Philemon Chambers plays Deputy Sheriff Augustus in Walker Independence. This interview was completed after “How We Got Here” and before the finale, “Let Him Hang.”
Last night's episode was basically your episode. It was beautifully well written, beautifully acted … I was in tears. I was on the edge of my seat. I was screaming at my TV.
Yeah. It finally came out. 12. That episode in particular … I was just really apprehensive at first when the script came out, for 12. I was reading it and I was like, okay, Gus, Gus, okay, Gus … Oh, okay, Gus. Okay. What in the hell is this?
I immediately called and I was like, “Hey, y'all want me to narrate the whole thing?” They were like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Are you sure you want to hear my voice for 42 minutes?” They were like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Are you sure?”
It was amazing. And it was the choice of words. There are so many good quotes from that episode. They are amazing. What I love about it is that Jared's tweeted that last night's episode was one of the most beautifully well-written episodes. Not just of Walker Independence, but on TV. That's a tip of the hat.
Love Jared. I love Jared. Oh boy. Don't do that to me, Jared.
Same sentiment. Same. This was the first one that I was able to actually sit down and watch and be like, okay, you know what? I'm going to take this in. I'm not going to shield myself from the TV. I'm just going to take this in. And it was honestly really nice. And I feel like this, it was a good sendoff.
Hopefully, we don't see the end of Gus … I'm not going to ask for any spoilers cause I don't want to know any. But going back to the very beginning … tell us about being cast as Augustus and being cast on a show that's an offshoot of an already existing show.
Well, the casting process for Augustus, my manager was telling me about this project. And at the time, I just wanted something different. All the roles that were offers for me were queer based -- and nothing's wrong with that. But I was like, I just want to show people that I can do more. it's so easy for actors to get put in a box and for people not to see them outside of that box. And I was like, ok, I just did Single All the Way. Never expected to do romcom. Cause I never thought that I was funny. I was like, okay, what else can we do? And Walker Independence came along and read the briefing of the character, then read the script. And when I read the script, that's when I got interested -- from the briefing of the character I wasn't interested.
I auditioned for it and shortly after that, got a call back, then got another call back. I went through, I think, ooh, maybe four or five calls before actually booking it.
Funny story, and I've never told this. We had a producer session and they were like, you need to have somebody in the room with you to read and everything like that. So I asked my mom and oh, her nerves were all over the place. And after we got done, she was like, I can't believe you do that. You do that every time. She said she needed to sit down, and needed water. And I was like, oh, it's ok.
But then we had to retape that next one and they called my manager because I was wearing the wrong shirt and I was going to the big dogs.
I was going to Studio Network to get approved. But that's when I got to meet Laura Terry and Seamus Fahey. And I got to meet our casting director Barbara. I got to meet our director, Larry. And everybody was just so nice and very understanding of what they wanted to do and wanted to do it. That was the biggest thing that got me.
Larry's conviction -- because Larry was telling me, and he eventually told all of us why he wanted to do this. And he was just like, I'm doing this because I didn't see people like myself in Westerns back in the day. And it rang true to me because as a African American we didn't have that forefront representation in Westerns until later on in the period. And I just wanted to see the evolution of that. So that in a nutshell is what happens.
From start to finish, it's beautifully shot and it tells a story so that you're really, really engaged with the characters. And it's not just the couple of the main characters, it's all of the other characters as well. It's definitely one of my favorite shows so far.
Definitely. We'll see. The beautiful part about it is we're ensemble cast through and through. There is no more important person it's told through the eyes of Abigail Walker. But it's a show for everybody. You know will have your favorite characters. You will have your favorite characters for the episode, you'll have your favorite characters for the season. You'll have your not-so-favorite characters, but it's a show for everybody. And that's the beautiful part. And I think that is another reason why our show sets us apart, is because it's for everybody. Everybody can identify with it.
So what has been your favorite part about working on Walker Independence?
The family aspect of it. Ooh, I sound like the Davidsons -- for family. No, but the family aspect of it. Seriously, since day one, once we all got together, it was a family. We were there for each other. We supported each other. If somebody had a discrepancy with something in the script or how they wanted to go about working on this scene in particular, we all banded together and we all came in strong. So that for me has been the biggest blessing from casting -- from the cast to the crew executive producers, all the way to our fans. That is another thing. And I love, anytime I can interact with our fans, our family, it does my heart really good. It does.
You have been one of the most interactive people on Twitter and that has been the most fun because it feels like you get to know more about the actor and not just the character. Right. So the question has to be asked, what was it like working with Jared?
I love Jared. My first time meeting Jared was at Upfronts 2022. And I had a preconceived notion of who I thought Jared was going to be because I'm like, okay, you've worked for X amount of years. They always say don't meet your heroes. And Jared was completely the opposite. He was welcoming, engaging, very, inviting. Him and Gen were just so nice. And I was like, you can't be fucking real. Excuse my language, I'm so sorry.
I was like, you can't be like, this is not how you are. And that's genuinely how Jared is. Me and Jared are friends now, and me and Gen talk often and just them as a couple. They're just so sweet and so nice and yeah, I didn't get to work one-on-one with Jared. It's okay. Eventually, eventually season two, fingers crossed, maybe Jared call my manager. Well, you are executive producer, so you just tell me what to do.
How much of input did you have with your character, whether it be your mannerisms, the way that you spoke, or any of the script changes or even the clothes that you wore? Was there anything that you had a direct input with?
Everything. I wanted to make sure that everything I did was authentic to the time. We're not doing a history lesson, but it's very important for our minority characters to make sure we are doing the best that we can to depict what that time was like for us. And down from Augustus's clothing to the way he talked to the way that he walked. Everything literally. I had input in anytime something came in with the script that I didn't like or that I didn't agree with, or that I just wanted even more clarity with. I picked up the phone, I would call Seamus. He was very attentive and literally welcomed anything if it caught our eye, if we were again uncomfortable with it, we didn't agree with it. He was like, talk to me. Seamus was absolutely fantastic in that our wardrobe department was fantastic in that and cultivating. Cause we are, we're season one, we're cultivating these characters. But for me with Augustus was, I took pride in just making sure I did him justice.
What was your favorite and what was your most difficult scene to do?
12. 12. When we were shooting, me getting the letter from town saying that my wife had passed. That was the most difficult scene I had to shoot. It was very emotional for me, of course. But just the mental prep of leading up to this moment because it was just only speculation that Augustus had a wife. It was only speculation that he had family. And then getting that script and finding out, oh, he does have a family. He does have a wife. Oh, his wife died. So it was trying to go back to the beginning for Augustus the importance of his family. And he says it when he's on his stomach. He says, if I go back now, I put my family at risk and he's not going to do that. So his family holds the most importance to him. And then to find out that his wife passes away, that was the most challenging.
We only shot that basically in one take. I couldn't do it not in the sense of the actor, but for character's sake. I didn't rehearse it. I could not rehearse it. I did not open the letter. I couldn't do any of that. And the director for that episode was Sheelin and Sheelin was very, very supportive to me in that moment. Actually everybody on the set was, cause I had to come in and I just had to be very focused on what was going on with Augustus and to get to that space and to get to that emotion. But yeah, we basically got that in one take.
Favorite. There's so many, but I will say in episode eight where I get to have my fight scene, that was my favorite. That was my favorite because I be like, and I learned that choreography in 10 minutes. That was fun too.
Before you started the show, did you have any horse experience or did you learn it all on set?
I watched Spirit and I rode, rode a horse when I was nine. So no, I did not.
Did you enjoy the process?
I did. It's something about being on a horse and being on an animal that has a mind of their own way more than you can buck you off if you're not doing anything right. We had a cowboy camp when we shot the pilot for two weeks straight. Just so that we can get comfortable with our horses. My horse’s name was Rain Man, shout out Rain Man. I love him. It was great.
Certain moments in episode five especially, that was a very challenging episode because we had to be on horses all day. And I, you've rode a horse right after the second, maybe third hour of riding a horse, something happens to your lower limbs. I was on my horse that day fo 14 hours. I have permanent damage.
Walker Independence and Walker are westerns done right, in my opinion. Family is a big part, if not the biggest part about both shows. Thoughts?
Family is the most important thing with our show. When we were initially doing press and when we were initially doing interviews, we were saying that it was a remix on the Western, but in all actuality, it's not a remix. This is how the West was. This is an accurate depiction of what it was. And for us to be the first to tell that narrative is mind blowing.
For our show, you book the role and you go through the stuff for your character and you make sure you're good for your character. But as time progresses, you know yourself get more and more and more invested. And then you really understand the gravity, you really understand the weight of what you are doing and what you are doing for, again, not only minority communities, but just people in general.
But it always comes back to family and sometimes it comes back to chosen family. Like Augusta said, oh Lord, I'm going to butcher this. For those of us with no kin, we'll take water, whiskey, even tea. And it's true because your chosen family, those are the people that have your back. They don't have anybody themselves. And you band together. And that's what Independence is.
I am donating $5 from each of these keychains to To Write Love on Her Arms, in honor of Philemon. Link here: https://asyouwishcustomdesigns.com/shop/ols/products/walker-independence-keychain
"Mental health is very important ... I didn't think that I would be here at 29. I just celebrated 29 two weeks ago -- when I was 16. It was the most depressed I had ever been. I didn't think I would make it, but I'm here and it means a lot."