The Walking Dead‘s Ryan Hurst joins Norman for a whirlwind ride in Japan in the latest episode of Ride With Norman Reedus. Here, he talks with amc.com about how he started riding bikes on Sons of Anarchy, what it was like meeting video game creator Hideo Kojima with Norman, bringing Mario Kart to life in Tokyo and more.
Q: You mention this was your first time in Japan! How did Norman first approach you to come on the show?
A: So we were on the set of The Walking Dead, and we were just chatting about stuff. He and I were just fast friends, we hit it off real quick. He was talking about Ride, and he was like, “Oh yeah, I have this other show called Ride,” and I’m just like, “Um, yeah I know.” And then I was like, “Can I be on it??” And he was like, “Yeah you can be on it!” And I was like, “I only want to go to Japan,” and he said, “Let’s go to Japan.” So I was like, “Are you serious?” and he was like, “Yeah, we’ll go to Japan!” And then literally it happened, pretty much just like that. I had been wanting to go there for so long, and so we did it. It was fantastic.
Q: When did you first start riding bikes?
A: I first started riding bikes when I was on Sons of Anarchy. I’d always wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle, and my agent called me and said, “Do you want to get paid to learn how to ride a motorcycle?” And I said, “That sounds like a good job. I don’t need to read the script, as long as I get to keep my beard and they’ll pay me how to ride a motorcycle, I will do it.” So that’s where it all started… There were only a few people who were on that show who knew how to ride before. Everyone else, we went through the good old actor crash course.
Q: Do you still ride today?
A: Absolutely! Norman and I were actually supposed to go riding today, he texted me last night after the episode and said, “Hey let’s go ride tomorrow!” But then it started raining, and then we were like, “All these restaurants are closed, where are we gonna go?” So we’re gonna rain check and ride together another time soon.
Q: What kind of bike do you have now?
A: I have a Harley Road King. I’m actually auctioning it off for charity, because there are some animal rescues that I’m apart of.
Q: Where can people go if they want to help support you in that?
A: There’s a thing called the Giving Project, and I’m auctioning off my bike through them, which is in conjunction with Motor City Harley Davidson, which is out of Detroit, who helped build the bike. So we’re gonna auction it off, and there’s three different animal charities that the ticket sales will go to.
Q: You and Norman spend a bit of time in the episode honoring Japan’s video game legacy. What did you think about Hideo Kojima’s studio? Were you familiar at all with his work?
A: I was completely and totally unfamiliar with any of his work. A lot of the crew members are all enormous gamers, so when I said that, there was a proverbial record scratch, and they were like, “You don’t know where we’re going? This is like meeting the wizard in The Wizard of Oz!” And I’m like, “I’m not a big gamer.” But we showed up and it was very Kubrickian. We had to walk through this giant white room, and Hideo has this aura about him that he’s like the Keyser Söze of the gaming world. He’s just a master creator. I had a blast going throughout his entire studio and seeing all the mo-cap stuff.
Q: What was it like seeing Norman’s CGI face on the screen?
A: [Laughs] Just so funny. And I thought they did a great job capturing not just his mannerisms but his whole affect. It was so impressive. I mean obviously he’s playing a character, but it’s so firmly based in “Normanisms.” Norman was really specific with Hideo. He was like, “You gotta make sure my arms look buffer than they do in real life.” [Laugh]
Q: And speaking of video games, you guys bring video games to life riding with “MariKar” through Shibuya. What was that like? It seemed pretty dangerous!
A: It was funny. When I watched the episode, it was one of those things that you couldn’t quite capture on film. There’s a little soundbite in the episode where you can hear Norman say, “I feel like we’re on acid right now,” and it really did feel like that. What you couldn’t quite see in the episode is that it was pouring raining, and everything in Shibuya is neon. You’re so close to the ground, where there’s the reflection of neon in the ground, and then you look up and there’s rain falling on you, but all you see is this neon jungle of lights everywhere, and you and some of your best friends are dressed up as animals. There was a definitely feeling of just Blade Runner on acid the whole night. And when you’re so close to the ground, even though you’re just going 20, 30 miles per hour, it feels like you’re going 90. It was a blast, we had so much fun.
Q: Speaking of speed, your crash course on the drifting range looked pretty intense. How was that experience?
A: Well Norman had the right idea, because for me, if I’m good at anything, I’m a good student. So my teacher was like, “Stop, stop!” And I’m just like, “Okay, how do I do it?” But then Norman gets in the car and he just like slams on the gas and is like, “All right, we’re just gonna take this thing going!” And didn’t listen to anything his teacher was saying. So he probably had the right idea. Because I was just sitting there trying to do it the right way the whole time, and the language barrier was getting in the way, and I was just like, “I don’t know how to do any of this stuff.” But [Norman] just took us off-roading.
Q: Of course, you two also honor the spiritual side of Japan, visiting a sacred shrine and Mt. Fuji. What was that like for you?
A: It was beautiful. It’s one of the best parts about Japan. It’s this wonderful amalgamation of this ancient nature religion, and then high style and high technology that is firmly embedded in the culture. There really is something for everyone, so to be at the base of Mt. Fuji, and to go to the shrine, it was wonderful to pay homage to the culture and the people. It was just phenomenal. We got our bikes blessed, which we kind of thought, “Oh, do people really get there bikes blessed here?” And they were like, “Oh yeah, all the time.” And we were like, “Really? Like a car wash?” [Laughs] It was just fantastic. And also, when we first pulled up to see Mt. Fuji, it really is breathtaking. You hear so much about it, but it really is a mythic place. It makes you speechless. I really understand Japanese culture honoring Mt. Fuji as a living being. It’s omnipresent.
Q: What were some of your favorite memories from your ride together that didn’t make it to the final cut?
A: Probably none that I can say. [Laughs] There were a couple of nights there where the cameras were off, and Norman and I went around people watching around Shibuya and other parts of Tokyo with Kun that was pretty phenomenal.
Q: What’s one thing you think everyone should do when they visit Japan (you know, when people can travel again)?
A: I don’t know, I don’t think there’s much that you can do wrong in Japan. It’s such a genre mashup there, with people walking around in kimonos, and then you have all-night arcades. The culture really does have something for everybody. And besides that fact, the people are just amazing, and respectful and beautiful, and everything is just spotless and clean and perfect. You get this sense that everybody who is doing their job, they’re doing it by choice and they’re going to do it to the best of their ability. But the short answer is you can’t go wrong.
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