset in a way that I like it: a little bit looser around my stomach but a little bit tighter around my chest, so it allows some breathing room.

It's still pretty tight, but it's better. Now that it's getting colder, it keeps me really warm. It helps with posture. It really does help inform how I hold myself, which is very helpful. Some days I'll ask for it a little bit looser, and definitely, after lunch, I need to loosen it a bit, but it's so beautiful. I had a corset that was custom-made for me, and I wish that ... I guess it gets shown a little bit. Corset life is new, but I'm starting to get used to it, so that's a good thing.

From guest star to series regular

You've done guest appearances on episodes of shows like "9-1-1" and "Schooled." What are those experiences like compared to a series-regular project like "Independence," where you really get to develop your character and get to know everyone on set more?

It's so, so different. It's so exciting having so much time to be able to develop a character. I sort of know my character's arc over the season, but I don't really know what to expect [from] episode to episode, so there is so much surprise. We get our scripts a week before shooting, so that's been really crazy. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this happens?" That's been really fun. Going on and just having a few days on set versus being able to come back and develop relationships with people is so different. 

It's really nice feeling like I have a home. The makeup artists and the hair people and my dressers — I'll be able to form a relationship with them as well, which is so special, which you don't really get to do when you're only in a few days on a show. Between character building and feeling like you have a home, it's really nice to have time over multiple episodes to settle in.

Did you have any fun stories from either of those sets?

Gosh, it was such a long time ago. Let me see. To be honest, I don't remember anything. It was all before COVID, and COVID completely brainwashed me. [With] the quarantine, I feel like my brain just ... I'm like, "BC — before COVID. It's AC — after COVID." It's all such a blur.

Can you tease where Lucia might be headed in future episodes? Is there anything that you'd love for her to get to do on the show that she hasn't been able to yet?

Without giving away too much, Lucia definitely gets to come into her own. I'll put it that way. She definitely gets to step out of her smallness, I guess you could say, which is really exciting. I'm really, really excited for everyone to see where her story goes. 

I want to get on a horse. I've barely been able to ride a horse. I used to ride. I love horses. I love riding. I hope that I get to do [that]. Apart from maybe getting on a horse to ride away from a scene, I haven't really gotten any horse action. That's something that I'm really, really hoping Lucia gets to do.

Lucia's romantic choices

It seems like there might be some sparks between Lucia and Calian. Is that something you'd like the show to pursue down the line?

I would. I love Justin [Johnson Cortez]. He plays Calian. He's someone else who I've become really, really close with. I think that this romance between us could be really sweet. There's definitely, without giving away too much, some stuff that goes on with us, but I would love to be able to have an opportunity to see more of that or to experience more of that.

Do you hope that she gives Hoyt the boot because he's not the best boyfriend?

I know. The relationship we have is so sweet, and it's so pure, and I think Lucia and Hoyt really, really do care about each other, but Hoyt keeps letting her down. I think that both of [our characters] are little kids, in a way. And in our relationship, and I hope that Lucia can at some point be strong enough to be like, "If you don't clean up your act, it's over." Even though I do love working with Matt so much, I really do want to see that strength from Lucia.

Is there anything else you want to add about the show? Any upcoming projects?

Nothing more that I can think of about the show because if I start saying things, I'll give stuff away. 

I have a movie coming out right now. It's titled "The Locksmith." I'm super excited about that. I play a femme fatale. I'm with Ryan Phillippe and Kate Bosworth. I'm stoked for that. That's a fun film. I have no idea when it's coming out, but I had a really good time shooting it.

What was it like working with those guys?

It was great. I mostly worked with Ryan. I didn't have that much [with] Kate, but it was great. It's always wild being with people who've been doing this forever and who've made names for themselves and are icons in their own right. It was a great experience, and when you get to work with people who know what they're doing, it's very exciting.

"Walker Independence" airs Thursdays on The CW, with episodes streaming for free on the website and app the next day.

This interview has been edited for clarity.