(SPOILERS) The Walking Dead Q&A — Norman Reedus (Daryl)

Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about the new feel of the show and the level of maturity he sees in his character. 

Q: On the show, a year and a half has passed from Season 8. How different did this season feel going into it?

A: It’s completely different. It’s still the same show and there are all those elements of the show, but it’s completely different tonally. It’s like a western. It’s a train being driven by women and I’m just standing on top of it screaming my ass off. There’s no chest bumping or good guy versus bad guy. It’s very honest, it’s complicated and it’s super emotional. We have a lot of new writers and directors who are all female and it’s really taken the show down an awesome turn.

Q: The war is over and the Saviors are no longer in charge. What’s it like for Daryl to be head of the Sanctuary now?

A: A lot of Daryl’s story, especially in the first half, is with Rick and about being heard. Rick’s making all these decisions for everybody that are blinded by grief. He’s not really listening to the people around him. We’ve had seasons where people are blindly following Rick. He’s done these great things and he’s our leader, but we don’t really agree with his decisions. It’s come to a point where people are standing up for themselves and doing what they think is right from an honest place. Daryl needs to make sure his voice is being heard. He loves Rick and understands why he’s making these decisions, but he has to tell him that some of the things he’s doing is not going to work.

You see in the first episode that Daryl is leading the Sanctuary camp and these people don’t want to be led. They’re a bunch of rebels. They don’t want to look to the future. Think about it: a person that joins the Saviors camp is either forced to join that camp or take a cowardly approach in doing things for protection and food. They’re joining a cult. They’re not a bunch of heroes. They’re cowards. Daryl knows that they don’t want him there. It’s like wrangling a bunch of bulls all day. No one wants to play. He doesn’t want to be that guy anymore. Part of that is going, “Man, look, I tried it your way. I can’t force things to grow in a factory. There’s no soil here. Nothing is working.”

Q: What does it mean to Daryl that Carol would take over at the Sanctuary for him after he admits he doesn’t want to be there anymore?

A: Carol is very observant, especially when it comes to Daryl. She sees his struggle and takes over for him. That’s who they are. They always have each other’s backs. Even when she says she’s getting married, he says, “Man, that guy is corny, but if you’re happy, I’m happy too.” That’s a maturity that Daryl hasn’t had in previous seasons. Possibly before that, he might have been like, “I’m going to kill this guy when she’s not looking!” This is a different Daryl... who goes on during this season in different directions, even to the point of sort of a King Solomon decision-maker. It’s still animal planet out here, but it’s an honest and mature animal planet. There are still those horrors of nature, but it’s life. These two characters in particular know what that means.

Q: Fans have been shipping Daryl and Carol forever! What was your reaction to their evolving friendship?

A: I like the direction she and I are going. It’s always about story first. Their bond is such a deep bond. I will say that if you ever read a script and things are going your way, you should watch your ass. [Laughs] This show doesn’t let people be happy for too long. If Carol is happy, Daryl is happy. That’s the bottom line. That’s a mature kind of love.

Q: Did you pull off any new pranks to send Andrew Lincoln off?

A: Andrew who?! [Laughs] Andrew? It sounds familiar, but I can’t remember. I think the last prank that we played was him toilet papering my car, but he did it while we were shooting a really heavy scene and he told the base camp coordinator to toilet paper my car. So, when the scene was over, I came back to my car. He didn’t do it himself. That’s some cheap sh—t. He didn’t even get his hands dirty. He got the last prank in, but he is definitely not winning this prank war at all!

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.

Watch full episodes of The Walking Dead on amc.com and the AMC app for mobile and devices.

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