If you’re reading my episode reviews of the CW’s new show, “Walker,” you know that as a psychologist, I’m really enjoying the complicated characters the show has introduced and the genuine struggles they’re all going through. So I was excited to have a chance to do a live phone chat with Alex Meneses, who will portray Micki’s mother, Adriana, when the show returns on March 11. Now that I’ve learned more about Adriana (and about Alex), I’m even more excited to see where this show is headed – read on to see why.
Lynn: It’s so nice to meet you, I’m really enjoying “Walker.”
Alex: I know, isn’t it good?
Lynn: I was rooting for the show because it’s Jared Padalecki – he has chapters in two of my recent books. The chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood is like a 30-page autobiography, very personal and powerful, so I admire him a lot, but you never know with a new show whether it will be good or not.
Alex: It is good. He’s put his heart and soul into this show, and it shows. As you know, he’s a wonderful person. I’m crazy about him and his whole family.
Lynn: Absolutely. You’re playing Adriana, Micki Ramirez’ mother. What is your favorite thing about the part and what have you enjoyed the most about filming for the show so far?
Alex: I love Adriana. I love the fact that she is a woman of color, a Latina, and she’s a psychologist. She’s an educated woman, not just a Latina mommy who’s crying and cooking all the time. Which sounds fine – that’s who I am basically at home – but it’s really fun to play someone who’s taken a path in their life that might not have been easy for her or her family and accomplished something. I’ve enjoyed it so much. The cast and the crew, I have to tell you, you’re gonna love writing about this show, because they are wonderful. They’re so nice, and Austin is fabulous, I love it.
Lynn: Me too, it’s wonderful.
Alex: It’s like a big town. The neighborhoods have been here for a long time. There are so many places that are wooded, and nature is respected there. The people are very friendly too. When you’re spending a lot of time in a place, it’s much easier and such a delight when they – my new Walker family – are nice. I’ve been in this business for a very long time, and that’s not always the case.
Lynn: I’m looking forward to learning more about the relationship between Adriana and Micki. At first I read the description of Adriana and thought ‘oh she’s like me!’ – I’m a “psychologist and published author” too – but then I read “manipulative and invasive in her daughter’s life” and decided NO since I also have a daughter in real life and I try not to be either of those things! Have you been able to find things to relate to in the character as a mother yourself?
Alex: (laughing) I was reading your question and started laughing when you’re like oh, like me… wait, manipulative and invasive?!
Lynn: Then I was like, nope!
Alex: Well, Adriana is, but when you say manipulative, when it comes to someone that’s very close to you like a son or daughter, a husband or wife even, it’s hard to see it, I think. I think Adriana has a difficult time seeing that she’s being manipulative. And anything she does for Micki is out of complete and utter love. Adriana desperately loves Micki, and you’ll find out why in the coming episodes. Of course because she’s her daughter, but it’s more complicated than that. She has had to protect Micki from things that happened earlier in their lives. She loves her daughter and she’s devoted her life’s path to being a better person for Micki. That’s how I see it, that she needed things to be in order because their early life was so out of order.
Lynn: That makes sense. One of the things I really like about the show, as a psychologist, is that they do a great job of going deep into all the characters, and not just the leads. I feel like my episode reviews are always a deep dive into what’s going on with the characters internally and psychologically, and it sounds like there will be a lot to dig into with Adriana and Micki too.
Alex: There is. I can totally relate too, because I have been called a helicopter mommy with my nine-year old daughter, Stella. It’s almost like I can’t help it! (laughing) I’m trying to be healthier, but even with all this remote learning, her third grade teacher, who we love desperately, has told me ‘okay mommy, you need to step out of the work space or you’re gonna go to the principal’s office!’ But it’s personal, because I tried for a long time to have a baby – I might start crying.
Lynn: I’m a psychologist, I’m used to that.
Alex: I guess you are. I went through in vitro three times and was pregnant twice but the pregnancies were not full term, so we went to adoption. Our first mommy who chose us was a lovely person, but moms can change their minds, and our first person changed her mind, which is fine.
Lynn: It is fine, but that’s also really hard, that’s a whole other kind of loss for you.
Alex: So our next baby, I told my then husband, I don’t care where the baby’s from, what country, what color, whether they have one leg, any of that. The next baby that’s available is ours. Enter my angel, Stella. They called us on Tuesday and said this child is a foster child who is two months old. If you want her, the baby mama has picked you – because you have to make a brochure about yourself, like hi we’re a nice family, here’s our house, we like to hike – and she picked us. I said yes, we were there on Thursday and came home Friday. I didn’t know anything about Stella and I didn’t care. And at this point in my professional career, I told my agents, I have to retire now for a few years. They dropped me, okay, that’s fine. A few years later, I got another agency and they’re my heroes, I love them. I retired from everything. I just wanted to be with my Stella.
Lynn: No wonder you relate to this role so much, that’s such a powerful story.
Alex: And listen to this. We got Stella from Gladney Institute, which is in Houston. Her birth mother is Mexican and her birth father is Irish.
Lynn: Is that your exact combination?
Alex: My combination is Mexican and Ukranian. But listen to this – Lindsey Morgan’s combination is Mexican and Irish and she comes from the same area that Gladney is in!
Lynn: OMG how weird is that – like it was meant to be!
Alex: I’m getting chills right now just talking about it.
Lynn: Me too, I literally have goosebumps on my arms.
Alex: And when I told Lindsey, she was like, I’m freaking out right now – I could really be your daughter! That same combination. Isn’t that bizarre?
Lynn: it is. So you can relate to Adriana’s feelings about her daughter.
Alex: When Stella came into my life, I was like, nobody come near, nobody touch the baby! I was a little bit nuts in the head (laughing)
Lynn: That’s understandable though. And I think all new moms are a bit protective and overwhelmed, and you waited a long time, so that was really special.
Alex: So in that way, I grabbed onto this character, Adriana. I get where she’s coming from, I get that she needs to have everything in order, she needs to have control of everything in her life and everything in Micki’s life. Because she’s made it with Micki this far and they’re safe, so this is the way it’s gotta be. It comes off as, what a crazy bitch – but you know what? It comes from love and protection.
[“Supernatural” fans will probably relate to this in terms of Sam and Dean’s dad, John Winchester, as well. His life took a turn into realms that were totally out of his control, and he responded to the danger all around them with a level of protectiveness and over control that his sons did not always appreciate, or benefit from.]
Lynn: I love that you have found, being a mom yourself, this similarity to latch onto and relate to. I’m not an actor, but it seems important to all the actors I’ve talked to, that in order to make the portrayal genuine, you have to come to an understanding of your character.
Alex: It was spooky. I told this to Anna Fricke, the creator behind “Walker,” who is making sure that these characters are very well developed and have a lot of layers. Adriana has a lot of layers. Micki has a lot of layers. She’s the first female Latina Ranger. There’s a lot of history with the Rangers that Lindsey explained to me, that Rangers don’t really belong to a city or county, they’re sort of lone wolves and they can sorta do what they want. They’re good people, and they’re cops, but they’re also wild and crazy. There have been a lot of racial problems with Rangers in the past and here’s Micki becoming a Ranger. That in itself is so interesting, so Anna just gives these characters this kind of edge or twist that’s like, what? Okay let’s do that, that’s reality, that can happen. So we are having a blast doing it.
Lynn: That’s another thing I’m liking about “Walker.” Unlike the show it’s based on (in name only), it isn’t shying away from looking at the impact of race on all kinds of things – stereotypes, career expectations, family relationships, romantic relationships, immigration, etc. In my most recent book on the television show “Supernatural,” many of the actors wrote chapters about how playing their characters has impacted them. Actress Andrea Drepaul wrote about how being biracial impacted her acting career and her own identity development, for example. I’m wondering how your own identity journey related to your various roles, because like Andrea, you’ve played characters of diverse ethnic backgrounds on other shows. On this one you’re playing a Mexican-American woman, which is your own background. Does that add extra meaning to the part of Adriana?
Alex: It’s really satisfying. All this has impacted my career in so many ways too. Ten or twenty years ago, a part like this would not have existed. It would have been, a Mexican psychologist? Why?? No, let’s make her blonde. That’s what I mean when I say Anna Fricke is really helping to open things up in terms of diversity and for female characters, because we all have layers.
Lynn: We absolutely do.
Alex: Because of being in the business for so long, I started getting frustrated with that, and that’s what led me to start producing. I wanted to open up new avenues for the younger generation. I was getting older and I wanted to work, sure, but it’s all about the next generation, about the kids. What are they going to see and what will they be able to do? My daughter doesn’t see color the same way I saw color in a very segregated area of Chicago. She’s not being raised like that, her school is not like that, and I love that. So for me, I wanted to tell stories for the next generation from a different perspective. That’s why I did documentaries like ‘Damned to Heaven’ and ‘Australians Hit Hollywood’. ‘Australians Hit Hollywood’ is actually a story of Australians coming to America on student visas and just kinda staying. There’s this big secret of illegal Australian immigrants who stay, but no one goes looking for them because everyone is looking for the Mexicans and Nicaraguans.
Lynn: That’s why documentaries are so important, because I didn’t even know that. So, the treatment is very different and we can all guess why.
Alex: Exactly. They are white and speak English, sorta, so it’s like, I guess you can stay, it’s fine. But every immigrant who comes here comes a long way – Australians come a long long way to be here. And El Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, come a long way also because they come on foot or by truck, and they come here to work. And Australians come here to work. I had an Australian assistant for twelve years and she was the best. She worked her butt off like every immigrant does and never complained. My dad came here from Mexico, from Mexico City. I never met a harder working man, and my father never complained. Driving to work in the snow, working ten hours a day, he felt so blessed and thanked God so much for the work he had and the opportunity he had. So that’s why I made that film – it’s an immigrant story, and that was important to me. ‘Damned to Heaven’, I came on later with that film, is a disturbing film but a very good film. I was on the board of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and it was important to me to protect children and animals that can’t protect themselves.
Lynn: We have a lot of odd things in common, I’m also on the board of similar organizations, and my grandmother came here from Central America. What strikes me about the documentaries you’ve made are that the stories that we tell are so important. Similarly, “Walker” is a fictional story not a documentary, but both are changing the way that people think about things, including things like immigration. It’s a fictional show and it’s easy to dismiss it as pretty horses and Jared Padalecki taking his shirt off, but…
Lynn: But it’s got some important things to say. That said, my entire timeline the day after the last episode aired was pretty much just Jared taking his shirt off.
Alex: As it should be! Jared taking his shirt off, I will watch that all day! I don’t know if you have any questions about Jared, but I just want to say that he is such a gentleman, first of all. He is so professional, which I love. Professional meaning hey, let’s get the shot, you come to set, you know your lines, if you don’t there’s gonna be problems. Because he’s a responsible producer, he wants to put out a quality product, and if you’re gonna be involved you gotta be on board. But he is also such a sweetie pie and it’s so important to have that on set. Because he’s the boss, he sets the tone for the entire show. I’ve been on shows where the lead is not a great personality, is a real pickle. And can I tell you something? The show dies. Because people regret coming to work. Everyone is like, oh no, I have to listen to him again, or her again? The shows that have great writing like “Walker” does, the shows that have great stars that are terrific people like “Walker” does.
Lynn: They last.
Alex: Another example is “Everybody Loves Raymond,” I was recurring on that show for four years. Ray Romano is the sweetest guy. He lives down the street from me. I was on the Board of Trustees and planning a big gala and trying to get a big star to raise money for the children. So, I asked one person who was a friend and I was calling and calling like please be our emcee, if I get you then we can get other stars and we can raise money for these kids. They never called me back, for weeks and weeks. So, I called Ray, and I was so scared, this is when the show was at the tippy top.
Lynn: And he was a big star.
Alex: Huge. So I was like hey Ray it’s Alex, I play Stefania, and I’m on the board of trustees… He calls me right back and says, how long do I have to do it? And I said, you’d be the emcee, you kinda have to be there all night. He’s like umm, I’ll call you back and I thought oh great, now I won’t hear from him for a month. But he calls back in five minutes and asks, for the kids, right? Okay, I’ll do it. Because we got him, we got Jewel to sing and Billy Crystal to do the auction, and America Ferrera, and we raised $3 million that night. And that was because of Ray. He’s a wonderful person and he brings that to set, and Jared is the same way. He’s a great guy and he brings that to set. Everyone is like, I want to talk to Jared! He’s so funny, he cracks me up so much, but when it’s time to do the work, we do the work. Because we’re all here to put out a quality product, so yeah, let’s go. It’s so very enjoyable.
Lynn: I was lucky enough to be on the “Supernatural” set several times and it always seemed like the lead actors set the tone on that set too. I never saw people argue, they worked so smoothly, joking around until three seconds before and then snapping into their roles. Does that tone on “Walker” translate down through the entire cast and crew like that?
Alex: Absolutely. Jared sets the tone for the set, and you can’t wait to come to work. There’s so much involved with my character and Lindsey’s character too. I’m an older woman, and there aren’t a lot of parts for older women, and there are NO parts for older Latina women. And now I have this fantastic part that I get to share with Lindsey and I’m proud to show my daughter this show. She loves it already because she’s a horsewoman. But Jared does set the tone and it’s so much fun to be on set with him and with Lindsey.
Lynn: Favorite moments on the “Walker” set?
Alex: One of my favorite moments, I think it was my first day. I‘m always professional, I always know my lines backwards, forwards and sideways, I always work with my coach even at this point in my career. I’m on set and Lindsey and I were already acquainted and I already madly love her, and she comes up to me and goes BOO from behind me. And I didn’t jump, I was just like oh, I don’t scare easily. I had not met Jared yet, and he pops up and goes “Challenge accepted!”
Lynn: Uh oh, did he make good on that yet?
Alex: (laughing) Not yet! But the entire cast and crew just laughed their butts off. Challenge accepted, and I was like OMG.
Lynn: (laughing) I feel like you may be in trouble sooner or later, he seems to be pretty good at planning these things out…
Alex: Uh oh. Note taken.
Lynn: How many episodes will you be doing?
Alex: I’ve already done two and I’m going to be doing two more at least this season.
Lynn: That’s exciting – but it also means Jared has more opportunity to make good on the challenge, I hate to tell you.
Alex: (laughing) Oh no, now I’m scared.
Lynn: (laughing too)
Deadline announced that Alex has been upped to a recurring role on Walker last week.
Before we ended, we touched on another anecdote that also involved Jared.
Alex: I know one of your questions was about my hometown of Chicago. One time Jared and I were talking and he asked me if I lived in LA and I said yes but I was born and raised in Chicago and still have a house there and am probably going to move back. And he goes, oh Chicago is one of my favorite towns. I wasn’t sure if he was saying this to be polite or whatever, but he said oh yeah, I love Gene and Georgetti’s and I love walking down Rush Street and going to Gibson’s and I’m like, what?! He knew everything about Chicago! He was like yeah, the Heritage Museum is probably my favorite museum but now I love the new Jazz section at the Modern Art Museum. I told him next time you come to Chicago, I’m taking you around, I know Chicago like the back of my hand.
Lynn: Chicago is a great town – and if you’re ever out this way, I’ll show you around Philly! Anything you want to add?
Alex: I’ll probably think of something, but I’ll just write it down for next time.
Lynn: Looking forward to that – and to meeting Adriana on “Walker” when it returns on March 11!
You can follow Alex on Instagram.