The Walking Dead - Norman Reedus and Gale Anne Hurd Interview - NYCC 2012
Daryl Dixon has become a very popular aspect of The Walking Dead, as witnessed by all the cheers his first appearance onscreen garnered when footage was shown at the recent Walking Dead panel at New York Comic Con – which only got louder when Norman Reedus himself took to the stage.
I spoke to Reedus about his fan-favorite character and the changes he’s gone through, not to mention how his key relationships will evolve in Season 3 – including Daryl’s unlikely friendship with Carol and the much-anticipated return of brother Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker). We also discussed his starring role in Activision's upcoming Walking Dead first-person shooter.
IGN TV: It’s been an interesting journey for your character so far, in that he’s beginning to fit in, in a way he might not have necessarily ever thought he would. How would you describe his role in the group this season?
Norman Reedus: Well, I hate that term “Number Two…” There’s a difference between Daryl and Shane. Daryl in no way wants to lead this group. There are certain moments in Season 3 when he has to, and he’s good to jump on it, a quick initiative: “I’ll handle this, you handle this, I’ll take care of that.” He handles it very efficiently and forcefully, but he never wants to sit down in a room full of people and be like, “This is where we’re at. This is what we’ve got to do.” You know, he’s not really that guy. In Season 2, there were some moments when we were looking for Sophia where Daryl would head out and Rick would go, “No, stop! Let’s make a plan and handle this correctly.” Then Daryl would say, “No, man. I’m better off on my own.” So he’s still that guy. But these people relying on him for their safety and trusting him is a big deal to Daryl. For the first time in his life he feels like he’s a member of something, that he’s important to other people. It’s interesting, because a lot of people are getting harder -- and Daryl’s still hard, but he’s sort of opening up as a person, which is interesting. And he’s the only character really doing that.
IGN: Right. Rick’s kind of gone in the other direction. Do you think he respects Rick’s new stance?
Reedus: That term “Ricktatorship” -- I was there when it started, and it started with a tweet -- but it’s not really accurate, to be honest. He’s not up in a tower. “You do this against your will!” It’s really not like that. There was a moment, but it’s not really the situation. I know magazines and newspapers, it’s the catchphrase -- it’s really not that. It’s different now because we all work as a group, and it really feels like a family. With Merle being in the picture now -- Daryl always wants to be with Merle. Merle is always looking for Daryl, and that’s brought up throughout the entire season. The problem is, he’s like a bull in a china shop; he’s the drunk uncle you take to a Christmas party. He’s like, “Shut up, man. Shut up!” We also have new people, new characters, and there’s a lot of toes being stepped on. A lot of people want to take matters into their own hands and can’t. There’s a lot of head-butting going on. And there’s just as much conflict on the inside as there is on the outside this year. You know, Rick is still Rick. He might be going darker, but he still won’t squash a bug. Daryl squashes everything and doesn’t understand why someone would yell at him for it. He kicks the kid, going, “What do you mean? He’s in the way.” It’s all the same, it’s just amped up quite a bit.
IGN: Was it exciting to play out the reunion between Merle and Daryl when so much has changed for these two guys?
Reedus: Yeah, my backstory with Merle is a huge part of Season 3. You find out reasons why there is even more conflict than you assumed between them. But there’s also the heartache and the situations you’ve gone through, and they bond you as a duo. So there’s a bond there that’s thicker than glue, and it’s hard to break. But there’s also a mold that goes with that that’s being broken, if that makes sense. You’re under the thumb of your big brother who’s a racist and takes drugs -- he’s just an all-around a**hole -- and as a kid you grow up being embarrassed by that. You don’t want to be that racist guy. Or he’s taking drugs and I’d rather be an Al-Anon member than an Alcoholics Anonymous member. I’ve grown up with it and hated it. So there were scripts that came out where I took drugs and said things that were very Merle-like, and I fought against it and ended up not doing it because of that very reason. Once I explained myself… The writers are very gracious to us and work with us, an amazing team of writers that don’t just tell us what to do; we’re very hands on with them, and they created these great things for us to say and do. This is really my first TV life. In films, you go from here to here. In TV, you go here and plant these seeds and hope people are watching, and then they turn into things. And those things have all become story points now. So you find out how abused he was as a kid, and that causes a lot of tension, but it almost brings you together in a certain way. There’s so much tension going on right now.
IGN: I think people tend to forget that Daryl and Merle were never on screen together in Season 1. The only time we saw you together was in the hallucination episode. Was it interesting for you to finally play what we’ve heard so much about - this dynamic between you and [Michael] Rooker?
Reedus: Yeah. And the way that initially happens in Season 3 is -- it’s huge, I can’t even really hint at what that is. But it’s not what you expect.