Norman Reedus was 'super nervous' about Daryl's love story on The Walking Dead
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's episode The Walking Dead titled "Find Me."
Sunday's "Find Me" episode of The Walking Dead finally filled in the gaps of what happened to Daryl (Norman Reedus) during the five-year time jump after Rick (Andrew Lincoln) disappeared. We previously knew that Daryl took to the woods in the hopes of finding his post-apocalyptic BFF while also cutting himself off from others in true Dixonian fashion. We also knew Daryl eventually came back with a canine companion. But that was about it.
Now, thanks to "Find Me," not only did we discover how Daryl met Dog, but we also learned that Daryl actually had a human love interest during that time away from Alexandria — Daryl's first true love interest in 10 seasons of the show. That love interest was Dog's original owner, a woman named Leah (Lynn Collins) who lived in a cabin near where Daryl was camping out.
Of course, Daryl being Daryl, he hesitated a bit when Leah asked him to choose whether he belonged with her or out on his own. By the time Daryl returned to the cabin with his reply — "I belong with you. Find me" written on a map — Leah was already gone.
Reedus has always been fiercely protective of the fact that Daryl has never had a romantic relationship on The Walking Dead — not wanting the character to dive into something unless it has real meaning and was charted in just the right way. So how did the actor feel about an episode that appears to show Daryl falling in love with someone and saying he belongs with her? "It was interesting," Reedus tells EW, "because I've been fighting having something like this happen since day one. And I was like, 'Please don't hook me up with anybody. Everyone's going to yell at me about it!'"
In fact, Reedus says he's already been on the receiving end of those yells on the heels of "Find Me," but cautions that all may not be as it seems: "I woke up this morning to a lot of messages being like, 'How could you be with her? What's wrong with you?' And I'm like, 'Well, it's not really what it seems to be.'"
As for Reedus' initial reaction when he was told of the cabin rendezvous, the actor says: "We had a little talk about it. I was super nervous. And you never know what to expect with those things. So I just wanted to stay true to Daryl, and depending on what happens next, you kind of have to play it a certain way or otherwise something else might not work later. So I tiptoed around them as much as possible."
The actor also notes that the hectic COVID-19 shooting schedule made for an even more chaotic prep period. "It was kind of an idea that was put on paper in front of me before I knew about it and I didn't know how to react," says Reedus. "And then I had many questions, but then we were also in a pandemic trying to shoot this and it was just full steam ahead and I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen."
Reedus admits to being a bit uncomfortable during filming of the episode: "I wanted to handle it with very gentle gloves on. I know what people think. I know what I hear. I know what my character would think about it. And I don't know if I was a hundred percent ready for it, but it's got more to it. I'll say that."
However, even as Reedus is still coming to terms with Daryl's affection on-screen, he credits the woman playing across from him, actress Lynn Collins, for making it easier. "We were filming it and it had moments," says Reedus. "And I really like the girl that's playing Leah. She's really good. And her story will go other places, but I was like, 'Look, Daryl's really not that smooth in that world. The sweetness is going to win him over.'"
With Leah missing by the end of the episode and perhaps still out there in the world somewhere (especially with Reedus teasing that there is more story to tell), the question now becomes: Will that sweetness win Daryl over again at some point?
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