Although he’s only 38, Matt Barr figures his acting career has already come full circle with his starring role in the series Walker: Independence.
After all, his first time on a set was when Barr was a middle schooler in Allen, and the locally filmed Walker: Texas Ranger was in its heyday.
“They were filming at one of our friends’ ranches. I got to go out there with my mom and see the set and meet Chuck Norris, and they put me as an extra in a scene,” Barr said. “I saw the ecosystem there and how the actors and directors behaved, and that’s lived with me forever.”
Fast forward more than two decades, and Barr played a recurring role on the current Walker revival and now stars in the spinoff-prequel series, which will resume its inaugural season on Jan. 12 on The CW.
Unlike the present-day original series, Independence is set in the late 1800s, with Barr playing the same Hoyt Rawlins character as a brash West Texas outlaw who becomes enamored with tough-minded traveler Abby Walker (Katherine McNamara) as she seeks revenge on her husband’s killer.
Barr said that after Hoyt’s first-season arc ended with his murder in a 2021 episode, the creators of Walker approached him about a spinoff that would explore the origin of the Walker family — set 150 years in the past.
‘They really liked the character, and the audience was responding,” Barr said. “It’s a pretty radical idea for network TV.”
The concept enabled Barr to flesh out the backstory he created internally for the role while finding continuity with the writers’ vision.
“When I was doing the modern version of Hoyt, you always ask yourself, where does this character come from? You either reveal that or it remains a mystery. I wonder if there’s something in our DNA where we can’t outrun our fate. That was what I told myself,” Barr said. “I chose to play [the two roles] with a lot of consistencies. I didn’t want the apple to fall too far from the tree. In the Wild West, you had to be dangerous to make it.”
Prior to his current show, which films in New Mexico, Barr’s most prominent Western role was alongside one of his idols, Kevin Costner, in the 2012 History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. He played the eldest son of Costner’s Hatfield patriarch.
“I grew up around that culture, going to the Stockyards in Fort Worth and watching the rodeo,” Barr said. “Everybody wants to be a cowboy.”
Although Barr gravitated to acting, he’s from a football family, as the son of a former college football coach at Purdue and SMU.
As a teenager, he auditioned for a role in a Friday Night Lights project for Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused). While it never materialized, Linklater recommended him for a lead role in the low-budget independent film Levelland.
The day after he graduated from Allen High School in 2002, he drove to Austin and began filming.
Levelland debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival the following year, which landed Barr an agent and prompted a move to Los Angeles.
He subsequently landed his first Hollywood part on an episode of E.R., broke through a few years later with a recurring role on One Tree Hill, and has worked steadily in television for almost two decades since, along with occasional movies.
“I like that long-form storytelling, and I also like that feeling of family with the crew and cast,” he said. “I like to slow-burn a character. I’m really drawn to television in that way.”
Walker: Independence has provided some nostalgic thrills for Barr, placing him back in a genre he admired growing up and giving him a chance to reincarnate Hoyt after his on-screen death.
“Westerns are cyclical. They’re having a moment, and I’m really happy about that,” he said. “What a great character Hoyt is. As an actor, you might get a couple of these in your whole career that you just fall in love with. He’s definitely my spirit animal.”