Ride With Norman Reedus Q&A — Austin Amelio

Austin Amelio, one of Norman's costars on The Walking Dead and Norman's co-rider for a journey through the Valley of the Sun, shares more about his trip through the wild and weird stops in Arizona.

Q: Your characters on The Walking Dead have a pretty contentious relationship, but you and Norman are friends in real life. How did that come about?

A: I think it strengthened our outside friendship even more. [Laughs] We related on a bunch of things. We related on riding bikes and he was just a warm and open dude. When I got there, I was pointing guns at his head and spending a lot of time with him on set. It morphed into having a good relationship.

Q: How long have you been riding?

A: I've always been into it. I grew up with my dad on Harleys and going to rock rallies and being on the back of my dad's bike. I think it just seeped into my life. When I got older, I got obsessed with it. I've been skateboarding my whole life as well. You have to stay in the moment and you can't think about anything else. Once I got on a bike and took it a long distance for the first time, I don't think I thought about anything except the road I was on and what I was surrounded by. It's like this zen, meditative thing.

Q: Do you have a dream bike?

A: I think I just bought it! [Laughs] It's a 1970 Triumph Daytona 500 Tiger. It's like the bike that Steve McQueen and Bob Dylan used to ride back in the day. No big deal. Super chill. [Laughs] It's always breaking down on me, so I had to figure out how to work on bikes and take a motorcycle maintenance class. It's like a patina, rust color. It's sweet. I really enjoy it.

Q: Being from Texas, was there anything surprising about riding through the desert in Arizona?

A: It felt like I was in a western film the whole time. I had never seen hills covered in that many cacti before. It was really amazing. There's the desert out here, but it was different there. If you were far away, it looked like green speckled hills and when you got close up, they were 15 feet cacti. I mean, they were huge! And they all looked like they were giving you the middle finger. That was one of the highlights, for sure. It's dreamy territory to be in. It was like a scene out of Easy Rider.

Q: How did you enjoy some of the roadside attractions? Your facial expression is priceless at the ostrich farm!

A: [Laughs] Everything is so weird because it's so normal there. I'm from Austin and they're like, "Keep Austin weird! Make it weird!" but when you actually go to these "normal" states and towns, there's just weird sh—t. We played laser tag with Rob Halford. I was like, "Am I on peyote?!" Then, we went to the ostrich farm, which was just weird but so fun. I got to make out with a goat and I had all these birds on me. I wasn't trying to get my face taken off by an ostrich. What a way to go, though. I mean, I'd be down if that were one of the options. It was kind of scary. Those things are big. They're like dinosaurs.

Q: What was the airfield like?

A: That was amazing. We kept saying, "If these planes could talk, the stories they would have." You have this feeling of humility when you're there. It's such a patriotic place to be and you're overwhelmed with pride and humility. These people are really doing the Lord's work. I'm a f--king actor. Whatever. In the Roman times, on the hierarchical scale, actors were below a prostitute and above a criminal. These people are flying jets and doing the coolest job possible. It was cool to be there as someone who grew up in America. My grandfather was in the Air Force and my mom had always told me these stories. I called my mom, too. I felt so proud to be an American. We got stories from everyone and we hung out with the PJs and they are the most badass dudes ever. Legitimate badasses. They would kill me in one punch. The whole thing was just amazing. And they wanted to get pictures with us. Also, to be able to go through the training – I mean, we only did one millionth of what those guys do, but they were so cool and down to earth. Experiencing the tip of the iceberg of what they do – what a job.

Q: That training mission was intense to even watch...

A: When we walked into the locker room, they were all just working on their guns and cleaning the inner parts of their guns. You're just like, "Whoa!" And they're all just jacked. These people are real badasses. The PJs are the guys that fly in to rescue people in war-torn areas. They rescue our own soldiers. I can't fathom what that would be like. It was a really wild experience and I felt grateful to be a part of that and have a badass woman lead us around. I think I'm pretty quiet the whole time because I wanted to take it all in.

Q: Did you have a favorite part of this ride?

A: I thought the coolest thing was when we went to Rob [Halford]'s house, he put his jacket on Norman and told him the story of how he was inspired by Daryl Dixon to put the wings on his leather jacket. This is Rob Halford! There was this moment between Norman and Rob and I got to be a fly on the wall. It was a legendary moment. One artist being inspired by the other. To take that in and then have tea with Rob was pretty crazy. It was also really cool to ride with that motorcycle group in the beginning – the Red Mountain Riders. They do all this charity work for people. You get to meet these people on motorcycles and so many people have an outlook on people with tattoos on motorcycles and you realize they're the nicest people in the world. There's camaraderie formed based on everyone having the same passion. From beginning to end was like a hazy dream. It was like entering a portal of Arizona and then all of a sudden, you're out of it and you're like, "Wow! That was a cool experience, but my God was that strange." which is exactly what you want to feel.

Read a Q&A with Melissa McBride.

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