Thesp, web saddle up for new 'Texas' project

CBS is hopping back in the saddle with Chuck Norris, greenlighting production on a new “Walker, Texas Ranger” telepic.

Project, which begins lensing July 20 in Dallas, has Norris reprising his title role for the first time since the actioner wrapped its eight-year run on CBS back in 2001. Brother Aaron Norris will helm the two-hour pic, dubbed “Walker, Texas Ranger: Ring of Fire”; he’ll work from a script by original “Walker” scribes John Lansing and Bruce Cervi.

Series regulars Sheree Wilson and Judson Mills have inked to reprise their roles as Alex and Gage, respectively. Al Ruddy, Leslie Grief and the Norris brothers will exec produce via Paramount Network Television.

Aaron Norris said he doesn’t consider the new pic a reunion but rather a potential fresh start for the “Walker” franchise.

“Reunions are more about one-offs,” he said. “I would like to do more of these.”

To that end, action in “Ring of Fire” will pretty much pick up “as if we’ve been doing the show the whole time,” with Walker simply doing what he’s always done: collar criminals and kick bad-guy butt (and not necessarily in the that order).

Plot of “Ring of Fire” has Walker investigating whether one of his Ranger buddies is a serial killer — or just being framed. He’ll also try to track down a teen on the run from a crime syndicate.

Still, some changes are in the works.

“Our last (episode) was before 9/11, and the Texas Rangers, in reality — and on our show — are using more technology” to fight crime, Norris said. He adds “Walker” will feel a bit more urban than in the past, with more action taking place in Dallas.

Lensing in Texas rather than in California or Vancouver was important to both Norris brothers, Aaron Norris said.

“My brother and I are trying to show that you can shoot in Dallas and shoot big,” he said. Indeed, the Norris brothers are in the process of opening a production facility in the city.

Eye has only greenlit one “Walker” telepic, but in success, it’s possible net could make more, as it did a few years ago with “Murder, She Wrote.” While crix never much warmed to the series, “Walker” always had strong heartland ratings appeal and was one of the last scripted series on any network to make an impact on Saturday nights.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more