FilmInk sits down and chats with The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus (who plays much loved anti-hero, Daryl Dixon) about playing men on the edge.
By Anthony O’Connor
Norman Reedus plays anti-heroes, and he plays them well. From Murphy MacManus in The Boondock Saints, Scud in Blade 2, Kirby in John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns (in the critically acclaimed Master of Horror series) and, of course, Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, Reedus inhabits surly, complicated characters who perform unlikely acts of heroism remarkably well. Daryl Dixon is the crossbow wielding, sarcastic loner in the zombie apocalypse thriller, The Walking Dead. Brother to the extremely unpleasant Merle Dixon (played with relish by Michael Rooker), Daryl has become the series’ most popular character, as evidenced by a swiftly sold out Q&A session with Popcorn Taxi in Sydney, and a devoted online following. Interestingly, Daryl doesn’t feature in the comic book series that the television show is based on, a fact that Reedus believes has made his job easier. “It is easier in a lot of ways,” says Reedus. “At the start, I never really had any conversations about Daryl, so I just ran with that ball. I got the opportunity to mould my storyline.” That said, Reedus would love to be in Robert Kirkman’s wildly popular comic. “I keep telling Robers, ‘What do I have to do to be in your comic? Do I have to sleep with you? Wash your car?,’” he laughs.
On why Daryl has become so popular, Reedus has theories. “It’s a combination of things,” the actor muses. “He’s an interesting character. He’s becoming someone that he wasn’t going to be if this [zombie apocalypse] hadn’t happened. It’s interesting to watch him start relationships with other people that he would never have hung out with, and to do it in an awkward way. People keep saying, ‘Oh, he should have a love interest.’ Well, if that happens, I want to have no game at all. I don’t want to make the first move, and I want it to be awkward.”
There’s a lot of Reedus in Daryl. Not just the shy yet snarky way that he relates to people, but his iconic crossbow and love of archery as well. In a piece of information that is sure to delight fans, Reedus is indeed handy with a crossbow. “I’m really good,” he says. “I practice, and I like doing it.” Reedus then shows off a nasty bruise on his arm. “I actually got this from shooting a longbow in Japan. The string flew back and slapped into me, but I hit the target. I’m good at shooting weapons.”
So why anti-heroes? Is Reedus drawn to those kinds of roles, or are they just the roles that he gets offered? “I was actually asked to do a Jennifer Love Hewitt movie once, Heartbreakers,” Reedus chuckles. “They called me and said, ‘You’ve been offered this movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt.’ And I go, ‘Well… do I kill her?’ And they go, ‘No, you’re her sweet boyfriend.’ And I’m like, ‘No way!’ I just don’t look like that guy. I’m emotionally damaged and awkward enough where something in me makes me right for those anti-hero characters.”
Perhaps the ultimate anti-hero director that Reedus has worked with is the great John Carpenter. “I love John Carpenter, man,” the actor enthuses. “I was in a car crash in Berlin in 2005. I had a titanium eye socket, screws in my nose, and my face was swollen for the longest time. Cigarette Burns was the first thing that I did coming back from that car crash, and I was super nervous. I thought that I looked like The Elephant Man. [Carpenter] talked me through it, and gave me confidence… I owe a lot to John Carpenter. Actually, when I got The Walking Dead, [series creator] Frank Darabont wrote this part, and gave me this part, but he had Greg Nicotero [special effects legend and co-producer on the show] call John to see if I was cool. So in an indirect way, John Carpenter got me The Walking Dead. So I love John, he’s great. He’s one of the coolest guys that I know.”
Reedus is also fond of his TV brother, Michael Rooker. Their relationship isn’t fraught with homicidal sibling rivalry like the show, but it is quite fraternal. “We have lots of dinners together, and he gives me advice. He’s actually one of the sweetest guys.” That said, the star of Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is certainly intense. “He has his own gun range in California. He’s hardcore, and he’s a really great actor. He’s super interesting.”
What happens next for the brothers Dixon will be revealed in the second half of Season 3, which is airing now in Australia on FX. Reedus promises that it will be worth the mid-season hiatus. “Just wait,” he laughs. “It gets crazy.” But as numerous internet memes and T-shirts have claimed: “If Daryl dies, we riot!” Hopefully, for the sake of society, he’ll live to be a complicated anti-hero another day.
Transcript via @StalkingReedus