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Mania Interview: Norman Reedus and Gail Anne Hurd
Our favorite Dixon and the producer
By Joel Rickenbach
October 23, 2012
Mania had the chance to sit down with the cast of The Walking Dead last weekend at New York Comic Con. We chatted with the cast and crew about their characters, their experiences on set, and what we can expect from season 3. Part three brings us series producer Gale Anne Hurd (Terminator, Aliens), and Norman Reedus, who plays crossbow enthusiast, Daryl Dixon.
Would you say season three was a little bit of an easier start since you were out of the shadow of Frank Darabount departing?
Gale Anne Hurd: Nothing is easy about the show. Honestly, there's always something. The thing about season two is that most of it takes place on the farm, so it was actually an easier place to shoot. Obviously, the emotional impact Frank's departure had was tough, but Frank gave the cast and the crew his blessing. He said “Listen, you guys- make the best show you can. Make me proud.”, and we endeavored to do that. But this season we’ve got huge sets, two locations, a lot more characters, and 16 episodes, so it's really pretty daunting.
Norman Reedus: This isn’t The Big Bang Theory (laughs).
How does the addition of Michonne and the Governor change the dynamic?
Gale Anne Hurd: People keep asking that, because they think “okay, all of a sudden the tone of the series is going change”, because those characters are so large and over-the-top in the comic book, but they're very grounded in our series. You’ve been introduced to Michonne already, and she's not just… Yes, she kicks a lot of ass, but she's developing a real bond with Andrea. The dynamic has change because now we have two camps, two groups of people, and that's a big change. I know Andy (Andrew Lincoln) was shocked because this was the first time that he didn’t appear in an episode. He’s not in episode 303, and that was such a shock to his system to go eight days without working.
Norman Reedus: Me too. I’m not in it either. It doesn't change our world, there's just another group of stories in our world as well.
Gale Anne Hurd: And we’re building obviously too. Fans of the comic know that something rather of epic proportions happens.
Norman Reedus: and David (Morissey) is great, girls move to David, he’s got a way. He's playing it very, very cool.
Gale Anne Hurd: It’s kind of like meeting the Governor before the Governor is created. He's grounded, he's charismatic, and he is a natural born leader for this world. And he actually wants to do the right thing, he's not just twisted.
You do have a map because of the comic book but it's a not a identical twin…
Gale Anne Hurd: Right, because he (pointing to Norman) wouldn't be in it, Merle wouldn’t be in it…
How far along have you planned with the characters into the future?
Gale Anne Hurd: We planned this season. That would be a fair thing to say. We just finished shooting 3-13, so we have a three more episodes left do.
Up until now, Daryl has been the resident badass in the cast, he's the most capable guy, he’s got survival experience, and that kind of runs parallel to what Michonne is like in the comic. What’s it like for Daryl not to be the only one with their act together?
Norman Reedus: They’re actually very different from each other. I mean, we can both kick your ass, but she’s way sexier than I am (laughs), we’re very different people. She's very fluid with her sword, I’m very fluid with my crossbow… eventually there’s a respect. The first time we see each other on camera I’m like “Pffft, whatever, nice outfit.” But it’s also kind of like I'm watching her, and keeping an eye on her. Danai and I personally have become really good friends on set, it was the same way with Melissa (McBride), there's similarities, we're all these damaged people, there's something in us that's the same. Yeah, it's interesting, we have a lot of badasses on the show- Stephen (Yeun) is a machine, Laurie (Holden) is a machine, Andrew (Lincoln) is a machine... in season three everyone can make it through the night.
Gale Anne Hurd: Even Carl.
Norman Reedus: Oh my God, Carl.
Gale Anne Hurd: There's no more "Get in the house, Carl." We've retired that line.
Norman Reedus: Carl burns down the house this time! (laughs) He's awesome, I've watched Chandler (Riggs) when he's on camera, in a scene, and I'm thinking "Woah, this kid's got it". He's going to be a force. He's great.
Gale Anne Hurd: Daryl's had the opportunity now over three seasons to start to trust a bit, to see his place in the group, I don't know that Michonne is ever going to feel that way. I think that, to her, she's an outsider and eventually we may come to find out why, or maybe not... I just can't imagine you (gesturing to Norman) having two zombies, armless and jawless on Chains.
Norman Reedus: No, I don't need it. She's clever in the ways she's figuring out things. I think there's a mutual respect for each other as well. We get each other, we get what it's about, we're both lonely people, but I don't know if we'll ever be the same.
How does the dynamic change with Daryl and his brother Merle?
Norman Reedus: Can you imagine being Daryl, and having a big brother like Merle? The racist slurs... I wanted to grow up being embarrassed about that, you know? It's a house I don't want to grow up in. I don't want to become him, and there's an embarrassment there, but there is also a love there. Daryl doesn't take drugs, he grew up in a house full of drugs, and it wasn't good. It makes sense for him once those influences are gone to sort of figure out who he is for the first time. He's with people that he normally would never hang out with, he feels that they feel there's a value in having Daryl around and that he would do anything to help everyone survive. The fact that I'm needed feels good, and is a responsibility a grown up person has, and now Daryl has, and he's never had something like before. So, when his brother shows up, Daryl goes back down, and at times is little brother again. It can weigh heavy, and at the same time be comfortable, it's very complicated.
Was there always a plan for Daryl to move up to Rick's lieutenant, or was it natural?
Gale Anne Hurd: it's got to be organic, not only to the scripts that were written, but also what Norman brings to the character of Daryl. That's one great thing in the show, before the writers room starts breaking the episodes down for the season, the actors come in and start talking about their characters, and start talking about what their experiences were for the season, and the surprising things that they found, and we want to incorporate those. It's actually much more organic, because if you were to just say "okay we're just gonna listen to focus groups, and do what people want us to do." That's not organic, it's taking something outside the show and using it. And we certainly respect and love the fact that people embrace and care so much, but it has to be organic.
Does the quality of the actor's work pull you in different directions?
Gale Anne Hurd: Absolutely. look at Hershel- the original idea was that Hershel was gonna die in the second season. We didn't know, I mean we knew Scott Wilson was a fantastic actor, but what he brought to the role was so layered, and we realized if Dale is gone, Hershel steps in as the voice morality. Let's think about things, he's someone that Rick listens to, and they all have great respect for. He isn't trying to be the alpha male.
Norman Reedus: His character has every other character's best interest at heart. He's totally honest. Plus there's that other thing about what fans want for your character. I always get asked "When is Daryl gonna hook up? When is he gonna make out with Carol? When are they gonna bang?" The way I'd like to play it is Daryl has no game at all. If he's going to kiss someone he's not the one that makes the first move. It's going to be awkward, that to me is interesting. To throw somebody against a tree and rip their shirt off... that's not Daryl at all. Girls always say "Oh, take your shirt off and let's make out" I wanna do the opposite, I want to premature ejaculate and cry in the morning (laughs) And I wanna turn bright red after, and then I wannna deny it all.
Gale Anne Hurd: But that's kind of the complex actors we have who are bringing these complex characters to life. There's never going to be something that's incredibly simple or obvious, that's our hope. Plus, everything is f*cked up.
Norman Reedus: Oh, totally f*cked up.
Gale Anne Hurd: I'm sorry, I shouldn't say it like that.
Norman Reedus: Well, we already covered ejaculation... (laughs).