Earlier this month we had the opportunity, along with an elite group of fellow journalists, to sit down for three roundtable interviews with nine cast members of The Walking Dead. They were in the UK for Walker Stalker Con and also as part of the promo tour for the season finale. It was a fun, if hectic, hour and all nine of them were on very good form.
Our first group was Norman Reedus, Christian Serratos and producer/director Greg Nicotero. They covered vengeance, the cast’s camaraderie, sandwiches, motorbikes, the way the season has changed everyone and just how much random passers by want Negan dead…
So, how are you all doing heading into the second half of the season?
NR: “I’m no longer wearing pyjamas… and hopefully I will get some sort of revenge.”
CS: “I think we all want revenge right now, which is cool. That need for revenge is driving is driving us right now.”
MCM: And Rosita is ANGRY at the moment.
CS: “Yeah! Anger, another side-effect of trauma.”
You’ve gone from waiting in the wings for two-and-a-half seasons to now Rosita’s kicking arse. How are you feeling about that character development?
CS: “I love it so much ummm I’m getting some juice and some meat and I think some people are shocked seeing her act as strongly as she’s been acting but I think that’s something really interesting to see; how something as traumatic as episode one, and losing family members affects different individuals in different ways. And this is one way that trauma could affect a human. And it’s real.
It’s one of the things that’s been really impressive about this season, the way you’re exploring in a very non-TV way. It’s untidy and ugly and sometimes people are making very bad choices for really understandable reasons. What sort of challenge does that present? Do you like your character more this season than last? Do you understand why she’s doing what she’s doing?
CS: “I think as well as the fans are learning more about these characters, we’re learning more about these characters and I’m learning so much more about her and the way she responds to things. It’s a constant learning curve. And yeah it pushes me out of my element but that’s what it should do. It should challenge me as an actor and challenge the audience as to what they are willing and prepared to see. Hopefully they want and are prepared to see more because we want to keep giving them more and more and more.”
Rosita doesn’t seem completely on board with Rick’s plan. Do you think there’s a chance she’ll cause problems for the Alexandrians?
CS: “There’s a real chance.”
NR: “More problems?”
CS: “There’s always that option. And that’s what’s cool, it’s not knowing, not knowing which way it’s gonna go. Is her need for vengeance going to be her downfall? Their downfall? Or is she gonna succeed? Is she gonna get revenge?”
GN: “She is ACTIVATED!”
NR: “Like a Terminator.”
GN: “The second half of the season as soon as Rick kind of comes back to life a little bit; because it’s metaphorically like Rick was in a coma at the beginning of this season. But seeing every single character activated and they all handle it in different ways. Rosita’s like. ‘I’m not f**ing around, I’m not waiting. You wanna get guns…’ There’s a series of like, ‘Okay, great’.
“Episode 7.09 was all about wins and losses. They go to Hilltop – ‘We’re gonna put an army together.’ Okay great, we got Maggie and her people and then they go to the Kingdom and Ezekiel’s like ‘…Um, sorry I can’t help you,’ and then that’s like a loss. Then they find the weapons and that’s a win and then they find the people on the heaps and that’s a win. The whole second half of the season is wins and losses that every single of these characters goes through but the propulsion of what they’re activated to do, and they’re all activated to do the same thing, is to kill Negan.
“I mean literally, I have people walking up to me on the street going ‘Kill that f**ing guy! GOD! What the Hell?! I HATE HIM!’∏
NR: “I was with Jeffrey and we were riding motorcycles. We stopped in this little town to get coffee and we’re sitting outside having our coffee. This car pulls up and this little old lady gets out of the side of the car and she’s like, ‘You’re my Daryl!’ and then she sees Jeffrey and she goes ‘F**K YOU!’ And this little old lady starts screaming and she’s like ‘DON’T YOU TOUCH HIM!’ And he’s like, ‘Hey ma’am, we’re just having a coffee.’ And then she’s like ‘WHERE DO YOU LIVE?’ ‘I’m not telling you where I live’ She just flipped out on him, it was great.”
How’s Daryl changed over all these seasons? How would you describe his journey for want of a better word?
NR: “Jeez, Man. It’s such a big one. I mean, he used to just kind of talk out of the side of his mouth. He wouldn’t look people in the eye, had a big chip on his shoulder and after all these that happened, finally after so many seasons he straight up talks and he means everything he says. Having these people rely on him means he’s just sort of turned into a man in all these different ways.
“Y’know, it’s interesting too, watching characters like Rosita and all these people… I mean Andy and I were joking at the start of the season, ‘Man all we’re doing is crying!’ (Laughter) ‘And all the girls are doing is kicking ASS and you and me like we used to be so tough on this show, WHAT HAPPENED TO US?!’
“That journey, though, it really is a testament to the writers of the show like you were saying that to give us different things to do instead of being on like one little character the whole time. And that character would have been Mini Merle – he would have BEEN Merle. And he’s… now he’s had people rely on him and he’s had to rely on other people and let people in. That journey it’s still going.”
GN: “Even in the place of authority Daryl now has. When I shoot scenes with the two of them they…there’s so much that these guys brings to these characters. Like Daryl will say something, Rick will say something, they’ll always check in with each other before either of them makes a move. It’s like, they’re like equal. I would never call Daryl a lieutenant.”
NR: “I was gonna say Batman and Robin.”
GN: “It’s interesting because even shooting scenes with the two of them, even if it’s not scripted, uh… if one of them is in a position where they have somebody around the throat or whatever, they’ll always check with each other. As two characters they’re really sort of equally committed to, uh… preserving their way of life. And it’s something these guys add, it’s not in the script.”
NR: “That kind of started when Shane was around.”
GN: “In season two.”
NR: “Yeah, we’d get somebody on the ground and we’d all three of us check in with each other naturally and it sort of just happened.”
GN: “But it shows a lot more authority.”
So, what do you think about the whole, “IF DARYL DIES WE RIOT” THING?
NR: “Why did you do air quotes?”
NR: “IT’S ON A F**ING TSHIRT!”
Do you feel a lot of pressure from the fans to give them their Daryl? And do you feel safer because of it?
NR (Laughing): “No. I on’t feel safer. I was telling Scott [Gimple, showrunner] this and I was like, ‘This season SUCKS. I’m having the worst time ever you know? I’m not having FUN.’ And he’s like, ‘Well you’re not supposed to have fun.’ And I was like ‘Way to mindf**k me, man.’ But you have to take these characters and knock them really low to bring them back up and that’s more interesting than playing it safe.”
Have you ever found yourself saying, “My character DOESN’T want to do this”?
NR: “Oh yeah. Do you know how hard it is for me be to sitting on set and some dude is wearing my clothes. THAT’S MY MOTORCYLE YOU’RE ON! It’s really hard, and I take it really personally. You know, it’s funny on this show because I remember when Chad joined the show and I was like, ‘Who the f**k’s this guy?’ [laughter] I didn’t even talk to Chad for like a month. I’m like, ‘Once you get beat up a little bit and have some scars, then we’ll be friends.’ But you kinda… we all really like each other, first off. (Indicates Christian). Like she could be doing a scene and I’ll look at her and she’ll do a sign and I’ll be like…” (Thumbs up)
CS: “Or equally people say when it’s not great and you could do better.”
NR: “Absolutely. ABSOLUTELY. And so um, we take it very personally… What was the question?”
Have you ever found yourself saying, “My character DOESN’T want to do this”?
GN: “That happens a LOT. Want me to jump in on this?”
NR: “A lot of times, I’ll be like, ‘No, no, no, it needs to be like this,’ and they’ll say, ‘It’s not like that it’s like this,’ and a lot of times I’m wrong.”
GN: “A lot of times you’re right.”
NR: “Thank you. I read this thing with Jack Nicholson, where he likes to work with directors who make him do things that he doesn’t normally do because… you can fall into that category of, ‘I know what works for me, what’s cool,’ and then you fall into the thing of just doing what people want. And then you just do the same thing over and over and it’s nice to just snap out of your thing.”
CS: “No I actually thought about that. I remember Stephen got his motorcycle license and I was like ‘Ohhhh, motorcycle…’ ’cos I saw Benjamin Button. I don’t know how old I was…
GN: It’s not that old by the way.
CS: “But I remember he had a like 1940s type motorcycle and I said, ‘I WANT THAT!’ I always thought about that, about getting a license and taking some lessons and getting like an old bike.”
NR: “I’ll show you how to ride, for sure.”
CS: “I think we talked about that, yeah!”
Norman, are you planning on bringing your bike show to the UK? Maybe drive down to Yorkshire or somewhere in this miserable weather?
NR: “I want to, ’cos that show I shoot the crew is like 25 people, and I’m like, ‘F**ing Ewan Macgregor went around the world with like five people!’ But, umm, yeah we went to some great places this year and we’re still going. We have a European episode coming up.
“I don’t know why this just popped into my head…” [points at Christian] “…but at our lunches? She always makes the best sandwiches. She’s like, ‘This goes with this, and this goes with this,’ and it got to the point where I was like, ‘I’ll just have whatever she’s having’ every day.”
CS (laughing): “That puts so much pressure on me.”
NR: “She’s really good at it.”
CS: “I construct the best sandwiches.”
Christian, with Sonequa (Martin-Green) getting the Star Trek role and the suicide mission you’re both apparently on might we be… losing… anyone soon?
CS: “There’s always an opportunity to lose someone on this show. That’s what it’s about it, life and death and choices and hopes and fears. Yeah, of course, there’s always that risk. I read the script every week hoping it’s not me but one day that will come and if it has this season or not is yet to be seen. But I think everyone on this show gets an incredible story and when the death comes it’s almost a badge of honour, like, you’ve done your duty here. You’ve done everything you can here to the best of your ability. And it’s like wrapping up it up in a pretty little bow now go out into the universe and take all the amazing things that we’ve learned, blend them together and hopefully bring that to another show. So I will be very lucky to experience any death on the show.”
GN: “It’s really interesting too because when you think about the first episode, a lot of the deaths on the show, as shocking as they feel, you know, like Emily Kinney’s death was much more shocking than Chad Coleman’s because you had a whole episode to sort of go on the journey through Chad as he was going through denial and acceptance. And then the first episode you had two characters back to back WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! And people weren’t prepared for it they didn’t know how to really process it.”
Yeah, good work Daryl…
MCM: How do you think Maggie and Daryl will be the next time they see each other?
NR: “I can’t imagine that won’t be brought up. We were going to the premier and we were starting to rain and I turn to Jeffrey and go, ‘Man I wonder if I’m gonna catch any shit?’ and he goes, ‘I’m just gonna say it’s your fault,’ so he pops up on national TV and says it’s Daryl’s fault. To tell you the truth I never ever thought of that before that. I only thought, ‘God I hope Maggie forgives me.’”