Norman Reedus is coming off a zombie-killing high. The actor, who plays Daryl — the redneck biker with a heart of gold on AMC’s "The Walking Dead" — is taking a break between scenes to talk with Metro about the new season of the apocalyptic smash hit, its loyal fans and what he calls the “meatiest” season yet. The "Boondock Saints" star, photographer and former Prada model promises lots of surprises and more complex character development as the group faces its most dangerous threat ever this year.
Metro: You had your biggest viewership ever for episode one of the fourth season (16.1 million viewers) on Oct. 13. What can fans expect from the new season?
Reedus: The first season started off as a heartbeat and a hyperventilating breath, and the second season was more storytelling, and the third season was a full-blown war. This season has all of those things but it breathes a little differently. It’s definitely more character-focused and the best scripts that we’ve ever gotten.
Your character has really developed from the first season. What can we expect in season four in terms of Daryl’s growth? Will he continue to grow into a leader among the survivors?
He definitely has more of a leadership role this season. The thing with Daryl is that he is never trying to be Rick. When things need to be done he definitely gets them done but he isn’t trying to lead the whole group. He grew up a lot with the death of his brother. He’s becoming his own person and finding self-worth through helping these other people. You see him in a different place. He doesn’t seem very afraid of anything at this point.
Were you surprised that the show has become such a monster hit?
I knew I had something good with getting on "The Walking Dead." It’s one of those rare cases where everything fits together perfectly. There isn’t a weak link in our chain right now and I think we continue to get better and better.
What attracted you to the character as an actor?
Daryl’s storyline is different from everyone else. He’s blossoming in this world. He can take care of himself. He can hunt and track his own food. He can protect himself but he doesn’t have social skills. I think to watch this man become the guy that he is meant to be is pretty interesting.
Your character is also the most popular with female fans of the show. What do you think the appeal is?
Daryl wears his heart on his sleeve and means what he says. I started to play him at the beginning of the show as ashamed of what he was. He wouldn’t look the other characters in the eyes; he would stare down at the ground. But now he’s becoming this man that he can be proud of. I think that’s why he’s gotten the response that he has.
There’s a lot of blood on the show. Are you squeamish about blood personally? Has this changed that?
(Laughs) I’ve been in 40-something films and I think I’ve killed someone or gotten killed in all of them. No, usually when we are filming, I’m the most soaked person on the set.
Did you have to train to learn how to shoot a crossbow for the show?
John Sanders, our weapon guy, takes us to the gun range quite a bit and we practice with all of the weapons. It’s more to feel comfortable, especially when we are in a crowded situation, firing at zombies. I’ve gotten pretty good with a crossbow now. It’s been four years and at first I’d never held a crossbow before, but now I steal one every year. I’ve got a bunch back on my walls in New York, which is probably a no-no.
Daryl also has a bada-- chopper. Are you a lifelong cyclist, or did you learn for the show?
I've always been a rider. I came down here with my own motorcycle to the set. I ride to work on my motorcycle every day.