I caught up with Norman Reedus this summer on The Walking Dead set while he was shooting a scene from episode 6 of the new season (which kicks of Sunday night). In between takes, we sat on the rooftop of the Grant Building in downtown Atlanta and talked spoilers, industry respect, and what’s coming up for Daryl Dixon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I understand you all are shooting more downtown in the city again, which you guys haven’t done in a long time. Tell me what that’s like and tell me how it’s different from when you first started shooting in terms of fans, the crush and all that stuff.
NORMAN REEDUS: Well, it’s a little different because there’s a lot of people walking around, so there are people will camera phones and there’s noise — as you can hear — and traffic and stuff like that…trains, whatever going by. There are no bugs, that’s good. It’s fun to be away from the woods for an episode or whatever, just for a little awhile. It’s different. When you look at an apocalyptic landscape and it’s the city, it’s really jarring to look at, so I’m excited to see how this all turns out. It’s much different, especially in this episode and not having what we’re familiar with. It really keeps you on edge as a character and you find that there’s so many little nooks and crannies that aren’t usually there that are new. And if you take a place like the city and you imagine how many dead people can be roaming around, they could anywhere. There could a lot of them, so it keeps you on your toes.
Tell me about Daryl this season. What can you say about his situation and what we’re gonna see from him?
I think he’s definitely falling into his own. He has less of a chip than he used to have on his shoulder, for sure. He definitely feels that he belongs with these people and he looks at himself differently. He has more confidence. He doesn’t question himself in regards to who he is and where he came from. I think he’s blended in nicely with this group as somebody who can lead a mission, who can protect himself, protect others, and he thinks that other people think the same thing about him — that he’s someone to follow now, so he’s a lot more comfortable with who he is as a person. There’s a side to him that, when you go through a loss and a sense of security and you survive it and you lead other people to a certain direction, it brings out a certain element in you that is an air of confidence that maybe you didn’t have before. I mean, he’s still exactly the same guy, he’ll flip out on you [laughs], but he no longer thinks of himself as somebody that’s an outsider. He went back to get Michonne and Rick. He’s somebody who has proven himself to himself so he’s sort of a different person right now.
What is like for Daryl to be reunited with Carol?
There’s a certain familiarity with those two characters and there’s a certain yin-and-yang element to them, [laughs] which flip-flops every 5 minutes. Sort of like me and Melissa, to be honest. I mean, I love Melissa, she’s fun to work with. And at the same time we’ll scream at each other — I mean, as soon as the camera stops rolling, we’ll start yelling at each other, and then we’ll be back to normal like in two seconds. It’s a very tight bond those two have. There’s a mutual respect for each other. Carol’s a different person now. Daryl sort of leaned on Carol at times and I think Carol sort of leans on Daryl at times. A very interesting partnership right there.
Sometimes the show revs up with a lot of action and sometimes it slows down a bit. How would you describe what we’re going to see in the first half of season 5?
It’s kind of a combination of both those things. It’s kind of like if you’re riding a motorcycle and you’re sort of stuck between third and fourth gear and you can never go down to first and slow down. You have to keep revving your throttle in case you need to like pop a wheelie again. It’s kind of like that. [laughs]
I have to ride a motorcycle to understand, I guess.
We do have storylines that sort of go in a certain direction, sort of like the second part of what you said. And then the first part, we do have the nonstop action again. But the difference is those storylines, they never really slow down. It’s like wheelie after wheelie and wheelie. It’s kind of a combination of both.
It’s interesting because it always seems like some people want one thing and other people want the other thing. I remember at the beginning of season 3 some people were like, “Ah, they just need to slow down. There’s too much action.” And it slows down, then people say, “Hey where’s the action? I want the action.” Do you guys ever get a sense of that or pay attention to any of that?
No, because it feels so different to us because we know what’s coming. So when somebody watches an episode and they say, “Oh that episode, it’s too action packed. They need to talk more.” We already know there’s an episode coming down the pipeline where there’s a whole lot of talking. So it’s interesting even with speculations and rumors and someone takes a selfie of this or someone takes a photo of that from across the street, and all of a sudden the storylines spin out of control. They’re always wrong. From our point of view, to have people say “We want this! We want that!” You’re gonna get it, but we can’t tell you right now. You just kind of watch people spiral out of control with ideas or even complaints, and you know it’s going to be taken care of in a second. They’re gonna eat their words. So, you kind of just have to bite your lip and nod and go, “Okay…” All the bases get covered all the time. Even rumors are wrong, and they’ve never been right ever. Since we started this show in season 1, no one’s ever gotten a rumor right. And all the rumors are great, too. I’m like, “That’s a really good idea, but it’s not what’s happening.”
You’re probably planting false ones out there…
I wish I was! If I wasn’t so busy, I would totally do that! I mean Gale [Anne Hurd] would probably lock me in a closet somewhere, but I wouldn’t mind doing that. That’d be awesome.
You guys have been snubbed by a lot of the awards shows. You’ll occasionally get a nomination here or there for something, but is that something you guys all talk about? Do you feel like a lack of respect from the industry for such a huge, massively popular show?
No, I don’t think we really think like that to be honest. We have the numbers. We have the fan base, and we have a cool job, and we like our job. And, to be honest, I like a lot of the shows that get nominated. So, I don’t think this is a group of haters. We’re pretty happy with what we’re doing. It would be great to be thought of in any of those categories from any of us, but this is one of those jobs that if somebody wins an award, it’s like “Yeah good for you. Get back to work.” There’s no showboating over here. Like I said, I like all the shows that get nominated, or at least most of them. Too many other good things to think about.
Anything else you can tell me about season 5?
Episode 1 is insane. They are all insane. Episode 1, though, I’m really curious about because I just can’t see how a lot of that is gonna make it to television. But Andy and I were talking about that and we’re like, “This is crazy. This is never gonna make it to TV,” and we looked at each other and he’s like, “Dude, we say that every year,” and they always make it to TV. I’m very curious about that episode because it’s so large and it’s so good. They’re all good, but that one in particular…that was the 4th of July, that one.
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