The Walking Dead is one of the most talked about and passionately followed shows on television – and Norman Reedus is one of its most popular components. The actor made his performing debut 15 years ago in the film Mimic. He would then achieve large-scale recognition in the 1999 cult favorite movie The Boondock Saints. He went on to make appearances in such films as Gossip, Blade 2 and American Gangster. He has recently hit an even higher level of stardom with the program The Walking Dead. The pop culture phenomenon is based on an equally popular comic book of the same name. Norman’s character, the antihero Daryl Dixon, actually does not appear in the beloved book. "Parts of me like that my character isn’t in the comic. I have an open door for what this character can go through and do,” says Reedus.
A lot of the actors on the show know that their characters ultimately meet their demise in the comic. Since Norman’s character isn’t in the book, his fate isn’t as clear or predestined. "I’m free from all the worries of a known death. I’m just lucky the shows runners are keeping me around,” Reedus states with gratitude. His work on the show has raised his appreciation of not only the art of comic books, but also the culture that surrounds it. "I wasn’t into comics before I got on The Walking Dead. I’ve grown to love the comic book world. The fans are so passionate. The show has opened my eyes to the art form. I’m really into the comic book world now.” The Walking Dead has also helped make him a hero with his son. "There’s a video game coming out that features Daryl Dixon and my 11 year old son is jumping up and down that he gets to play my character in the game. It’s pretty awesome!” We talked to the multi talented artist about his early days as an actor, fans, preconceived notions, and the amount of effort that goes into making The Walking Dead one of the best shows on television.
On appearing in his first movie at the relatively advanced age of 28
It was the right time for me. If I was any younger when I got into acting I’m sure I would have killed myself. I would have been a complete idiot. I never could have been a 12 year old actor. I would have been a fucking lunatic. I was already a lunatic at 12, but if you had given me a little popularity and power I would have lost my mind. 28 years old was the right time for me.
Learning to act
My second movie was Floating. Floating was my first time playing the main character. I was in every scene. I learned what acting really was while doing that film. I played a kid who was stuck at home with his father who had recently been in a car accident. Coincidently my father in real life was in the process of dying while I was making Floating. I had this scene where I had to talk to my character’s wheelchair bound father in the film. It was a real important scene. Before we shot it the director approached me and asked me how I wanted to prepare for it. I asked him ‘what are my options,’ because I had never really done anything like that before. I asked the director to give me five minutes and I called my actual father. I had a conversation with my real dad who was dying. I came back to set and cried so much during the first few takes they couldn’t use them because so much snot was coming out of my nose.
Playing the tough guy
When I first started acting I was pretty insecure. I would just glare at everyone. I would play the tough roles like everyone hated me. Somehow I got all these roles where I would be glaring at everybody. I try to play the tough guys now as more than just the cliché… it gets boring if you don’t. When Daryl was introduced on The Walking Dead I tried to tear up in between trying to cut someone or throwing squirrels at people (laughs).
On fans thinking they already know him based on his acting roles
If I go into an Irish pub people throw Boondock Saints quotes at me like there’s no tomorrow. Because of The Walking Dead people from the South always come up to me and say ‘I relate to you.’ I live in New York and I can’t relate to anyone there, so it’s all good.
Playing Daryl on The Walking Dead
Daryl is my favorite character I have ever played. I never really thought I would do television to be honest. I was just doing movies to start my career. When I first started acting if people would say ‘I got a role on a TV show,’ people would respond with ‘that’s cool, keep trying.’ TV has gotten so good in the past ten years that the perception of it has changed. I love the cast and crew I work with. I’m really close with everyone who works on the show. We have really bonded on The Walking Dead. I’ve never really had a bond like this with anyone I worked with on a movie.
The quality of The Walking Dead
Each episode feels like a film to everyone who works on it. A lot of the crew and the actors come from a film background. It’s a very large-scale show. We take our time to make sure we get it right. We really focus on the character development. It feels like a film to me. I’m very blessed.
Fearing death on The Walking Dead
Everyone on the show fears his or her character’s death. Every single script I get I fly through and thank my lucky stars that I am alive at the end of it. There are no guarantees on this show for any of us. It has its blessings and its curses. His other artistic endeavors My plan in life was to move out into the woods and make a lot of art and barely get by. I have always done photography. I have always painted. I have always made sculptures. I do it when the time is right. I try to take grotesque images in my art and make them pretty. I have tried to do the same thing with Daryl on the show. I didn’t want to play Daryl as an asshole. I wanted to give him some hope. I wanted to find moments where he could connect with people. My art and acting are all part of the same soup. They all blend in with each other. All those artistic endeavors are part of me.
New York Exhibit
I just did an art exhibit in Times Square. I pass so much road kill on my way to work everyday. I started to stop and take glamour shots of the road kill. I did this for a couple of weeks. I sent the exhibit like 20 huge photos of road kill. We sold everyone of those pictures. The first email I received when they saw the pictures was ‘what the fuck are you doing? Shoppers in New York don’t want to see pictures of cats with their eyes popped out!’
Gratitude for the Fans of The Walking Dead
I really want to thank all the fans of The Walking Dead. Everyone on the show really appreciates the job they have and is in awe that the show has become so popular. I’m really grateful for the program and the life it’s allowing me to live. It’s a really happy time in my life, I am really grateful.