[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Conquer” season finale of The Walking Dead.]
It looked like it might be curtains for Daryl Dixon when he and Aaron unwittingly unleashed an army of zombies and then took refuge in a car surrounded by the flesh-eaters in Sunday’s season finale of The Walking Dead. But they fought their way to freedom—with the help of Rick’s old friend Morgan. We talked to star Norman Reedus about the finale, as well as the season as a whole, and what he knows about next season of The Walking Dead.
EW: I noticed a few of these scenes with you in the finale were actually filmed for the episode beforehand and they held them for the finale, I guess because they had an extra 30 minutes to play with here. Were you aware before you saw it that those scenes had moved?
NORMAN REEDUS: Yeah, I had thought that was going to happen. And [showrunner Scott Gimple] is so good at what he does mapping out these episodes and I knew it would be great.
One of those original episode 515 scenes was of you riding your bike. We haven’t had a chance to chat about your new motorcycle. What’s it like riding that thing?
Oooooh, it’s cool. It’s made by this company called Classified Moto, who were friends of mine ahead of time, and it’s so cool. It’s such a powerful little dirt rocket. I love it. It’s really cool the way they designed it. It looks like a Frankenstein motorcycle and it’s completely fun. I love it.
Let’s talk about that big scene at the food depot with the zombies pouring out of the booby-trapped trucks. I feel like we haven’t had a huge group of walkers like that in a while. Is that exciting when you get to film with that many?
Yeah, I really like it when we have a bunch of zombies at once. It’s funny too because you have lots of Greg Nicotero’s team, like Andy [Schoneberg] back in the back with his hand up a torso. So you open up that truck and look—and there’s Andy in the corner with his hand up a thing! It’s really fun and you get all those people on set at the same time and there’s a lot of energy. I love that type of fight or flight thing going on.
What about when Daryl and Aaron get into the car and are surrounded? This show loves to play with being trapped in small, confined spaces, like the revolving doors, or when you and Beth were in the trunk. What was filming that scene with Ross Marquand like?
I really like working with Ross. He’s such a good actor and it was interesting—it’s a good moment between us. I don’t think Daryl is going to say, “You know what? You go handle it.” He’s just the type of guy that is going to be like, “You know what? Let me do it.” He’s always the guy taking out the trash and doing the heavy lifting. And then he stands up and he’s like, “No, we’re going to do it together.” I think it’s a really good Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid moment.
Why was Daryl ready to sacrifice himself for Aaron there? Is that just the way he is—just like, somebody’s got to do it and it may as well be me?
A little bit of that, and I don’t know that he thought he was going to die. [Laughs] You know what I mean? He was probably like, “This might hurt a bit,” but I think he thinks he’s going to make it out, or at least have a better chance of making it out than Aaron. He is kind of that guy though. Even early on in seasons, like when we cut open that one walker looking for the remains of Sophia, it was like, “Nah, let me get my hands dirty. I have a bigger knife. I’ll cut it open.” He is kind of that guy, but I really like that moment between the two of them. I gotta say it’s like a Thelma & Louise kind of thing. I really liked it.
Daryl says at one point when they are trapped in that car and surrounded by walkers that “Even now this feels more like me. That’s pretty messed up, huh?” This goes back to what you were saying earlier when we talked a few weeks ago about Buttons the horse, right? Some animals just need to be out in the wild.
Yeah, that’s right. It’s tough for Daryl to be in those new surroundings and in Alexandria. It just doesn’t feel like him. Like Buttons. Buttons was running free and doing fine and somebody had to tame him and help him and it ended up costing him his life, so Daryl is that guy. He likes to keep moving. He’s like a shark.
This was your first chance to share a scene with Lennie James, who plays Morgan. What was that like?
I remember seeing Lennie in the opening episode on the first season and I was like, “Who is that guy? He’s great!” Everyone had talked about working with him and how awesome he is. And the then he came back in that one episode [“Clear”] where he sort of bugged out on Rick and I wasn’t around. I wasn’t shooting scenes during that time so I didn’t get to meet him and I was really excited to meet him. I met him once at an AMC event, but we were both in suits and it was a totally different thing. I told him how much I admired him as an actor and was excited to work with him, so it was really nice to get to work with him here.
What’s Daryl’s reaction when Morgan takes out that map with Rick’s name on it?
I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. He doesn’t know until that moment and then immediately he’s like, this guy’s following us. This guy has other things in his head. It wasn’t so much of a shock. It was more like, “Oh, I see you. I know what you’re doing.” He’s holding his cards tight to his chest too, so there’s got to be history there. And if you think about all this time that those guys have been together—Daryl and Rick and the rest of them—he must have mentioned Morgan and the walkie-talkie in earlier seasons, so I think he’s got a good idea of who he is when he hands him that map.
You show up at the very end of that final scene when you bring Morgan back to Alexandria. How much did you get to see of that final scene with Andy’s speech and everything that followed? Were you on set for all of that?
Oh, yeah. I was there. And that final moment too, Rick had said to us, if they can’t change their ways we’re just going to take this place. So I think that’s what’s going on in Daryl’s mind when he sees that happen. He’s like, “Alright, we’re taking the place.” And it kind of ends like that.
Now that the season is over, let’s put a bow on it. How would you sum up the journey you guys took this season as opposed to past ones? How do you feel about season 5 in total?
What a good season. This whole season has been so stellar. The writing, the acting, the directing—everything about it. It’s been, in my opinion, one of our finest seasons to date. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and we worked really hard on this season and there were a lot of balls in the air and a lot of people really putting a lot of hard work into this season. And it was a different season for us. It was a complicated season—the storylines were complicated and there were new characters and new locations. All of us have a sort of a collective high five and a satisfactory breath coming out of us. It was a challenge and we were very, very proud of this season.
It’s interesting what you say about all the storylines because there were so many that were woven together in this finale. Not just an A story and a B Story, but also C, D, E, F & G.
Oh, so many! And so many little subtle storylines within the storylines that will play out later or meant something in the past. There were a lot things going on this season. It was very complicated.
Gale Anne Hurd told me last week that Scott Gimple and the writers had recently pitched out the first 8 episodes of season 6. Have they told you anything yet?
No. I’m waiting. I can’t wait to hear. I’m excited. I have theories what’s going to go on in season 6 and even 7, but every time I do that I’m wrong. I shouldn’t even say them.
For more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.