"Today was a big day," said Norman Reedus on Nov. 4, the day EW got to follow him around on the ''Walking Dead'' set. "It was a heavy episode, there was a lot going on," and that meant cramming in as much work as possible while they still had daylight. "We fight the light a lot," says Reedus. "Especially now, with daylight savings time and everything, the sun goes down real early. We’re such a tight group here, and everyone knows what to do to get it. It doesn’t have that sort of feeling some jobs have, where you’ll do a movie or something and have endless hours to get a cappuccino and work the character out. It almost does you a disservice, I think, to have downtime sometimes.”
At first, Reedus wasn't entirely sure what to make of the now-iconic angel-wings jacket that original showrunner Frank Darabont created for his character. "I was like, 'What biker gang is this?' But it's really become a symbol of Daryl's arc in a lot of ways. It's one of those things where you can't judge a book by its cover. You see the front and he looks like a dirty biker dude, and then you see the back and there's heart there. He doesn't want you to see that softer side of him, but on the back there's that little hint of hope that this guy's not as bad as you think he is."
Reedus spends spare time on set here in his trailer, and much of that staring at Polaroids of costar Andrew Lincoln. "I stole a camera from wardrobe one day. I was going to do this series, every time Andy comes in my room, I was going to take a picture of him. I pretty much just had 50 photos of Andy. He and I always share a double [trailer], so he's right next door to me. We'll bang on the walls, and then he'll come over. He's always in my trailer, like, all day."
Things got a bit scary on the last shot of the day, at 5:27 p.m., when Reedus skidded and went down with Daryl's new motorcycle a few minutes after this picture was snapped. "I kind of came in a little hot, and my front tire slid about a foot in the wrong direction on that gravel," Reedus says. "I'm glad I didn't f--- it up. I was going like one mile an hour, too, so it wasn't very cool." After making sure his actor was okay, director Michael Satrazemis couldn't resist ribbing his star. "Print that," he instructed his camera team, "in case Norman gets sassy."
In between takes, Norman shared a grilled cheese sandwich with his partner-in crime, executive producer Greg Nicotero. "Greg's one of my best friends," says Reedus. "He's just such a good guy, and he’s a really hard worker. He accomplishes really difficult things with what seems to be ease. He wears so many hats on the show. He’s so immersed on so many different levels, and he's become one of our directors that I feel most comfortable acting with because he knows the show, he knows Daryl so well, and he knows Norman so well. There's a shorthand with him. You don't have to explain yourself. You just start something and he goes, ‘I get it.'"
Norman Reedus likes to lick people's faces. Just because. In fact, he even has his own Urban Dictionary entry, "reedus (verb): to lick someone's face." Camera-department intern Elizabeth Evans was so excited to work on a set with Reedus that she told director Satrazemis she would shave her head if she could be on the receiving end of the star's patented move. "So Mike told me, 'Hey, I've got this intern coming. I need you to lick her face so we can shave her head," the actor recalls. Hence this sneak attack. "I think she was kind of shocked that it all happened," he says. "But we have photographic proof, and someone needs to shave her head now. That's how that works." Says Evans: "It's worth it."
It's kind of like "Pee-wee's Playhouse" of horror," says Reedus of executive producer Greg Nicotero's workshop, where all the gnarliest zombies and decomposed humans are created. "You'll wander back in there, and Greg will be standing on a mountain of dead bodies with a guitar in his hands playing some Jimi Hendrix." (P.S. That's Nicotero hiding and holding up horns over Reedus' head.)
Norman Reedus has a fan mail problem. In that he gets waaaaaay too much of it. In fact, "they put restrictions on us getting mail sent to us because there was so much mail coming," he says. "It was too time consuming to deliver all of that and deal with all of that." As if getting all of his own fan mail is not already too much, he also has to deal with Andrew Lincoln's. "Andy likes to bring handfuls of mail into my room and then he opens all of his letters, and pictures and stuff. Then he takes them back to his trailer and leaves all the garbage in my room. He does it every day, which is like clockwork, so I'm constantly picking up after his ass."
"All the food's really good on our set," says Reedus of the catering. "It’s pretty much the only place I eat. I eat on set and then I go home and there's nothing in my refrigerator. What I should be doing is taking doggie bags home, but I haven't thought that one out yet." And watching zombie extras eating during lunch breaks never gets old. "It's funny because they have some sort of prosthetic mouth piece that they have to take off and you can sort of see the real person in there a little bit. I've got some great photos of zombies eating lunch that one day maybe I'll make into a book, because they're kind of hysterical."