My worst moment: Jared Padalecki of ‘Walker’ on being unprepared: Like that nightmare of going to school naked
After 15 seasons starring on “Supernatural,” Jared Padalecki seamlessly switched gears last year to launch “Walker” on the CW. A reboot of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” the series is filmed in Austin, Texas, where Padalecki has been based, for years, with his wife and children. “Supernatural” shot in Vancouver, Canada — a significant commute — but that isn’t the case anymore with “Walker”; now Padalecki actually gets to spend time with his family while headlining a television show and fulfilling himself creatively.
Padalecki is also an executive producer on a forthcoming “Walker” prequel series set in the late 1880s that he said will be about “fleshing out the Walker world and learning about where they came from, and how where you’re born and raised affects who you become. I love the Walker family. I know my mom loves them as well,” he joked. “So hopefully people without the last name Padalecki are having a good time, too.”
One of his early career breaks was playing Dean, Rory’s first boyfriend on “The Gilmore Girls,” and when asked about a worst moment in his career, it was a memory from his time on that show that came to mind: “Having been in the business for 22 years, I’ve got several of these stories. But this one specific story has really informed how I’ve approached my career and my process.”
My worst moment …
“I didn’t shoot every day on ‘Gilmore Girls,’ and on this particular week, I wasn’t needed on set until Friday. So on Monday night, my friends and I are watching the Spurs — I had friends from San Antonio out in L.A., so we would always watch games and play video games. And again, I didn’t have to work until Friday — I’m an actor enjoying my life; I have three days off and I’m 19 or 20 at the time and I’m single — so I had a bunch of guy friends over and we played Grand Theft Auto until late into the night.
“My plan for the next day was to play with my dog in the morning, go get a workout in and then work on my upcoming scene that we were shooting on Friday. So I stayed up until, I dunno, about three or four in the morning. Well, I guess at seven or eight that morning, my phone started ringing. But I didn’t know this, because I was still asleep.
“I think what happened was, Lauren Graham (the show’s star) got sick and the scene that she was supposed to film on Tuesday had to be moved. So they had to film something else — let’s shoot the scene where Dean and Lindsay get married and come out of the chapel there in Stars Hollow.
“So they start calling me. No answer. They called my agent and then my manager, and they couldn’t reach me. And the thing is, you don’t often get a phone call at seven in the morning saying, ‘Hey, we need you on set today.’ But they were up a creek, so they were obviously trying to reach me. And I didn’t have a home phone, just a cellphone.
“So my manager ended up calling my friend Jordan, who had been over the night before, and he did answer his phone, and my manager was like: ‘Hey, Jared has to film today. Are you with him? Can you wake him up?’ And Jordan was like, ‘No, I’m home, but we live a block away. I can go try and wake him up.’
“So he comes over, and he knew the code to get into the building, so he takes the elevator up to the third floor, gets to my front door and starts banging on it. But because my bedroom was the furthest from the front door, I don’t hear anything.
“Jordan then goes to the exterior stairwell and Spider-Mans up the stairwell outside and does a 4- or 5-foot ninja parkour jump onto my balcony. I had left my screen door open so he was able to get in through that and started waking me up.
“I thought it was a bad prank at first. He was like, ‘Hey man, they need you on set.’ I was like, ‘No, they don’t.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, they do. Look at your phone.’ And I had 20 missed calls and text messages. I was like: Oh my God. I shot out of bed, had a cup of coffee and a water, jumped in the shower and then drove over to Warner Bros.
“I was probably two hours later than they were hoping and I didn’t have the scene prepared, but I knew the basics of what was going on. Luckily I didn’t really have many lines at first, it was just us coming out of the chapel. But I ended up having other scenes later that did have dialogue, so at least I had time in the morning where I was in hair and makeup to learn those.
“But it was basically the feeling of that nightmare where you’re naked at school. Except unlike being naked at school, this was naked at school and there are cameras everywhere and it will be on film for all time.
“So now, these days, I’m known for my over-preparation. If there’s any scene in the episode we’re shooting, I know it backward and forward, because I don’t want to have that feeling again. It’s one thing if you embarrass yourself at a school play and everyone’s just going to clap for you anyway; it’s another if you’re putting it on television. Your kid’s kid’s kids will be able to see this.”
Shout out to Jordan, who was willing to risk life and limb to wake Padalecki up.
“He’s just one of those guys! He’s like a golden retriever; if there was a bear coming to hurt his friend, he’d jump in to help. He’s a dear friend, still is; he stood in my wedding. I think the reason my manager knew his number was because we had socialized together. Maybe we had played basketball and just hung out a few times, had a few poker nights.
“But that memory is one of those mortifying moments that motivates me to get up at 5 a.m. and know all my lines.
“I’m a born-and-bred Texan and there are a lot of different aspects of that, but for me that means taking your work seriously, taking your friends and family seriously and being respectful. And I was never the guy who assumed, ‘I’m a TV star, I’ll show up when I show up.’ I always wanted people to know: I’m here as a professional and I’m grateful to be here. I’m not going to waste anybody’s time. There are cast and crew who have friends and family and wives and mortgages and car payments, and I’m not going to waste anybody’s time. I may not be the most talented guy on the planet, but I promise you I’ll be the most hardworking.
“So that day was such a misrepresentation of who I was. It made me seem like I was some jerk who didn’t care. Like that cliche of the actor rolling in hungover and late. And I’m like, man, that’s not me. I want the reputation of the guy who will do whatever it takes and work as hard as he needs to, off set and off camera, to get the job done as seamlessly and efficiently as possible — and this was exactly opposite, as I blow in, hair still wet from the shower, like: ‘Uh, what are we shooting?’
“The cast and crew knew me by this point, and they knew that this was the exception, not the rule. It’s the guilt you put on yourself. If this had been my first day, I don’t think I would have had a second day.”
The takeaway …
“I am a much happier and calmer — and I’ve been very public about ‘Jared deals with anxiety’ — and a much less anxious person if I am prepared as much as possible. So I take preparation seriously. I think you kill two birds with one stone, because the more I prepare, the better I feel, but also the better my work is because I’ve thought about it a dozen or two dozen different ways. So when it’s time to get on set and play, I can play.
“I enjoy acting and I enjoy telling stories, and on that day, I didn’t give myself the chance to do the best storytelling that I could have otherwise done. So you’re really just kind of stealing from yourself when you’re not prepared.”