NORMAN REEDUS proves you can never get enough of ‘The Walking Dead’

ZOMBIES would have the entire world glued to the screen for a wickedly crafted weekly gore fest? Well, it’s happened. One might argue that the success of “The Walking Dead” is due in part to the clever writing, audacious death scenes, the “walkers,” unbelievable turns of events and, yes, the “ick” factor. But any fan of actor Norman Reedus will tell you that his character of Daryl Dixon is the real reason the AMC channel show continues to stop other shows dead in their tracks. Equal parts sensitive, powerful and kick-ass, no one else but Reedus could own and execute (pardon the obvious pun) such a unique and complex role. And no one else can pull off the smoldering, slightly grimy, blood-splattered brand of sexiness that Reedus gives as Dixon on the show. The actor recently sat down with Arizona Sports & Lifestyle Magazine to give us some insight into the show’s success and some of the goings-on behind the scenes, as well as a hint or two about the upcoming fourth season of “The Walking Dead,” which debuts on Oct. 13. “We’ve been really good at hinting about back stories about people in an indirect way sometimes,” said Reedus, “and right when people think they know the characters, they find out something different about the characters which make them the way they are. I always found that really cool. I think our writers are really good at that.”

Reedus is quick to point out the importance of the ensemble cast. “I always consider all the characters main characters. They’re all important and all their story lines are important and there are not a whole lot of us. Every single character and every single portrayal of those characters are important to the story.” As diehard fans may know, “The Walking Dead” show was born out of a comic book series of the same name, and Reedus’ character of Daryl Dixon was not referenced in those original books. As such, Reedus and his cast mates are given a certain amount of input into development of their on-screen characters. “I think we all are … even the ones that are in the comic books. What they do and how they’re portrayed, the writers take note of that …,” Reedus stated. “Sometimes, when you do things on television you have a long time to play a character, so you get to mold him in certain directions. You face north and stories are written for you in the north.
You face south and they’re written for you in the south.” From the beginning, the writing on “The Walking Dead” has been nothing short of brilliant. It is indeed a collaborative effort by the talented team of writers. “They’ve all got ideas that are fantastic. They’re a very tight group and we’re very tight with them as well … I can’t wait to see what season four brings,” noted Reedus. Daryl Dixon’s weapon of choice in battling zombies is a crossbow. You might say the weapon is his “signature.” “I’m great with a crossbow! I’ve been playing with it for a couple years now, so I hope I’m pretty good with it,” laughed Reedus. “I steal the crossbows every year, so I always get a call about a week after we wrap, going, ‘Where’s the crossbow?’ and I go, ‘It’s hanging on my wall’ and they say, ‘Damn it, Norman … you owe me $1,000.’” Recently on live Tokyo television he shot a long bow. Those suckers are seven feet tall, and the instructor was sure the actor couldn’t hit the target. “Right as he said that, I hit the target,” said Reedus. Yes, he knows his way around a weapon. But there’s a huge safety component to it all.
“As far as AK47s and M16s … we have a really good guns/weapons expert on our show who takes us to the gun ranges and we practice with them and we feel comfortable with them,” Reedus explained. “You don’t have live ammunition, of course, but you have blanks. Blanks up close can put a hole in you. It’s also not just about hitting the target. They can fix that in post; you can never miss on television — you’ll always hit your target because there’s an editing trick that will show the thing explode on the other end.” Safety is a huge priority not only for the individual actor in the scene, but for everyone else, too. “It’s more for being comfortable with the weapon so you can run around in a group and not misfire … you’re very aware of everybody around you, so there’s no accidents. He’s really good at keeping us safe, making us feel safe and making the other actors feel safe …,” Reedus explained. There’s nothing typical about a “Walking Dead” workweek.

During “The Walking Dead” season, almost all the crew lives outside of the Atlanta, Ga., area. Reedus? He’s taken it a bit farther away into the woods. “I have a motorcycle up there. I ride my motorcycle in the country and there’s no cars … maybe some cows going by,” he said. In reality, he based where he is living on the outstanding motorcycle riding opps it provided to him. So imagine Reedus “power slugging” some coffee, loading up his iPod in his backpack and taking off on his motorcycle for “The Walking Dead” set while it’s still dark. “The sun comes up on the way to work,” Reedus explained. “I go straight into hair and makeup where it’s basically just a party. There’s music blasting and everyone’s dancing around and drinking coffee … then we get real serious and we get all bloody, then we walk out of the trailer and we start our workday at 7 or 8, sometimes later.” “The Walking Dead” also shoots nights, and the cast is usually dead tired (sorry, couldn’t resist) after a lengthy week of shooting. Still, they find time to do press on the weekends. With such ravenous fans that devour every morsel of show trivia and character development, it’s great to see a cast so eager to participate with their fans in the press and at ComicCon conventions. “I really enjoy going out and meeting fans and seeing everyone’s excitement about the characters and my characters and the show in general,” Reedus stated. “It’s really fun.
It’s fun to see little kids with blood all over their faces. I love that stuff.” Occasionally, the fan encounters cross over into the “strange” territory, like the time one fan brought Reedus a plastic bag filled with squirrel meat. (Character Daryl Dixon has hunted squirrel on the show.) The cast even spends time together when they’re not shooting. “Sometimes on the weekends, the actors get together and run ideas and rehearse and throw things by each other. We’re a tight cast so we actually hang out on the weekends together, as does the crew,” Reedus explained. “We’re all a very tight family down there, and I think shooting down there in the woods in our own little bubble sort of helps us do that and helps us keep focused.” The actor doesn’t recall ever filming in Arizona, but he has been here to visit. “I’ve driven cross-country and I always like going through there. I always feel good when I’m driving through — it’s completely different scenery. It’s beautiful there,” stated Reedus. “I love the desert and I love the heat.” Maybe we’ll see Reedus here in Arizona in the future? “Hey, get me a job so I can come hang out and get a tan!” finished the actor. OK, what Arizona filmmaker has a role for Norman Reedus? Make it happen.
There has been a lot of speculation about the craziness that might take place this upcoming season. With the shocking loss of main characters Lori, Andrea and Merle Dixon last season, it seems that “The Walking Dead” leaves no stone unturned in its story lines. One rumor floating around the Internet surrounds the possible appearance of a baby in the new season. Will it be a zombie baby? That would certainly be uncharted territory. But kudos to the people at AMC who have managed for the first three seasons to really keep a lock and key on nearly every juicy zombie tidbit in the scripts. This season, the first eight episodes of “The Walking Dead” will begin Oct. 13, with the remaining eight episodes airing starting February 2014. Talk about killing the fans with anticipation!

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