Walker brings Coby Bell back to TV in a brand new way

Walker -- “Pilot” -- Image Number: WLK101d_0166r -- Pictured: Coby Bell as Captain Larry James -- Photo: Rebecca Brenneman/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Walker -- “Pilot” -- Image Number: WLK101d_0166r -- Pictured: Coby Bell as Captain Larry James -- Photo: Rebecca Brenneman/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Coby Bell dishes on playing Capt. James in CW’s Walker reboot.

With Walker premiering on The CW this week, Coby Bell is back in the TV crime drama genre where he first made his name. Now, though, he’s playing a totally different role—he’s the boss, and he’s kicking butt in a whole different way.

Coby’s character Captain Larry James is Cordell Walker’s (Jared Padalecki) former partner, who’s now calling the shots instead. While that means he’s not getting his hands dirty as much as he has on past shows like Third Watch and Burn Notice, he’s still shaking things up.

Precinct TV spoke to him about playing a Texas Ranger coming off his complicated role as a former government agent in The Gifted, what excites him about Walker, and why he keeps getting cast as authority figures.

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The last time we saw Coby Bell on TV, he was also carrying a badge, but it was a very different story. His Gifted character Jace Turner was a Sentinel Services agent who, by the show’s second and final season, had wound up entangled in an anti-mutant hate group, fueled by the loss of his child years earlier.

It was the case of a character who had completely lost his way, and completely opposite from Larry James, who’s a straightforward good guy keeping his team on the right path.

“There’s fun in playing both of those kind of dudes,” Coby told us. “Jace Turner was a fun character. [The Gifted] did a good job of sort of figuring out a way to make the ‘bad guy’ somehow likable, or somehow you’re kind of rooting for him. But yeah, [James] is just a good guy, level-headed. He’s Walker’s boss but used to be Walker’s partner, so they have a history, and I’m having such a great time on this project.”

Most TV crime dramas stick the boss character behind a desk, leaving them to dish out orders and slap the other characters on the wrist when they inevitably break the rules. But that’s not Coby Bell’s style; he’s too dynamic an actor, and too experienced in this space, to have him sitting still. Luckily, it doesn’t sound like that’s Larry James’ style either, as Coby explained there’s more that the series will uncover about his character in future episodes.

“I think Jared [Padalecki] and Lindsey [Morgan] are going to do the majority of the butt-kicking. I might get to break my foot off in somebody once or twice,” he laughed. “No, I am the boss, but there is more to my character than that…But I also sort of serve the traditional purpose of being the boss on a law enforcement show. Which, there’s a beauty in that to me. I like it.”

Walker and James’ history adds something to that traditional boss-subordinate dynamic, and Coby explained that he’s had no problem creating chemistry with Jared Padalecki.

“We’ve just met, but Jared is such a good dude,” he enthused. “This whole experience, the whole production team, and then Jared, who is the star of the show but he’s also an executive producer. It just blows my mind, the way he wears both of those hats, and he does it so gracefully. He’s just a straight-up good dude.”

Walker — “Back in the Saddle” — Image Number: WLK102a_0118r — Pictured (L-R): Jared Padalecki as Cordell Walker, Coby Bell as Captain Larry James and Lindsey Morgan as Micki Ramirez — Photo: Rebecca Brenneman/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

For anyone who’s been watching this genre for any length of time, though, having Coby Bell playing the captain is also a huge plus. Throughout his career he’s portrayed all kinds of different characters fighting the good fight—a police officer, a federal agent, a CIA operative—so it’s not a surprise that he comes to his latest series with a well-established skill set.

He’s not just going to be pushing papers or tossing out platitudes; he’s as capable of doing the heavy lifting as anyone else in the Walker cast, and comes into every scene with his own natural authority. He’s bringing an energy to that character archetype that isn’t normally seen, and that makes this show that much better.

“Everything I’ve done—other than The Game, which was playing a football player for nine years. But before that, I did six years on Third Watch, which was another cop show. Another law enforcement type of guy,” he said, quipping, “I think it’s the size of my head, I don’t know. There’s something about it. I think I just look official.”

“I’m well-versed in pretending to be a cop. Pretending to be that kind of guy. I’ve done it enough to where I can pretend convincingly.”

But while he’s bringing something fresh to Walker, the series is giving Coby a new challenge, too. For all the previous genre roles he’s played, he’s never gotten to be the boss. His Third Watch hero Ty Davis ended the series as a lieutenant, yet this is the first time that Coby has played someone who enters the show with rank and who has to deal with the necessities and conflicts that calling the shots entails.

Larry James has a completely new list of priorities, and different relationships to navigate, and is at a different place in life than any of the past Coby Bell heroes we’ve rooted for. As someone who is a veteran of the genre, and a veteran of the small screen, it’s intriguing to see Walker give him that bump up. He’s earned that office and that desk, and taking on that role allows viewers to see him stretch his talent even further. It’s going to be a journey for him, as much as it is for any other character on the show.

What makes the new Walker stand out to him?

“Like I said, just the fun that we’re having. But as far as what’s on the camera, the writing is excellent,” Coby explained. “When I first [got the call to] go in on the reboot of Walker, I was like okay, cool. I understand what that is, I know what Walker was, and I know what it’s going to be. And then I read the script; I was like oh, man. This is diving a little deeper. So it’s just been a lot of fun to bring that to life.

“And I’ve got to say when I first took the job, it wasn’t even on my radar that I was going to have to wear a cowboy hat,” he laughed. “Then I started doing a little research and I’m like wait, all these Rangers are wearing cowboy hats. I’m going, am I going to have to wear a cowboy hat? And then I go to my first sitting, and there it was.

“I’ve never worn a cowboy hat. I’m not a cowboy hat guy. I put it on, and I immediately understood it. It gives you a little swag when you walk when you have a cowboy hat on, so it’s really growing on me.”

He’s growing through his Walker role, too, and it’s well worth watching this season to see him add another level to his already impressive crime drama resume. If anyone can get the absolute most out of carrying a badge—and now wearing a cowboy hat—it’s Coby Bell.

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Walker airs Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.