If you don’t already have a severe crush onThe Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus—who plays Daryl Dixon on the AMC hit series—brace yourself. And get in line. The actor and owner of production company, Big Bald Head has quite a fan base. He's made appearances in music videos for R.E.M., Radiohead, Björk, and Lady Gaga, modeled for Prada, and worked with countless directors since he was 16. There’s also his fierce army of female admirers—dubbed Reedusluts and Dixon's Vixens—who have threatened to riot if Reedus’s character dies or exits the show.
Yet, the odds are strongly in the multi-talented star's favor to survive in the post-apocalyptic, zombie-dominated world.
In the show’s Survivor-like, fight to the death atmosphere, Reedus offers emotional gravitas, a pivotal moral compass, and that irresistible bad-boy-meets-good-guy charm. Not convinced? Read Reedus’s description of Dixon, which can just as easily be applied to the actor himself: "He wears his heart on his sleeve. He means what he says. He’s somebody who’s trying to figure himself out, without realizing he’s figuring himself out."
With the highly anticipated season finale airing this Sunday, ELLE.com sat down with Reedus to talk about fears, fatherhood, and living life to the fullest–even if it's just in a TV drama.
Age: 44 Provenance: Hollywood, Florida Dating Status: "I’m so single right now; and I’m really enjoying it"
On his raw, heartbreaking performances: "It has a lot to do with my dad. That’s where I usually go. The first film I ever did—Floating—the director was like, ‘How do you want to prepare for this [emotional scene]?’ I had never been on a set before, and I didn’t really know what he was talking about. So, I was like, ‘What are my options?’ Options A, B, and C didn’t work or I didn’t want to try them. So, I was like give me a cell phone and come get me in 15 minutes. I called my dad. We had just a normal conversation. I didn’t tell him where I was or what I was doing. We just talked. And 15 minutes later, they came and got me. The first time we did the scene, I cried so much that there was snot coming out of my nose, and we couldn’t use the take. But, I realized then ‘Oh, this is what it is. This is for real.’ So, I just try to play it real as much as possible. And I guess, I’m a pretty damaged person already, so I can get damaged [onscreen] fairly easy."
On finding space to emotionally unwind: "I’m one of those people who can watch a stupid movie and end up crying. It doesn’t matter [if it’s sappy or Happy Gilmore]. It can be a cartoon. I’m not balling like a baby, but I have a tear rolling down my cheek, and it’s not even a sad film or scene."
On The Walking Dead‘s survival-mode mentality: "It’s the reality of having the zombies and sickness and disease. It’s mortality and the idea of mortality. The clock is ticking for all of us [on the show]. We’re all infected. So, in this world, you can’t be wishy-washy with decisions; whereas in real life, you can. You can’t float in the ether and not have any conviction whatsoever. You kind of have to decide right then–‘Who am I?’ ‘Who do I want to be?’ ‘What do I want to be?’ And, ‘Who do I want to be with?’–and then be that person. Your time is so precious."
On shaping Daryl’s character arc: "There were earlier scripts where Daryl spoke like his brother. He said a lot of racial things, negative things. And there were scripts where he took drugs—his brother’s drugs. I had conversations with the writers early on and explained that I didn’t want to say that stuff or have him take drugs. I wanted Daryl to be a real kid that grew up in a house full of racism and drugs, but wasn’t proud of it and didn’t want to be like that."
On a hypothetical meet-and-greet with Daryl: "I think we’d get along really, really well. [Daryl and I] are very similar in a lot of ways and in a lot of ways we’re not. But I think we’d actually get a long. We’d probably ride motorcycles somewhere."
On rumors that he’s attracting The Walking Dead’s female fan base: "I think you’re talking about what Steven [Yeun] said. Steven was just goofing off. Steven’s a sexy dude, and he’s the one with the love affair going on."
On what he runs away from in life: "Oh, my god. I’m constantly running away from everything. I’m running away from things on a daily basis. I run away from relationships. I run away from responsibilities. With the success of the show, there are responsibilities that I run away from. [For example], the idea of a talk show terrifies me."
On what really terrifies him: "Have you ever sat in a parent-teacher meeting with a bunch of moms and you? That’s terrifying. I did that recently, where I was sitting in a room with all moms and me. And everyone’s talking about how we should structure this after school program, and I’m just like ‘Ah!’"
On what he gravitates toward in life: "I’m one of those guys that—as far as relationships and stuff go—if you smile at me, I’m like, ‘Let’s date for three years’—which is just ridiculous. With other things, sometimes I run towards something, and then I go 'errr!,' and about-face for the other way. But, mostly, I’m really enjoying being a father. I love that. I run toward that every opportunity I can get. I spent all day yesterday on top of the Empire State Building [with my son, Mingus]. They gave us a little tour at the very tip top, which was actually–to go back to your other question—terrifying."
On what he’s learned from his son, Mingus: "Patience. He doesn’t freak out about anything. He’s so calm, cool and collected. He used to come in my room and wake me up. He’d go, ‘Get up! Get up!’ when he was younger. And I’d say, ‘Ah, five more minutes.’ And then he’d just sit there, stare at me, and in a whisper, ‘I love you like the ocean.’ And I’d be like, ‘Okay, I’ll get up.’"