Walker, Texas Ranger And The Legend Of Chuck Norris

Walker, Texas Ranger premiered in 1993 and showcased the action star talents of actor Chuck Norris. The show ran for eight seasons, and even though it ended, the legend of Chuck Norris continues to live on today. The program was a huge hit for CBS and has been broadcast in over 100 countries since premiering. After the show ended Norris became known worldwide for his sheer bravado and machismo, proving you don’t have to be young to be cool. Here is everything you need to know about Walker, Texas Ranger and its star.

It Was Based On A Chuck Norris Movie

GettyImages-159831167
Topkick Productions/Getty Images
Topkick Productions/Getty Images

Believe it or not, Walker, Texas Ranger was not exactly based on an original idea. Although it was not sold as being adapted from previous work, it has a surprising amount in common with Lone Wolf McQuade, an older Chuck Norris movie.

The movie was about a Texas Ranger who used his specific set of skills to take down the worst villains. The only real difference between the movie and television show might be the name of the character Norris played!

The Show’s Creator Won An Oscar

paul haggis at a photo shoot after an oscar nomination announcemen
Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Chanel

One of the show’s creators was Paul Haggis. After Walker, Texas Ranger ended, he wrote and directed the movie Crash, which would go on to win several Oscars including Best Picture. Haggis took home two trophies himself for writing and producing the film.

In his post Texas Ranger career, Haggis has been nominated for five Oscars. As the creator for the Chuck Norris show, however, he never received any major awards attention. Sadly, neither did Norris.

Norris Sang The Theme Song

chuck norris sange the walker texas ranger theme song
CBS
CBS

Chuck Norris is a man of many talents, and when it came to his TV show, he didn’t just star in it, he also sang the theme song. Titled, “Eyes of a Ranger,” the song, along with Norris’ crooning vocals, began opening the show during the second season.

Unlike many actors and actresses who try and transition from film to music, Norris never released an album or embarked on a tour. He settled for his one brief moment in the musical spotlight and continued to act.

Chuck Norris Jokes Began In 2004

chuck norris laughing at a joke
Bob Levey/WireImage
Bob Levey/WireImage

Around the same time Conan O’Brien began his Walker, Texas Ranger skit on his show, “Chuck Norris” jokes took over the internet. These jokes played up the machismo and invincibility of Norris, turning him into the ultimate action hero for the masses.

While it’s impossible to say where these jokes started, our best guess is they were spawned by an internet forum on somethingawful.com that originally targeted Vin Diesel, but quickly switched focus to Chuck Norris.

It Was Nearly Canceled After One Episode

walker texas ranger was almost canceled after one episode
CBS
CBS

Tragedy almost struck for the show just a week before the pilot was set to air. The production company, Cannon Television, went bankrupt leaving the show without funding to continue. Already committed to the show, CBS aired the pilot, but didn’t plan to air any more.

The first episode, however, was so well received that the network had a change of heart. The move to fund the show themselves worked out great, as it stayed on the air from 1993 until 2001 and still airs everyday in syndication.

There Was An Easy Trick To Know Who The Bad Guys Were

walker texas ranger bad guys drove fords
CBS
CBS

Even if Walker, Texas Ranger wanted the villain of each episode to be kept a mystery, there was almost always a way to figure it out. The show had a sponsorship deal with General Motors, so anyone driving a Ford was on the wrong side of the law.

Anyone driving a GM vehicle didn’t have an evil bone in their body. In some ways, this cheap trick to help characterize the bad guys is like how Western villains always wore black while the heroes wear white.

There Was Only One Texan In The Cast

noble willingham was the only actual texan in walker texas ranger
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Walker, Texas Ranger may have strived for authenticity with its shooting location, it didn’t worry as much when it came to the cast. Chuck Norris was actually from Oklahoma, although he did move to Texas and still lives there.

The only true Texan in the entire cast was Noble Willingham, who was born in Mineola Texas. He played Walker’s trusty former partner C.D. Parker. Willingham, however, lived out the end of his life in Palm Springs, California.

Filming At A Prison Almost Got Too Real

walker texas ranger tried to film at a real prison
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

One episode of Walker, Texas Ranger was nearly canceled after filming at a real prison took an unexpected turn. While the actors and crew were getting ready, word spread that one of the institution’s detainees escaped.

Luckily, shooting had not yet begun, so everyone was able to quickly pack up and leave. The plan was changed, and producers worked quickly to find a new location. Sometimes trying to be as realistic as possible just isn’t the best idea!

Famous Faces Got Their Start On The Show

bryan cranston was on an episode of walker texas ranger
Bruce Glikas/WireImage
Bruce Glikas/WireImage

As happens with older television shows, many famous faces you would recognize today got their start on Walker, Texas Ranger. Some of the more prominent ones include Mila Kunis, Tobey Maguire, Giovanni Rbisisi.

Perhaps the biggest star to ever make an appearance, though, was Bryan Cranston. He played a character named Hank in an episode that aired in 1994. Afterwards, of course, he went on to play Hal in Malcolm in the Middle and Walter White in Breaking Bad

Chuck Norris Taught Mila Kunis How-To Punch

chuck norris taught mila kunis to fight
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

While ten-year-old Mila Kunis made her big guest appearance on Walker, Texas Ranger she was taught a valuable life lesson by Chuck Norris; how to throw a punch. She shared the story in 2016 during an interview with Conan O’Brien.

Even though the actress was young at the time, Norris took it upon himself to help teach her self defense skills. The moral of this story is that if you see Mila Kunis on the street, it’s probably best to leave her alone.

The Lethal Weapon Connection

garey busey starred in lethal weapon and walker texas ranger
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

The Lethal Weapon movie franchise began in 1987 and has had four movies in total released. Knowing that, it’s no surprise then that certain actors would ending up appearing in Walker, Texas Ranger as well. But 16 overall? That seems a little suspect.

One of the prominent “crossovers” between the two properties was actor Garey Busey. In Lethal Weapon he played the main villain. In Walker, Texas Ranger he starred in an episode with the name “Riggs.” Riggs, of course, is the name of Mel Gibson’s character in the iconic film franchise.

A Former President Was Offered A Role

george bush was offered a role on walker texas ranger
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In 1996, producers for Walker, Texas Ranger offered a role to future President of the United State George W. Bush. They were hoping to have the then Texas Governor cameo as himself.

Bush was offered the role, but he turned it down. Instead of rewriting the episode with a non-descript politician, the writers on the show decided to remove the idea altogether. The episode, which was already written, was never brought back into consideration for a future plot.

It Was Considered Too Violent At The Time

walker texas ranger was considered too violet when it came out
CBS
CBS

In the early ’90s, television shows weren’t as violent as they are today. Television censorship standards were much higher, and premium cable outlets like HBO hadn’t yet introduced audiences to their more daring offerings.

Walker, Texas Ranger was one of the more violent shows at the time, and because it aired in prime-time on CBS, it received hefty criticism. In a 1998 study commissioned by the UCLA Center for Communication Policy there was “serious concern” over the amount of violence that was featured.

Chuck Norris Was Tricked Into Fighting The Criticism

chuck norris was tricked into debating the violence of walker texas ranger
Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images
Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

A few years into the show’s running Chuck Norris appeared on ABC with Peter Jennings to debate the violence on the show. Norris wasn’t told that what he was being brought in to talk about however, and didn’t take kindly to being tricked.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 1994, Norris revealed what he thought he was there to discuss; child drug use. He said, “I was very upset that they got me there under false pretenses. More than upset, I was [expletive removed] off.”

Eventually, Norris Became A Texan

chuck norris became an official texan in 2010
Topkick Productions/Getty Images
Topkick Productions/Getty Images

After spending eight years portraying both a Texan and a ranger, Chuck Norris was honored in 2010 by the state to become both. Along with his brother Aaron, the state named him an “honorary Ranger.”

Then, to top it all off, he was named an “honorary Texan.” Remember how we said there was only one Texan in Walker, Texas Ranger? It still counts, he was not officially a son of the state until nine years after the show ended.

One Storyline Has Never Been Resolved

one storyline on walker texas ranger was never resolved
CBS
Harry Langdon/Getty Images

After eight years on the air, Walker, Texas Ranger ended its run in 2001. Four years later it returned with a television movie, Trial By Fire. At the end of the movie, Deputy-District Attorney Alexandra Cahill died.

The shocking death was used as a cliffhanger that would presumably be resolved in another movie. Much to the chagrin of the cast and fans everywhere, a sequel was never made. In 2018 there was a rumor about a revival season, but nothing has been formally announced.

Noble Willingham Wanted To Be A Politician

noble willingham wanted to be a politician
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

On television, Noble Williamham’s character ran a bar and grill. In real life, the actor had much loftier ambitions. He quit the show in 1999 to run for political office. He targeted a spot in Congress and faced off against Democratic candidate Max Sandlin.

Willingham’s run proved fruitless and he lost his political bid. When his campaign ended, he did not return to the television show. Four years later he passed away in his sleep after a heart attack. He was 72-years-old.

Conan O’Brien Was A Big Fan Of The Show

conan obrien was a big fan of walker texas ranger
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien was not afraid to profess his love for Walker, Texas Ranger when it went off the air. In 2004, he began randomly playing clips from the show out context.

These ridiculous clips showed just how hilariously cheesy the show could be. One clip showed Walker jumping out of a helicopter and punching someone. The random segment became so popular that Chuck Norris guest cameoed in an episode for added comedic effect.

Norris Worked With Friends And Family

chuck norris worked with his family on walker texas ranger
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

When he signed on to Walker, Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris wasn’t just the main character, he was also a producer. This gave him the ability to bring in people he trusted to work on the show with him.

One of the people he brought in was Aaron Norris, who had directed Sidekicks in 1992. Eric Norris, Chuck’s son, was also brought in to work as a stunt coordinator, and Mike Norris acted alongside him in eight episodes as well as Trial by Fire.

It Broke The Rules And Filmed In Texas

walker texas ranger was the first primetime show to film in texas
CBS
CBS

Television can be expensive to shoot, and as a result, most shows end up being filmed in either California on a studio lot or in Canada. When Walker, Texas Ranger went into production, Chuck Norris made sure it shot on location in Texas.

Not known for its tax breaks or forgiving weather conditions, the show became the first in prime-time television history to film in the Lone Star State. Since then, Texas has become an increasingly popular place to film a TV series.