Our favorite part of the days leading up to the season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead has got to be the interviews with the show’s cast and crew. Everyone from Andrew Lincoln and Melissa McBride to Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lennie James are sharing their favorite moments from previous seasons, their hopes for seasons to come, and some thoughts and emotions they’ve felt on the journey so far.
Most recently, Norman Reedus spoke about taking on the role of Daryl, and while he walked into the series as confident as one can be – taking on a new project – things changed quickly. He didn’t get the role he was auditioning for, instead, they created a role specifically for him and he felt the weight of that on his shoulders.
He first explained how it felt walking into the series with actors who had already been given their roles, filming, and doing press junkets. He said he didn’t recognize Greg Nicotero at first because he was a zombie.
‘The first person I spoke to was Greg, but he was in zombie makeup and I kind of didn’t know everybody. The cast had already been doing press junkets together and I was super nervous and everybody was all buddy-buddy and stuff. And Greg comes up and goes, ‘Hey, man. How’s it going? How’s your first day?’ I’m like, who the f—is that? ‘Cause he was a zombie and I’m like, ‘Hey, hi. How are you?’ And then he’s like, ‘Hey, it’s Greg!’ And I’m like ‘Oh!’ I didn’t recognize him at all. And then I had to come out and throw the squirrels the first day, so there’s this string of squirrels and I was like, ‘Do you guys want like an underhanded throw? Or should I kind of throw the squirrels like this?’
He went on to talk about his first day on set and how he felt like the new kid at school who isn’t quite sure where to fit in. It seems hard to imagine that he was insecure when he started, now.
‘What I remember most about the first day was trying to figure out who Daryl was and meeting all these people and trying to figure out where he fits in. I was super insecure and super nervous. And everyone was like, ‘Oh, who’s this new kid?” I remember the scene where I come up and I yell at Merle. I’m like, ‘Merle, we got squirrels, let’s do ‘em up!’ And they say, ‘We locked your brother on the roof.’ And I remember turning around and seeing all these faces looking at me as the new kid in school.’
However, he does credit that insecurity for helping him to find the character of Daryl. From the lack of eye contact to the sort of stand-offish nature he had when he joined the series, Daryl was built from Norman’s own personality traits which is why he’s so relatable both on screen and off.
‘It made me so insecure that I kind of threw everything that way and didn’t look up much and didn’t really look everybody in the eyes. I was kind of like, ‘Don’t look at me.’ And I was like, Oh, that’s who Daryl is. He’s got such a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t think anybody likes him so he plays everything like he doesn’t look at you — unless he’s screaming at you! So that’s kind of how I found that character day one. And then I just ran with it.’
Of course, ‘running with it’ turned Daryl into one of the easiest to root for characters in pop culture television and a massive fan favorite. From his rough start to the Daryl now with broken down walls, he feels like he deserves that family now – and they wouldn’t be the same without him.
‘He’s a much different character now than he was back then. He means what he says. But back then, I remember that insecurity and having all these people being close and being the new guy, it kind of made me feel like the new guy. And it helped me a lot that first day. I remember that more than anything about the first day.’
While it might seem silly to say, we’re glad that Norman did deal with that insecurity, and we can’t wait to see what’s new with Daryl in season 8. The 100th episode of The Walking Dead and season premiere airs on October 22nd on AMC.