Exclusive Interview: THE WALKING DEAD’s Norman Reedus Talks About Emotional Mid-Season Finale, Upcoming Episodes and Why It’s Hard To Play A Zombie

It must be quite a interesting experience to be Norman Reedus these days.

Not only is he in The Walking Dead one of the most critically acclaimed shows of the year but he gets to play one of the most beloved character on the show. Why you ask? My fellow writer The TV Czar said it best in 5 Must See TV Stars:

He has managed to transform this racist hillybilly character into someone loved and rooted for by the audience. Also, he seems to be one of the few characters on the show that is capable of common sense thinking when faced with a zombie apocalypse. He should get at least a Golden Globe nomination for that alone.

To top it all off, Norman doesn’t just rest on his laurels as he uses his profile to help out very deserving causes through his web site and with his photography that you can buy on Charity Buzz (all proceeds go to charity).

Daemon’s TV was lucky enough to catch Norman during this interesting time and ask him a few burning questions about the last TWD episode, what we should expect when the show comes back next year and what show he would love to guest star on. Check out what he had to say below and don’t forget to watch the new episodes of The Walking Dead which return next year Sunday Feb 12 at 9/8c.

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Congratulations on a great second season of ‘The Walking Dead’ so far.

Norman Reedus: Yeah, thanks. I think after episode 8 it gets even better, to be honest.

Sophia walking out of the barn in the last episode, that was a shocker. Did you know about that all along?

Norman Reedus: We didn’t know that was going to happen. We kind of had an idea, but they give us our scripts just before we shoot. So, we didn’t really know for sure, but we had a good idea that it was going to happen.

You had a suspicion that she was nearby?

Norman Reedus: Yeah, and there was also talk that maybe Merle had her. There was talk that maybe she joined in with another group. There’s always talk about what’s going to happen on our set, but I think we kind of knew that was going to happen.

That scene was very well shot and so emotional

Norman Reedus: It was emotional. There’s a lot going on there. Hershel’s family was in the barn. They’re let loose. There’s that whole storyline of Hershel watching his family and neighbors being executed when he doesn’t believe that they’re not human anymore. He believes that they’re just sick. There’s the storyline with Carol and realizing that Sophia is now a walker. There’s also the storyline of Rick and Shane, Shane and Rick sort of fighting for power. There’s the storyline with Rick’s wife. There’s a lot going on there.

We shot that, we took a long time shooting that scene and there’s also so many squibs and so many bullets and so much makeup for the walkers. So, there’s a lot going on there. Madison [Lintz] and I got really close on this set. I’m very fond of that girl and we had another storyline going in the beginning of the season where I’m giving her dirty looks a lot. She’s giving me dirty looks a lot. It’s like two little kids who that before they become buddies they glare at each other like they hate each other. I always thought it was funny that it was a little girl doing it with a grown man and he’s acting like a little kid. We had that storyline going. There was a lot going on. Carol really had to bring the noise that day because it’s her daughter and it’s a long day of crying and screaming and running.

Do you know something about your character that maybe the rest of the cast doesn’t know?

Norman Reedus: Sometimes. In different situations, yeah. There’s a back story of why Daryl is looking for Sophia so hard. He was an abused kid and he was left alone and he’s sort of overcoming his own demons by looking for this little girl. He thinks that if he can find her he can put some of those demons to bed. I’m covered in scars underneath my shirt. That was the whole thing with Carol bringing me the soup in bed after I come back from falling down the ravine and so forth. She says, ‘You’re every bit as good as them.’ So, I know that backstory ahead of time.

While we’re doing scenes, like when I’m cutting open the walker with Rick looking to see if it’s eaten any people recently, we find the squirrel in the stomach; I know the storyline of the scars while we’re shooting that scene. I’m trying to plant little moments because I know she’s going to say, ‘You’re every bit as good as them.’ So, I’m trying to plant little moments where I do the grunt work for the group. Like he’s going to cut him open and I’m, like, ‘I’ll do it.’ I’m trying to make myself the pool boy or the gardener and doing the grunt work. I’m trying to find little moments where it’ll make that line, ‘You’re every bit as good as them,’ make sense. I’m trying to plant little seeds where I don’t believe that. Sometimes I do and sometimes I can help further those along.

I’m assuming that latest incident is going to impact the Daryl and Carol rapport that was developing. Is that right?

Norman Reedus: Yeah. We do have a sort of special bond, and it’s not so much romantic as I think it’s damaged people hanging out with damaged people. They sort of gravitate towards each other. I even find that more interesting. We were talking about how we should do a spin off called ‘Daryl & Carol’ where we live in Central Park and there would be a still in the woods in Central Park and she’d be knitting blankets on a bench and people would walk up and go, ‘Do you know where the Statue of Liberty is?’ ‘Fuck you! What are you looking at?’ We had a theme song that goes, [singing] ‘Carol is feral and Daryl feral, a match made in hell.’ You never know. As far as a romantic thing, I have no idea if that’s in the works. I think it’s almost more interesting that it doesn’t happen, to be honest.

What can you tease about the upcoming episodes?

Norman Reedus: I can say that in the second half, after this hiatus, people are done talking. It’s all kind of firecrackers from here on out. It gets more action packed. The first part of the season, it gets slow when people have to talk. That’s just how it works. I think the writers have done such a great job with setting up storylines and explaining them when they need to be explained, not over talking it and not over thinking it. There are certain things that need to be said to keep the story moving and I think they’ve done a good job with it. I know when people watch the show they go, ‘More zombies. More death.’ But you have to do a bit of talking. Otherwise it’s ‘Transformers.’

Are you done shooting the second season?

Norman Reedus: We just wrapped. I drove back to New York and then flew out to do the ‘Talking Dead’ and then flew back to New York. We’re pretty much just getting back into the normal routine.

Daryl is a fan favorite among the cast with all his depth and layers. How did you approach him differently in season two than you might’ve in season one?

Norman Reedus: Well, last season I didn’t really have any conversations about Daryl with anybody. Last season I showed up in the third episode and was like, ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck You! You did what? I’m going to kill you.’ So, I tried to act little moments to make him human. I tried to tear up at times while yelling fuck you at people and throwing squirrels at them. I tried to make it seem like I lost my big brother. He still has a big brother and he lost him. That wasn’t really on the page, that sort of sadness. It was just anger.

So, I tried to drop bits of sadness in between the anger, and there wasn’t even, like, ‘Does Daryl trust this group? Is he going with the group? Does he totally trust them, not trust them?’ That wasn’t even there. So, you had to pick moments where that happens. Going into season 2, I got a chance to meet in the writer’s room before we started season two. They asked questions, like, ‘What did you think about Lori? How did you feel about T-Dog?’ Like in a movie you know you’re going from here to here. In TV if you can just plant seeds as you’re going along and hope that somebody sees them and waters them and they grow into little clues it’s kind of a bonus. I’ve gotten the opportunity to do that and the writers have been very gracious on letting me have some input on things.

Maybe there were a few things where I was like, ‘No way. I don’t want Daryl headed in this direction,’ and we talked it out and found other options. For the most part, going into season two, for Daryl it’s been about how does he get along with people. I like the fact that we didn’t start off like we’d all known each other for a long time and had a back story and Carol knew Daryl in high school and the woods. I’m glad that we didn’t have that so that it makes these people seem like they’re strangers which I like.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t like playing Daryl standing still. When people sit and have a conversation about something, important or not so important, I have a running joke with the camera department because I never stand still. They give the actors their marks and they’re like, ‘You’re area is between here and here,’ because I hate standing still. I can’t stand it. Especially playing this character, he’s not one of those guys that stands still and observes. He wanders in the background sort of like an animal, like he’s on a leash. That’s how I’m playing him the whole time. So, going into season two that leash walk back and forth is slowly starting to get less aggravated, if that makes sense.

You probably get a lot of input on Twitter from fans. What’s that interaction been like?

Norman Reedus: They’ve given me a lot, are you kidding? I love those guys. The fandom is keeping me hanging out in there. It’s great. Everyone is really into Daryl. I think it’s for different reasons. He sort of fits in differently. You’ve got Shane who’s the protagonist, the angry guy that’s maybe the voice of reason on his end. You’ve got Rick who’s this guy who’s trying to figure it all out and do the right thing which I find way more interesting than ever, being sure footed in any direction. I find this really good guy trying to figure out and struggling with it, that’s such an awesome character.

Different characters have different paths and I think that Daryl’s is something sort of unique because he’s trying to get along for the first time and it could be in any situation. It could be in any job, any world and just having that interaction, a guy trying to fit in with people no matter where they are is very interesting. You put that in front of a backdrop that’s on the apocalypse with all these rich characters around, that makes it more and more interesting. So maybe that’s a part of it plus It’s hard not to look cool with a crossbow.

The fans have been great. Someone just sent me a link to a Hello, Kitty Daryl. I’ve got so many paintings and T-shirts and dolls and pieces of art about Daryl that it’s pretty overwhelming. I get a lot of fun fan stuff.

Speaking of art, you have an exhibit on display with photos that you’ve taken while shooting ‘The Walking Dead’ set?

Norman Reedus: ‘Wired’ magazine asked if they could do a show of photos that were taken in Georgia. I told them that I couldn’t really take photos of the show. I don’t think that I’m allowed to do that, but I can take photos of what my experience is like in Georgia. I have a motorcycle I keep out there, a Triumph Scrambler. So, on my days off and some days on the way to work I ride out into the countryside for hours without seeing anybody. It’s just amazing.

But I originally sent them all photos of road kill and I got an email going, ‘This is in Time Square with holiday shoppers. You can’t show them dead animals on the road.’ So, they had a conniption to begin with, but I also had to do the squirrel dissecting scene. The show sent me to a taxidermist in Georgia. So, I got to sit down with this very nice lady as she carved up all these dead animals around me. But her shop was full of the craziest taxidermy. I spent a good full day there, looking into the eyes of these, like, mountain lions that were put back together and these coyotes. They looked so sad. It was so crazy to look at. It lasted with me for a while. So, incorporated some Georgia shots, some taxidermy shots and some road kill shots.

And people can buy these photos with the proceeds going to charity

Norman Reedus: It does all go to charity. I also have a website called www.bigbaldhead.com and I have three short films on there that I directed and edited and shot. I also did those for charity. Being in Georgia, late nights on sets I got sort of addicted to eBay and I bought way too many vintage motorcycle helmets and took turns wearing those while riding around Georgia. So, I ended up on the last week of shooting having all the cast pick a charity and we all signed the helmets and sold those for charity as well. They all sold.

If you could guest star on any other TV show which one would it be?

Norman Reedus: It would either be ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm‘ or it would be ‘Eastbound and Down.’ There are so many I like, but one of those two and maybe if they bring back ‘Arrested Development‘ I wouldn’t mind being on that show.

I hear it’s coming back on Netflix.

Norman Reedus: It’s coming back? That’s it. I liked ‘The Killing,’ too.

Fifty percent of the actors we talk to say ‘Walking Dead,’ but,for some reason, nobody wants to be a zombie.

Norman Reedus: Because you’re in makeup all day long. I can understand that. I feel so bad for these zombies sometimes. Also, ‘Breaking Bad.’ I wouldn’t mind being on that show. It’s awesome.

Photos of “NORMAN REEDUS PHOTOGRAPHY EVENT” by Wired