Before he became synonymous with outlandish internet facts, Chuck Norris was known under a different name – Walker, Texas Ranger. Between 1993 and 2001, the Stetson-clad peacekeeper could be seen laying down the law in the Lone Star State and his actions brought millions of viewers to CBS each week. Though it’s been a while since Walker made it to our screens – since 2005’s Trial by Fire movie, in fact – this legendary Ranger’s legacy still stands strong. What’s more, these intriguing facts will leave you longing to watch the show once again.
20. The series has its roots in another of Norris’s works
Although ostensibly the brainchild of creators Paul Haggis – whose 2004 film Crash would later win the Oscar for Best Picture – and Leslie Greif, Walker, Texas Ranger wasn’t entirely original. In fact, the series was actually based on Norris’s 1983 film Lone Wolf McQuade. Like Walker, the movie focused on a Texas Ranger and featured plenty of scenes of Norris kicking ass.
19. Viewers could spot the bad guys from a mile off
In classic Westerns, conventional wisdom dictates that bad guys wear black while good guys dress in lighter colors. Well, Walker, Texas Ranger had its own take on this trope. Instead of dressing differently, heroes and villains could be differentiated by their cars. Predominantly, bad guys drove Fords while good guys drove a Chevrolet, whose parent company General Motors endorsed the show.
18. Walker stuck close to his Texan roots
Yet despite its size and stature within the United States, Texas isn’t an especially popular location for TV crews. Indeed, even a successful show like Dallas was mainly filmed in California. However, Norris bucked this trend and ensured that Walker was filmed in the character’s home county. As a result, it was the first prime-time show shot wholly in the Lone Star State.
17. The series showcased many Texan products
Because of its Texas setting, Walker was endorsed by a variety of local industries. In addition to the aforementioned General Motors, the series also frequently included products from Texan companies such as Dell, Levi’s, Big Red and Stetson. In addition, the show also cast local residents as extras.
16. The show starred only one legitimate Texan
Though it showcased many regional faces and brands, Walker, Texas Ranger didn’t cast many real-life Texans in leading roles. Indeed, even Norris himself – who was instrumental in getting the show shot in Texas – was born in Oklahoma. In reality, the only main cast member born and raised in the Lone Star State was Noble Willingham, who played Walker’s former partner C.D. Parker.
15. Noble Willingham had political ambitions
His character may have been content running his own bar & grill, but Willingham had aspirations beyond the TV industry. To this end, he left Walker in 1999 to run for Congress. However, his gambit wasn’t a success and he lost the 2000 House of Representatives race to Democratic candidate Max Sandlin.
14. C.D.’s establishment was a former-hang out of some of the West’s biggest heroes
Speaking of C.D.’s Bar & Grill, the eatery played host to more legends than just Cordell Walker. Indeed, showrunners used Fort Worth’s White Elephant Saloon, once owned by 19th-century frontiersman Luke Short, as the bar’s location. What’s more, owing to Short’s friendship with heroes such as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, it’s a safe bet that these figures once visited the establishment themselves.
13. The show contained some notable inaccuracies
While Walker, Texas Ranger may have shown off the best of the character’s home state, there were some aspects of Texas that producers just couldn’t get right. In particular, the show made errors when it came to depicting the titular law enforcement agency. For example, throughout the series the group’s headquarters were in Dallas, when in reality the Rangers are stationed in Austin.
12. The series almost never made it to air
Every show goes through teething problems and Walker, Texas Ranger was no different. However, the series seemingly encountered insurmountable odds when, just ten days before the pilot was set to air, its production company Cannon Television went bankrupt. Thankfully, Walker’s first episode was so well received that CBS bankrolled the rest of the series.
11. Real life villains ruined one episode
After narrowly avoiding financial ruin in the first season, Walker, Texas Ranger ran into further problems during later series. For example, one episode was due to be filmed in and around an actual state prison. However, this plan was abandoned when a detainee escaped just before shooting began.
10. The show introduced audiences to some now familiar faces
Of course, there’s no denying that Chuck Norris was the undisputed star of the show. Nonetheless, Walker also featured early appearances from actors who went on to become famous in their own right. Indeed, the series had cameos from rising stars such as Tobey Maguire, Giovanni Ribisi and Mila Kunis. Meanwhile, Bryan Cranston also played a supporting role years before Breaking Bad hit our screens.
9. Chuck Norris taught Mila Kunis a valuable life lesson
Besides giving young actors their first taste of fame, Walker actually taught its rising stars some important skills. While appearing on the series at the age of ten, future-Black Swan actress Mila Kunis began chatting with Chuck Norris. As she later revealed to Conan O’Brien in 2016, the actor improved Kunis’s self-defense skills by showing her how to throw a punch.
8. The series had a few crossovers with Lethal Weapon
Over its eight season run, Walker, Texas Ranger employed numerous supporting actors. Moreover, for some reason casting agents seemed to have a strange affinity with Lethal Weapon. Indeed, no fewer than 16 performers from the film series made appearances on the show. They include Gary Busey, who starred as the original 1987 film’s villain, playing a character in Walker who was named after the franchise’s hero, Riggs.
7. Producers asked the world’s most famous resident of Texas to cameo
While Walker featured many future stars, there was one guest appearance that the producers couldn’t secure. In 1996 showrunners reached out to then Governor – and future U.S. president – George W. Bush to cameo as himself. Alas, the politician passed on the opportunity and the episode he had been written into was consequently scrapped.
6. Conan O’Brien has a particular fondness for the show
During its eight year run, Walker racked up many adoring fans – including late-night host Conan O’Brien. In fact, the comedian had an ongoing joke on the 2004 season of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, wherein he regularly played random Walker… clips for comic effect. The segment was so successful that Chuck Norris himself even appeared in one such skit.
5. The show was criticized for its violence
While gorefests such as Game of Thrones have desensitized modern viewers to onscreen brutality, TV fans were much easier to shock in the 1990s. In fact, despite looking tame by today’s standards, Walker was regarded as its era’s most violent series. As a result, it was the target of a great deal of criticism. For example, the UCLA Center for Communication Policy expressed “serious concerns” over its content in a 1998 study.
4. Chuck Norris was tricked into appearing on a TV debate
Although Norris was offended by criticism of the show’s content, the actor nevertheless took part in a debate with ABC’s Peter Jennings about violence in the media. However, the actor was reportedly told he’d be discussing child drug use beforehand. “I was very upset that they got me there under false pretenses,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 1994. “More than upset, I was p***** off.”
3. Norris sang the show’s opening theme
Throughout his stint on the show, Chuck Norris performed many functions. Not only did he star as Walker, but the actor also produced and wrote several episodes. Perhaps most surprisingly, though, Norris sang the series’ main theme, “Eyes of a Ranger,” which was used from season two onwards. Nevertheless, this would be Norris’ first and last musical offering.
2. Norris eventually received a Ranger badge of his own
Many actors have little in common with their onscreen counterparts, but Chuck Norris is more like Cordell Walker than most fans realize. Indeed, in 2010 the star and his brother Aaron were made honorary Rangers by the State of Texas. Moreover, Norris received the title of “honorary Texan” from the state’s Senate earlier this year.
1. The show’s storyline has never been resolved
After four years off the air, Cordell Walker returned to screens with 2005’s TV movie spin-off Trial by Fire. This reunion ended with the apparent death of deputy-D.A. Alexandra Cahill, played by Sheree J. Wilson. However, more than ten years later the cliffhanger still remains unresolved.