Get to Know Norman Reedus
'The Walking Dead' star talks Daryl, Merle and Season 3
If you're a fan of "The Walking Dead," you're more than likely a fan of Daryl, the crossbow wielding stoic who kills zombies, sees through manipulation and speaks his mind.
But who would Daryl be without Norman Reedus ("The Boondock Saints"), the actor/model/director who brings this unconventional hero to life? After all, Daryl wasn't in the graphic novel. He's a character created just for the hit AMC show so it's up to Reedus, 43, and the writers to flesh him out and make him real. And boy do they ever.
In time for Season 3, which begins Sunday, the Hollywood, Fla., native and father sat down and talked to MSN TV about the new season, what viewers can expect when Daryl and Merle (Michael Rooker) reunite and his theory on why fans love Daryl so much.
"The Walking Dead" returns Sunday, Oct. 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
MSN TV: How will Daryl be affected by Merle's return?
Norman Reedus: You see someone like Daryl and he grows up with a brother like Merle, who is racist and takes drugs and he doesn't want to be his big brother. Merle's kind of like your drunk uncle at a Christmas party. It's like "Shut up man. Just shut up." A lot of this storyline, a lot of the big moments between Merle and Daryl, involve Daryl telling Merle he doesn't want to be him. There is conflict between Merle and other people in our group and Daryl is in the middle of it. Certain things happen where Daryl sees through Merle's (lies) and Daryl ends up passing Merle at some point.
How do you feel about Daryl being a fan favorite?
I think a lot of it happened with the "Cherokee Rose" episode. I really saw a shift at that episode.
Not the first episode in Season 2 when Daryl saves T-Dog (IronE Singleton)?
Possibly. But I really saw it in "Cherokee Rose." And the reason is he won't hesitate to kill you but he'll also risk his own life looking for your little girl. There were certain moments where I'd go off looking for Sophia (Madison Lintz) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) would say, "Don't leave yet. Let's stay and make a plan and do it right." And Daryl was like, "No, man. I'm better off on my own." So he's still this guy. I always explain Daryl as an animal in an alley, in the rain. You see him and you go to touch him and he bites you. But if you feed him and take him in, for a day or two, he'll follow you forever. Merle's not like that. Daryl doesn't hate T-Dog. Daryl doesn't hate anyone in the group. He'll fight to keep everyone alive. He's exactly what you see. There's nothing sneaky about Daryl. With that "Cherokee Rose" episode, my fan mail (points to the ceiling) went like that and I think it's because he has heart.
But he's not Merle and he's not Rick either.
I hate the term "Ricktatorship." I was there when the term was created and it was termed by a Tweet and people ran with it. It's lame and it's like Daryl's the No. 2 and I don't like that either. Daryl is still Daryl. He's not another Shane (Jon Bernthal). Daryl is still exactly who he was before. Certain terms are good for print but Rick's not in a tower. That was a moment that came out of a situation where he killed his friend and all that pressure is on him. That's what makes Rick such a good character as well. He just keeps messing up. Rick's trying his best but if he did everything right it would be boring. But Daryl's not Rick and Daryl doesn't want to lead this group. He's loyal and he fights for everybody but he's finding out who he is because these people are relying on him. So there's a certain feeling of worth that Daryl has now because people need him.
It's not just the group. Wouldn't you say fans need Daryl too? For instance, in the Season 2 finale, when Rick lays down the law, Daryl is shown giving an approving glance.
Right. There are lines after that, where Carol (Melissa McBride) tries to talk Daryl into not going with him and he's like, "No, that guy's got honor. He's stepping up. It's good." He's like that with everybody. I've done a bunch of movies but this is my first TV thing. With movies you go from here to here. With television, you do this thing and you drop these little seeds out of your back pocket. And if people are paying attention, they turn into storylines. And the ones that I've done, are turning into storylines. There's a freedom, with this show in particular, I don't know what it is, but there are no weak links in our chain on this show. You feel safe with everyone and it gives you the freedom to do stuff like that.
Can you give an example?
Like in the third episode of the first season when my character is introduced. I never had a conversation with Frank Darabont about my character ever so I just showed up and had these lines. But I tried to tear up between throwing squirrels at people and trying to stab people because he's still a little brother and he's still lost the only relative he has. So I still tried to play it as I'm fighting because I'm scared not because I'm going to kill you. So that's turned into a storyline. When Carol leans in to kiss me on the forehead, after I get shot (in Season 2), I flinched. That's not in the script. It just says she kisses his forehead. But I flinched and now there's a story about how Daryl was an abused child. You know what I mean? And it's a big deal on our show. If everyone is paying attention to what we're doing, with all the characters, there's all these little moments that mean so much. Like I get asked all the time if Daryl and Carol are going to hook up. But there are more interesting things like when a man meets a woman for the first time, there are all these little insecure steps people go through than him throwing her up against the tree in the moonlight. That's not my character. We already had that character. So I'd rather play these little insecure subtleties than do something right off the bat. And I think because I have so many of them and I'm getting away with it, people are paying attention. That's why I think Daryl is so popular.
What can you tell us about Season 3?
There's more tension inside than there is outside. Being inside a prison looks safe but there's only a small section of this prison that we're in. And the rest of it's just as scary as out there because it's full of zombies and they're people trying to take this prison and we're fighting for this prison. There's so much tension inside these walls that it's almost worst than being outside. … It's going to blow your minds. It's great. For people who are fans of the show, we're not dumbing anything down for anyone. It's smart television and anyone could go at anytime. It's fascinating to watch.
"The Walking Dead" Season 3 kicks off Sunday, Oct. 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.