Entertainment Weekly has been taking a special look inside The Walking Dead in anticipation of season 7’s soul-crushing premiere on October 23rd. They’ve had a series of mini-interviews with members of the cast and looked at some of their biggest moments to date. These moments differed from devastating to seemingly small – but incredibly meaningful – depending on the character’s arc and storyline, but each moment was crucial to get the members of Alexandria to the moment we’ll see them in when the series returns.
When EW spoke to Norman Reedus, there were a number of devastating moments to choose from but the one that was the hardest on both Norman and Daryl was the moment in “This Sorrowful Life” where he kills zombie Merle.
EW: Start off by talking about what you remember about that day and filming this emotional scene.
Norman: I remember when we got that script and reading it and just thinking how hard this day was going to be and how I wanted to pay respect to Michael as an actor. I was a big fan of his even before the show, and it was at a time when he and I were really starting to hit it off. We were really starting to bond and become good friends, and we were having dinner together quite a bit. He really was like a big brother. That day was so hard. It was a very intense, very sad, emotional day for everyone involved.
Norman went on to speak about how it was a turning point for Daryl, no longer “being under his brother’s thumb”, that Merle’s absence helped Daryl grow as a character. He also went on to explain that a conversation with Greg Nicotero helped channel his rage. Greg said Daryl wasn’t just stabbing Merle to kill; it was a moment of rage, it was anger towards everything about this new world, all the loss and change and heartbreak that came along with it.
When asked if he looked forward to “showing off his chops” on that day of filming, Norman explained that he held no excitement at all.
I hated that day. I hated it. I’m not one of those people that can turn it on and just cry a flood of tears and then just turn it off and go have a coffee and be cool again. I go to bed thinking about it and I have a knot in my stomach and I wake up and I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to do it, and we’re about to film it, and everything floods to the front and you’re just miserable. I mean, I have to get miserable to play miserable and that day was miserable for everybody, and I think that’s what made that scene so good.
While it was easy for Norman to be heartbroken about the filming of the scene; EW also mentioned the cast using music to channel sadness before filming and Norman said he not only used music but his own life story to make the scene more real.
Yeah, I played it over and over (a Willie Nelson tune). We use music a lot of the times to get in the right state, and a lot of times it’s not the song that you think you would play. You would imagine I would play a really sad, depressing song, but I played a very uplifting Willie Nelson song because it reminded me of something. It was a song my dad used to like and he used to enjoy playing. I remember him playing that song when I was a kid. It could lead to a happy moment, which led me to a sad moment, but sometimes it’s not the obvious choice.
After you do this awhile you learn things about yourself, and sometimes to go to a sad place you got to go remember something happy that you lost. I lost my father too young and I was dealt a bad hand, and that’s what I thought about for that scene where my brother’s taken from me. It’s all connected in a weird sort of way.
Norman also mentioned how carrying Beth was extremely hard to film, he said he just walked away and cried but came back and got through it because he knew that he had to.
The honesty the cast members display as they look back on their stories to this far, to the dark parts and the painful situations proves again how important they’ve all become to one another. They’re not just co-workers, they don’t just talk on set, they are like family, and they feel each loss very deeply.
The print edition of the EW special will be available on October 14th with two collectors covers at a newsstand near you. With the snippets released online so far it’s clear that this magazine is a must-have for every fan of The Walking Dead.
‘…but I knew him’