Actress Gen Padalecki
That Was Gen, This Is Now
Actress gen Padalecki picks up the phone to chat with me, and I can tell she’s smiling. “Mommy,” I Gen Padalecki on the Power of cepts in development at the moment. Two are being scripted as we speak. hear in the background, a common reflection of post-COVID life: lots of us are combining work and home. But for an actress like Gen, whom Story and Sustainability “The stories that excite me run the gamut,” Gen tells me, when I ask her what tales she wants to tell. “Even if it’s an epic book or film, you know from “Wildfire,” “Supernatural” and now what I most enjoy is the human element. What “Walker” on The CW (where she stars with her husband, Jared drives us, what we love. We crave human connection, and Padalecki), work itself is a sprawling, creative endeavor. You through story we get to explore it.” could say she’s married to it. Stories are a driving force of Gen’s life: over COVID, she
“I fell in love with my husband working alongside him,” says started a book club (currently reading “On Animals,” by Susan Gen. “We’re both really type A personalities, so our biggest chal- Orlean). She rhapsodizes about “Pony,” a YA book by R.J. Palalenge is turning our ideas off.” cio where a young boy is startled in the night to the sounds of
On “Walker,” Gen plays the late wife of the show’s title charac- his father being kidnapped. When he sets off to find him, he’s ter (and if you’re wondering if it’s a reboot of the ‘90s Western, helped by Mittenwool ... who, btw, is a ghost. you’re right), who’s played by none other than her IRL partner. “I honestly cannot stop talking about this book,” Gen gushBut the ideas Gen’s talking about aren’t just between their fic- es, excitement in her voice. “And it’s slightly supernatural and tional characters; Jared and Gen actually have three show con- YA, but it’s that human thing, you know? You’re right there
Violet Brinson as Stella Walker, Kale Culley as August Walker, Jared Padalecki as Cordell Walker and Genevieve Padalecki as Emily Walker with the boy, who just wants to find his dad. And he does this incredibly brave, scary thing, going into the woods to find out what happened, and confronting all these secrets from the past. It’s unbelievable.”
We nerd out about books and our mutual fondness for Susan Orlean, the author who turned orchid thievery into a thriller, and the author whose collection of animal-focused essays is lighting Gen on fire. You can tell that this is a person who loves being immersed in worlds beyond this one, which makes sense (Gen got her bachelor’s degree in English). But that isn’t to say she’s disconnected from this world, right here. Quite the opposite.
“I was born in California, but when I was growing up my family moved to Montana, then Idaho,” says Gen. “And in high school, we were all taught survival skills, like how to build a snow cave. I was taught to pack out, to treat the natural world with respect. And I wanted to integrate this way of being into my daily life.”
She’s talking about Townn, a community she launched earlier this year to help folks (in her words) “to rethink the way we live and grow together.” It arose out of a shocking realization, one she witnessed with her own eyes.
“I love being outside and have always found comfort in nature,” Gen wrote on her popular blog, “Now and Gen,” upon Townn’s launch. “But, perhaps naively, I always assumed nature would be there for me — and my children.”
She goes on to describe a trip she took with her family in 2019, to Nimmo Bay Resort in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest. They were excited to see grizzly bears, salmon runs and orca whales, “a place ripe with wildlife,” as she puts it. But what they saw was something quite different — and diminished. A salmon run had gone extinct, due to deforestation. Bears were sparse. Seeing 50 is the norm, but in 2019, only six or seven roamed the area. Gen was inspired to create a community, starting with a newsletter, that helped people embrace environmentalism in a new way — one that transcended politics.
“I was tired of all the doom and gloom, the ‘we’re all going to die’ message,” says Gen. And to be clear, her eyes are open (see: extinct salmon runs), but the conversation she wanted to start was one that was more hopeful, more inclusive. I laugh with her at the phrase underlining Townn’s newsletter sign-up: “no patchouli, granola or Birkenstocks required.”
“Yes! Communing with the natural world is pleasurable, and I want to help folks feel that. I want them to know that everyone is welcome,” says Gen. “How can we invest differently, how can we shop differently? We can’t give up everything, but we can do more things to nurture our planet. I just want to make environmentalism more accessible.”
I remark to Gen that this ethos, of living a sustainable life, also seems to extend to her family’s chosen home: Austin. We’re green around here, sure, but what I really mean is that they chose a place to live that isn’t our country’s showbiz capitol (Los Angeles). And that choice seemed to be a deliberate one, based on sustainable joy.
“We thrive here,” says Gen. “When Jared and I were dating, we’d come to Austin for family gatherings, for fun. It was a blossoming city, alive with ideas, and once we got pregnant we knew it was the home for us. I was almost looking for excuses not to come here, since my family is in the mountains of Idaho ... but I couldn’t come up with a single excuse. I couldn’t!” she laughs.
Turns out, we’re all glad she couldn’t. instagram.com/genpadalecki instagram.com/towwn