Katherine McNamara Discusses Walker Independence's Feminist Take On The Wild West - Exclusive

If there's one thing Wild West films and TV shows have been sorely lacking, it's a feminist touch. Even modern takes on the old West seem to fall into the same sexist, racist, and problematic tropes that you'd expect to find in the actual time period — not hundreds of years later. Hollywood has gone through somewhat of a reckoning in the past decade, with tools like the Bechdel test and a deeper focus on representation. We still have a long way to go, but it's a start.

Enter, "Walker Independence" — the "Walker" spinoff offering fans a modern take on the Wild West that puts women and a wide array of cultures at the forefront.

During an exclusive interview with The List, Katherine McNamara discussed the feminist lens of "Walker Independence," what it was like working with co-star Katie Findlay, and the unique friendship between McNamara's Abby Walker and Findlay's character, Kate. 

The women of the Wild West

On what drew Katherine McNamara to this feminist story of the West and why it's such an important aspect of this time period to tell, McNamara said, "I think it was just that. Oftentimes, we see a very specific image of women in the 1800s, in the 1870s, and in the West in particular." Many frontier women never get a voice, even in modern media, and that was a big draw for McNamara. She noted, "That's something that drew me to this project initially ... You see it in the pilot. There's a very distinct choice that Abby has to make. In the first 15 minutes of our show, her entire life goes up in flames, literally and figuratively."

Of course, McNamara is no stranger to playing strong, independent women, and Abby Walker is no exception. "She has a choice. She can either become a victim of her circumstance, or she can choose to create her own life and to create an opportunity for herself to have much more agency than any woman at that time really got a chance to have," McNamara added. "That was exciting, and in every sense, with all of the characters, we get an opportunity to reinvent the genre of what a Western is and to tell what we hope is a more historically accurate version of what the West looked like."

The power of female friendship

On Abby's unique friendship with Kate, Katherine McNamara said, "What's interesting is that from the moment they meet, even though they don't fully trust one another, it's a bit of recognizing between Abby and Kate." While Findlay is nonbinary, their character, Kate, identifies as a woman. "They're both women who don't fit the mold of society at the time, but they don't fit the mold in very different ways," McNamara added. "Instantly, there's this unspoken understanding and almost this unspoken humor between these two women of, 'We know what we've had to do to survive in this world, and we also know how to use this world to our advantage and sometimes use the disadvantages that women have in the world to create opportunities.'"

Watching dynamic female friendships on-screen in a Western is certainly a refreshing change of pace. McNamara noted, "It's a very interesting friendship as these two women, again, with all of the characters, push each other to recognize different parts of themselves and to recognize different vulnerabilities and different strengths in each other." 

McNamara has only wonderful things to say about her real-life dynamic with Findlay. "Katie and I have the best time working together," McNamara confirmed. "It's a joy to work with someone who's, again, so conscious about upholding the female stories we want to tell but also being very open and collaborative. We are so able to bounce ideas off of each other on- and off-screen."

New episodes of "Walker Independence" air Thursdays on The CW and stream on the website the next day.