Norman Reedus might look like his alter ego Daryl Dixon, the taciturn warrior with a heart of gold from The Walking Dead.
But while Daryl has spent his pandemic slaughtering zombies, Reedus spent his lockdown getting his nails painted and binge-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.
It’s probably not what Daryl’s legions of fans might have expected from the unshaven bikie with the lightning-fast knife skills and the fondness for eating roadkill.
Although, to be fair, Reedus says he also learned how to make a proper martini and wrote a book about photography as he sheltered with his partner Diane Kruger and their three-year-old daughter from the COVID-19 crisis.
(He has a 21-year-old son Mingus from his previous relationship with Danish supermodel, Helena Christensen).
“I had my nails painted by my daughter over and over again in the worst colours, like this horrible peach, with really shitty nail polish that kind of clumps up all day long,” Reedus tells The BINGE Guide.
“And I binge watched RuPaul’s Drag Race until I knew who he’d pick (to leave) just by the way he looked at them after the lip synch challenge.”
Not surprisingly, Reedus is glad to get back to being Daryl and taking down zombies in
The Walking Dead.
Foxtel and Binge will launch a special six episodes of TWD from tomorrow (Monday March 1), which will act as a bridge between the drama-filled Whisperer War of Season 10 and what will be the final Season 11.
“These six episodes are really intimate because we had to guinea-pig our way through all these COVID restrictions,” Reedus says.
“There’s a bit of a backstory with Daryl … but I can’t really tell you any more about it!”
While this means the huge battle scenes that characterised the last season won’t be a part of these episodes, there will be many powerful storylines.
Reedus says one of those will be how Daryl reacts to the return of Maggie (Lauren Cohan).
After all, it was Daryl who was responsible for her husband Glenn (Steven Yuen), the father of her son, getting killed by the villainous Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) back in season seven.
Of course, Negan has now redeemed himself by helping the heroes in the Whisperer War, but his relationship with Daryl will also be under scrutiny.
“Daryl felt very responsible for Glenn,” Reedus says. “It opens a doorway for them to be much closer.”
While TWD will close on Season 11, it has already been announced that Reedus will continue as Daryl in a spin-off that sees Daryl and sparring partner Carol (Melissa McBride) have their own adventures.
HOW NORMAN REEDUS WANTS THE WALKING DEAD TO END
Reedus admits he is hoping for a massive finish to the long-running series.
“I know a little bit but not enough to really talk about it,” he says, joking: “I hope they kick us out on a rocket ship. We owe it to ourselves and to the fans of TWD to really kill it in this last season; to make it as exciting as the biggest finale of the biggest season ever.”
It would be perfect for an actor who admits he obsesses about the show.
“I blame Andy (Andrew Lincoln, who played Rick Grimes for nine seasons) for that,” Reedus says.
“Andy used to call me on my way to work at 5am and talk my ear off. Then we’d talk all day and then I’d get in the car and drive off and my phone would ring immediately and we’d talk about what we did all day!
“It’s the first job I’d ever had where I became obsessed. Sometimes it works to my advantage … sometimes it doesn’t,” he explains.
Season 10 saw Daryl forced to step up into more of a leadership role after Lincoln’s departure from the show.
For a character who had become known as a tough, loyal sidekick to the leader, it meant a
different sort of approach.
Daryl has also been fascinating for fans because he never appeared in TWD comic books, which have served as the source material for the TV series.
This meant viewers were never quite sure what he might do or where his character might go.
Reedus admits he never saw it dominating his life or making him into a fan favourite when he first picked up the script.
“I don’t think that you could ever imagine what you are getting into,” he says.
“I read it as something I would want to watch. I didn’t read zombies in it at all, I read it as a guy looking for his family.”
The Walking Dead has become famous for killing off characters, with Reedus and McBride the only originals from season one left standing.
“We went through a stage where people were dying on the show like every week,” he says.
“It was like Survivor! We were like, who gets eaten this week?
“There have been so many peaks and valleys and twists and turns. It has been quite the ride.”
While it is a show that features hideous zombies being killed in all manner of imaginative (and sometimes even amusing) ways, Reedus says it is far more than that.
“It’s a show about hope and friendship,” he says.
“It’s been a rough couple of years, but I hope when the final season is ready to air, the pandemic is over, the sun has come out … I want it to be the age of Aquarius!”
And he says TWD shows the world how to handle a pandemic properly, by helping each other and finding love among the darkness.
“The show is about sticking together and having each other’s backs … that’s how you survive,” he says.
It is a message that more people should heed, as the world faces a challenge that is perhaps less deadly than a zombie apocalypse but certainly has put everything under pressure.
“It would be nice if the people of the world didn’t act like Negan,” he says pointedly.