Jared Padalecki Reflects on His 24-Year TV Run (‘I’m Pretty Tired’) and What’s Not Next After Walker Ends

Jared Padalecki is feeling a bit spent.

The actor got his big break on The WB’s Gilmore Girls in 2000 as Rory’s love interest, before moving on in 2005 to star alongside Jensen Ackles in Supernatural. Little did Padalecki know that the series would go on to air for 15 seasons, after which he segued into a starring and executive-producing role on The CW’s Walker, which wraps up its four-season run this Wednesday at 8/7c.

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So it’s no surprise that Padalecki tells TVLine that he is exhausted after a successful but sometimes grueling 24 years on network television.

“I’m grateful. Like, I’m not digging ditches. I’m not doing Red Cross work and saving human beings. But yeah, I’m pretty tired,” Padalecki says, adding that he’s “a little disillusioned about the state of the industry that I’ve loved and been employed with for 24 years. So I have a lot of thinking to do, and I have a lot of time to be with my wife and our kids, my friends, and think about where this industry is.”

Below, Padalecki opens up about Walker’s cancellation and why he doesn’t see another long-running TV series in his future.

TVLINE | Obviously, Supernatural was on a lot longer than Walker, but you were an executive producer on Walker, and you seemed to really bond with not only the cast but also the character of Cordell. So how has this letting go experience compared to that of Supernatural for you?
With my experience on Gilmore Girls and Supernatural, we found ourselves in a similar situation, like around Seasons 3 and/or 4, where we were on the bubble, or there was a network change, or the head of the network changed, or there was a strike, or et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So we didn’t know if we’d make it, and in both cases, the network believed in us and let us go as long as we wanted, and now, they’re like two of the top 10 most watched shows on Netflix, worldwide, every year. So I kind of, stupid me, I was hoping and assuming the same might happen… I knew there was a chance. There’s always a chance that the show’s not going to go, but I was like, “Well, we’re still the most watched. We’re not expensive.” So I didn’t know what to expect, and I haven’t yet had time to have closure with Walker.

With Supernatural, Jensen [Ackles] and I talked about it in our trailers on set for years, or during conventions in the green room, or at home, or flying together, or whatever, playing golf. We’d talk about it, and finally, Season 14, we kind of looked at each other, and we were like, “Hey, you know what, I think it’s time to go back to our families.” “Yeah, I think you’re right.” So we met with [CW President] Mark Pedowitz and said, like, “Hey, we’re going to do Season 15, but that’s it.” So we had a couple years, and we, ultimately, made the decision. I left Gilmore Girls to do Supernatural. Jensen and I decided to go ahead and let Supernatural end and give it a good send-off.

Jared Padalecki on Walker Courtesy of The CW

That was not the same situation with Walker, obviously. So I’m still kind of dealing with it, to be honest with you. I love the show. I’m so grateful for the four years that we had. I think back to during the pandemic, we were one of the first shows to go back to filming after COVID. We shot in October of 2020, and it was still masks and six feet away. There was just so much everybody went through: car accidents, and more COVIDs, and strep, and flu, and births, and deaths, and marriages, and divorces, and another strike, and this and that. So we had gone through so much together. We had weathered so many storms that I figured we had a lot more storms to weather. It’s not the way it worked out. But right now, I’m really focusing on how grateful I am, and will forever be, for the time I got to spend on Walker.

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Walker Series Finale Recap

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TVLINE | Given the circumstances, how do you feel about how the series ended and how the storylines were left off in the finale?
To the credit of CW and CBS [Studios], when we shot the finale, when it was written, we didn’t know whether or not we were going to go for a fifth or further season, and they did not push us to try and wrap things up in a tidy little bow, which would’ve been really bad storytelling and a really bad episode. They kind of said, “Write the best episode you can. We don’t know if it’s going to go five years, or 10 years, or 30 years, or four years. So make it the best you can.” We knew, and [showrunner] Anna [Fricke] knew, and Blythe Ann Johnson knew — they wrote the finale together — that it was possible [it would end]. So when I think back on the finale, I think whether it was the end of Season 4 or the end of Season 104, I would’ve wanted all the characters to have a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, something to look forward to. And so, all the characters get a send-off and a salute of sorts, but it feels like a proper episode of television. It doesn’t feel like, “Oh, they are in a diner, and let’s just turn the cameras off.” But again, it’s so difficult to end. When you fall in love with a character, or several characters, or a story, for 69 episodes, like how do you end it?

So I’m grateful that we were able to create the best episode that we could without any incumbrances of like, “You better make sure everybody dies, or everybody gets a new job,” or something. Because how could you possibly end the story of all the Walkers and all their friends and been like, “Oh, yup, cool, don’t need to see them anymore”? Like, no matter how it ended, I would’ve wanted to see more of them, and so I’m very proud of the episode.

Gilmore Girls Alexis Bledel Jared Padalecki
Alexis Bledel and Jared Padalecki on Gilmore Girls Everett Collection

TVLINE | You went from Gilmore Girls straight to 15 seasons of Supernatural to Walker. Are you exhausted yet?
I was exhausted 20 years ago. [Laughs] I am. I am exhausted. When I found out that Walker was not going to go for a fifth season, that was on a Tuesday, and I left for Europe on a Friday, part work, part fun. But I was in Europe for like three and a half weeks with family and a little bit of work, a lot of travel. So I’ve only been in the United States four days in the last month, and so, I haven’t really had time to fully grasp it. But yes, I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m grateful. Like, I’m not digging ditches. I’m not doing Red Cross work and saving human beings. But yeah, I’m pretty tired. I’m a little disillusioned about the state of the industry that I’ve loved and been employed with for 24 years. So I have a lot of thinking to do, and I have a lot of time to be with my wife and our kids, my friends, and think about where this industry is.

I haven’t had time to really reassess my life. I got into this industry when I was 17 years old on Gilmore Girls, and I, at the time, had my school schedule for UT Austin, and so, I thought I was going to do a couple episodes and go back to UT and pay off some student loans or something. That was 24 years ago, so I haven’t really had the time. And even during the writers’ strike in ’08, we were just waiting for it to end to go back and shoot Supernatural. The pandemic in 2020, I was just waiting for it to end, so I could go finish Supernatural and start Walker. The writers’ strike last year, just waiting for it to end, so we could pick up Walker.

I was in Europe for a while, and people would come up and take a picture and get an autograph or whatever and [ask], “So what’s next?” and for the first time in my entire life, I was like, “I don’t know.” “Oh, well, surely you have stuff. What’s next?” I was like, “Well, I don’t know.” They’re like, “Oh, you can’t tell us.” “No, no. It’s not I can’t tell you. I don’t have a job waiting for me,” which I’ve never said that in my adult life. So it’s interesting, and I’m going to surround myself with family and friends and loved ones, and try and figure out if I have anything else to offer that people want, and if I can be of service in storytelling, somehow, some way, then I guess I’ll put my proverbial cowboy hat back on and saddle up.

Supernatural Jared Padalecki Jensen Ackles
Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on Supernatural Courtesy of The CW

TVLINE | When you’re ready, though, do you imagine that you will want to do another TV series?
I don’t think so. I don’t mind long TV, but I’ve heard it said many times, and I agree, that hour-long episodic television is the hardest job in the industry. If you’re Elijah Wood in Lord of the Rings, and it’s three three-hour long movies or whatever, it’s still like 18 months, you know? There’s an end in sight. With TV shows, sometimes it lasts 15 years, and sometimes they say, “Hey, where do you live? OK, we’re shooting in Vancouver.” You say, “But my family, my wife and kids are in Austin.” Like, “Well, good for them. They can come move up here. Here’s a thousand bucks to fly them out.” It’s not for the weak-spirited. Like, you really have to sacrifice a lot, and I’ve sacrificed everything I have to sacrifice for many, many years, and I think I’m at a point in my life where I want to spend more time with my wife and kids. If a job on a TV show comes up, like I’ve talked to Kripke about The Boys stuff, like, “Yeah, I’ll come play with you for a month. Yeah, I’ll come play with you for two months, for six weeks, or whatever,” or, “Yeah, I’ll come pop in a week out of every month for the next three months.”

But a classic TV contract is a six-year contract. My oldest son is 12, my middle son is 10, my daughter is seven. So if I sign a six-year contract, and they’re filming in Alaska, then I miss my son getting a driver’s license, I miss him graduating high school, I miss his first girlfriend or boyfriend, his first heartbreak, his basketball games, I miss my other son’s driving test, I miss my daughter turning into a teenager, and then I’m leaving [my wife] Gen, too. It’s a big commitment. So I don’t foresee myself doing that unless, again, it was in Austin, and I was the executive producer that could be involved in knowing the show and making sure the cast and crew all did it in as efficient a way as possible.

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