The star also promises that Sunday's episode 'starts an avalanche that just gets bigger and bigger and bigger'
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Always Accountable” episode of The Walking Dead.]
Daryl Dixon had been missing in action the past two weeks of The Walking Dead, but the crossbow-wielding, motorcycle-riding fan favorite was back this Sunday in a big way…even if he did lose his crossbow and motorcycle in the process. Daryl was forced into hiding by some mysterious gunmen, only to discover an even more mysterious burned-out section of the woods.
And then things got even worse. Daryl was taken captive by a trio on the run who had mistaken him as a foe. He managed to escape, only to later return the insulin he found in a duffel bag. Once again proving that no good deed goes unpunished in this world, Daryl’s invitation to the strangers to join him in Alexandria was met with them stealing both his bike and his weapon. Bummer.
We spoke to star Norman Reedus to get his take on the big episode. What made Daryl return the insulin yet insist on a trade? What about that Daryl-Carol Easter egg on one of the zombies? And whose voice was — and wasn’t — that we heard on the walkie-talkie? Reedus spills intel on all that and more. (Read through both pages for the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So with the exception of the flashback scenes in the premiere, pretty much everything you had shot this season leading into this week had been on the bike. That must have been heaven for you!
NORMAN REEDUS: It’s pretty fun. I’m not mad when I have to film on the motorcycle, that’s for sure.
How much of that chase scene that starts this week’s episode did they let you do and when did they bring in the stunt driver?
I did all of it except for the laying down of the bike. They wouldn’t let me lay down the bike, but otherwise — all of it. And some of those aerial shots that we did that you saw prior — I was probably doing, like, 80 [MPH]. Don’t tell [executive producer] Tom Luse! But I was doing about 80. It was kind of fun.
Let’s get into what happens after you take the bike into the woods. What was it like filming with all the skeletons and dead bodies in that burned out, marsh-like area?
That was really surreal. We actually took a large chunk of forest and either burned part of it or burned it and painted it. It gave it this really surreal feeling. It almost looked black and white, even while we were filming it. It added something. Also, I learned something in that episode that may or may not happen later with the burning of the woods. [Showrunner Scott M. Gimple] is really good at never wasting any sort of screen time, so everything that happens in an episode will play again in one form or another. He’s got things mapped out so far in advance that every little thing comes back to into play.
We saw him do that last season with the “Wolves Not Far” graffiti in episode 509, and also the items that Morgan puts on the altar.
And I gotta tell you, the stuff we’re shooting now — we’re so excited. We wrapped for the day at 7 this morning and Andy and I were on the phone the whole way back to our houses and just overly excited and tripping out over the quality of the stuff we’re doing right now. And this episode 6 really kicks it off. It starts an avalanche that just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. There are parts of six and especially how six ends and the storyline in six that really, really helps us push that rock right over the cliff, and it’s full-throttle from here on out.
That’s saying something considering how strong the season has been so far.
At one point when this show first started, people thought of it as a zombie show, but it’s soooo not a zombie show. We have zombies and we’re not afraid to show zombies. Zombies are a big part of this show, but it’s reached a whole other plateau right now. The quality of what we’re filming right now is just mind-blowing.
So you told me this summer that there would be a Greg Nicotero zombie in this episode that would hark back to a Daryl & Carol moment. So was that a Cherokee rose I saw on the back of that mossy walker that you shot down?
You caught it! It was, yeah! That was kind of a nice little Easter egg for me and Carol.
So Daryl escapes from the group that has taken him prisoner and sees the insulin in the duffel bag. Why does he go back to return it?
Because I don’t think those people were bad people. They were good people, but they are doing what they have to do to survive. He’s noticing that one of them is sweating and fainting and passing out, and he knows what that is. And that insulin, when he sees that, it completely registers with him what is going on. And they’re trying to survive. There was a storyline where I first made the motorcycle and I was like, “Let’s go out. Let’s find people.” And Rick was like, “I don’t want anyone finding anybody anymore.” And Daryl goes, “I think you’re wrong.” And then it switched to Rick saying, “Let’s go find people.”
And that was kind of the first big mission like that for Daryl, where he went to strangers and invited them back to the safety of their camp. And I don’t think he made a bad decision. We’re burying the little blond girl, and I can see that these aren’t bad people — they’re just in this circumstance where they have to do bad things. And he invites them to come with him and he thinks he’s making the right judgment call, and it comes back to bite him on the ass.
When they drive off and they say “I’m sorry” on his bike and Daryl says “You’re gonna be” — that has double meaning. It’s saying: If this is the way you do things, you’re not going to make it very far because there’s safety in numbers. But also, it’s like, now I’m going to shoot your face off when I find you. It’s not that they’re bad people — they’re just doing bad things to try to survive, as everybody does now.
It does seem like whenever anyone does anything good in this world, it comes back to haunt them. Daryl gives them the insulin back, he gives the guy his gun back, he helps bury graves for people he didn’t even know — and the couple steals his crossbow and bike anyway.
Yeah, and I think when he saw that insulin he was like, “Alright, there people aren’t going to make it.”
Well, he returns the bag but he demands a trade due to what he calls “the principal of the thing.” What’s that all about?
Scott and I went back and forth on that. I love when Scott does little lines like that. He goes, “Whaddya got? I came all the way back there to give you your insulin. Just give me something. Anything you got.” Actually, that little statue plays later. Every little thing in this show plays later. There’s never wasted screen time on this show.
We see Daryl ask him the three questions, and when he does that we know he is in recruiting mode here and offering to bring these people to Alexandria. Is this because he feels they will benefit the community, or is he just trying to be a good guy and help this couple, or is it a little bit of both?
He’s generally being a good guy, and we have protocol, and those are the three questions you ask. And those three questions, when answered, truthfully say a lot about the person that’s speaking. But it was weird to say those lines because I had to say them one other time on the show, but with somebody with me, and you don’t want to stand and announce those things. They kind of have to be difficult leaving your mouth, those words. I knew it was going to come up later in the script so I wanted to make that a hard thing to come out of my mouth, so that when they f—ed me over, then it means ever more.
So it was interesting to take on that position with him, and the guy is standing in the grave when I’m asking him those questions. It had to hurt. It had to hurt in a Daryl kind of way in the end where it’s like, “I’m going to kill you when I find you. You’re dead.” But also, like, “You’re dead just by making this choice, so even if I don’t find you, you’re going to die.”
Which loss hurts Daryl more: the bike or crossbow?
[Laughs] They both equally hurt. To watch them ride off together really crushed me inside a little bit.
At the very end we heard some voice saying “Help” on the other end of the walkie-talkie. What can you say about that and what’s coming up next?
I will say that voice is not Glenn.
I’m sure that’s what people were wondering.
It’s not Glenn. But it’s probably somebody at Alexandria with all we know that’s happening there.
I’m curious what you guys have been making of the reaction by everybody over whether Glenn is dead or not, because it has been pretty insane and I’m sure you all have been taking note of that.
I had the same reaction. He’s such a beloved character and such a good friend of mine. You know, I saw what I saw in that episode. And I was in that episode. And I was still pissed off at the end of the episode. I was in shock, and I was there! So I felt it too. You see what you see and that’s the point. If it hurts, it hurts. And if it’s shocking, it’s shocking. You’re supposed to feel the pain. That’s the idea. I heard that people are taking pictures of themselves under dumpsters and putting them on the Internet and saying, “See, I can get out of this!”
I turned that episode off when it was done and kind of walked around my room and was cursing at the floor. I was kind of in shock. Like I said, I was in the episode and I felt like that, so that’s just the level of stuff we’re doing right now. It’s shocking and it’s full of fear and full of disbelief and you don’t want to believe things that you see. So that means we’re doing a good job, I think.
What has it been like this season only appearing in every other episode or so? Do you like having that time off, or is it hard not being on set and around everyone as much?
It’s hard when you’re not working and they’re shooting an episode that you’re not in, but it’s all building up to something, and I understand that and I trust the storyline and I trust Scott and the other writers. And it always ends up paying off storyline-wise. But yeah, me personally, Norman, when I’m not filming — I mean, there’s a ton of fun stuff to do, riding my motorcycle all over and I do other things — but I also go to set and watch them do episodes I’m not in because I’m a fan of the show. I just miss people because they’re all my friends and I like watching them do what they do.
Watch Reedus talk about his favorite day on set in the video below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.