All the survivors on The Walking Dead are in a bad place after being forced to flee the prison as a result of the failed assault by the Governor. Not only have they lost their home and their moral center in Hershel, but they have lost each other as well in the process of a hasty evacuation. However, fan favorite Daryl Dixon also has another bombshell to process: the fresh knowledge that Rick exiled his friend Carol from the group after she killed two infected inmates in the hopes of containing the disease. Will the aftermath of that discovery play out when the show returns on Feb. 9? We went armed with that question and others and posed them to the man who plays Daryl, Norman Reedus. Read on as he tells us what to expect in the final eight episodes of season 4. (Also make sure to check out out midseason preview interviews with Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So we start the back eight episodes with everyone sort of splintered off into smaller groups, and judging by what we saw at the end of the last episode and the preview where we see you two together a lot, it seems Daryl and Beth are going to be making their way out of the prison together.
NORMAN REEDUS: Well, you definitely saw them leave the prison together. Whether they stay together is yet to be seen. Everything is gone. Everyone is on the run. Daryl had found an identity with these people and was starting to feel good about himself in a lot of ways but everything has just come crashing to a halt. He assumes everyone is dead. He’s got to start over. Everyone is in a really bad place right now.
EW: We’re going to have more individual or smaller group stories as opposed to seeing everyone as one big group. Is that a nice change of pace?
REEDUS: It’s different. I will say that the back eight are in my opinion are our best eight episodes yet. The storylines, the acting, and the directing, and the writing are top of our food chain. I’m so excited for people to see these episodes. You get an understanding of why certain characters are who they are, why they fight for what they fight for, or why they don’t fight. You really get an in-depth look at characters like you’ve never seen before.
EW: What’s the aftermath for everyone in terms of seeing Hershel executed? He was the moral compass for that group so what will that loss do to everyone?
REEDUS: That was such a harsh exit. Not just as the character, but for the actors as well. That was really hard for all of us. I think that you can see it though the actors’ eyes in the back eight. That was a big loss for us. Even Rick sort of gave up hope, gave up the fight a little bit. You always had Hershel who had a positive outlook on things and was telling us that we still had more time and that we’re still people at the core of all this animalistic brutality. With him gone, I feel like this huge beacon of hope just got put out. Everyone is reeling from it — not just his blood relatives, but the rest of us. We were such a tight group there at the prison and to have him executed in that way and have us on the run again, like we started — everyone is starting from square one again.
EW: You mentioned how hard it was for the actors. Tell me about having to say goodbye Scott Wilson. I know his last day was pretty emotional.
REEDUS: That was a tough one. The whole crew wore suspenders that day in his honor. It was a sight to see. I’m really good friends with Scott. He just stayed with me a couple days, here in my apartment. I took him to the Lou Reed memorial. He’s such a good actor. He has such good work behind him. He’s 100% quality and a stand-up guy. That one in particular was really hard for me and for all of us. Losing a character that is that important is a big deal. It’s a big gamble to take. He’s definitely going to be missed.
EW: Is there going to be any more to Daryl finding out about Rick making Carol leave? He was clearly upset about it, but then the attack on the prison happened and that got kind of put to the side.
REEDUS: Daryl going into this first episode doesn’t even know if everyone is alive. Right now he thinks everyone is dead. You may or may not see a backlash. The way that we shot that and the way that we directed that, it was left very open-ended. I like the way we didn’t wrap up that storyline with a nice bow yet.
EW: Do you think that the back eight episodes are totally different?
REEDUS: Totally different. You have the same characters dealing with the same things, but the way that they are shot and the way that they are written…that’s the joy of this show that it’s constantly evolving. As soon as you get comfortable, everything gets ripped out from under you. It’s such good writing in the back eight. Every time we got a script, Andy would run into my trailer and be like, “Did you read it? Did you read it?”
EW: How do you feel about leaving the prison behind? As an actor, that was your home for a season-and-a-half.
REEDUS: Even though we shot a lot at the prison, 80 percent of my scenes are shot in the woods. I love playing Daryl in the woods. That’s part of who he is. The only set that didn’t feel totally comfortable was that first season at the CDC with the air conditioning that just didn’t feel like us. That weather down there is a character on the show, as are those woods. I like being on the run. I like the movement of it all.
EW: Any other teases for Daryl coming up?
REEDUS: There’s a big Daryl episode coming up soon. It was such a grueling, hard shoot, but it came out really well. There’s a couple other episodes based around other characters who do some of the best work you’ve seen them do. I can’t wait for people to see these back eight.
EW: I know you were just overseas promoting the show. What countries seem to go craziest for The Walking Dead?
REEDUS: It’s huge everywhere. Everywhere we go there’s a huge crowd of people meeting us at the airport. It’s so humbling to go to these foreign countries and see people geeking out over the show and loving the characters. It’s a joy to meet all of them, because everyone is so into it and so cool. I’m a very lucky guy. We all are. It’s big everywhere. Even in New York. People don’t usually run after you here. I was taking my kid to school the other day, and there was a guy chasing after the car. He runs up to the side of the car and says, “I’m a special effects art director and I’ve got to say I love your show.” He literally chased after the car for a block, sprinting in the snow. He ran up to the window and I was like, “Whoa you look like a ninja” because he was all bundled up. Everywhere we go it’s just nuts. It just makes us want to try harder and harder.
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