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Norman Reedus opens up about 'The Walking Dead,' his rabid fans, and landing the role of a lifetime

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Fans of AMC's "The Walking Dead" are eagerly awaiting Sunday's episode, when the series finally returns from its two-month hiatus. Since the smoke cleared from the brawl that pitted the people of Woodbury against Rick and the crew, things have continued to grow increasingly insane. The Governor lost one of his eyes; Rick imagined he saw Shane during the gunfight; and the Dixon brothers, Daryl and Merle, reunite.

The midseason cliffhanger left fans with a bevy of questions that need answering. Will Andrea stay in Woodbury with The Governor? What will happen with Daryl and Merle in the zombie pit? Luckily Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, sat down to chat about Merle, Daryl's insane fan following, and the audition process that landed him the role of a lifetime.

In the last episode prior to the break, we saw all hell breaks loose as Daryl, Rick, and the crew went into Woodbury to save Maggie and Glen. Rick and the crew escape, but you don't. We see you reunite with your brother Merle as you two meet in zombie pit arena. What was going through Daryl's mind at that point?

Oh man, I tried to play that as much as little brother as possible. I wanted to play it as though I was going in to get executed. (Michael) Rooker and I could have both played it as two wild animals: We will fight our way out of here; we will kill everybody. It wasn't really about the arena, or The Governor, or the townspeople. It was about me seeing my big brother for the first time in this situation.

So I wanted to play that up as much as possible. To be the little brother, and he sees big brother, and he is like, "Help me, help me." And for him (Merle) to look at me as if, "What have I done, and this is my fault. How are we going to get out of this, or am I going to have to kill my younger brother?" To play that as big as possible, and it turned out great. I am glad we did it like that.

AMC recently released a trailer that reveals that you escaped the zombie pit. Are you and Merle together?

We are always together. Merle is always looking for Daryl. Daryl is always looking for Merle. They are blood, so they are always together. Whether we get out of that or not is yet to be seen.

How has Daryl's relationship with Merle changed since you split up in Season 1? Do you think Daryl is happy sticking around with Rick and the crew?

Daryl was always destined to become mini Merle. I always tried to play him as if he grew up sort of embarrassed of who he was and not proud of who he was. There are certain secrets that are revealed later in the season about our intentions with that group in the beginning. I never wanted to play him -- when he was away from Merle -- as a drug taker, or a racist, or any of those things. I wanted him to want to be somebody else. I wanted him to be better than what he was destined to become.

Now that he has spent this time away from his brother, he has learned to get along with these people, whether he wanted to or not. Having these people rely on him in any capacity is something that Daryl has never had before. He has grown into this sense of self worth for the first time. He is becoming this new man as this is all happening. He is learning to be proud of himself through the eyes of these other people. Rick has become the sort of brother that Merle wasn't.

Will Daryl's loyalty be with Rick or with Merle?

Oh man, I guess that depends. If he ever had to do that, he would fight to keep everybody. I think he is going to put a lot of faith in letting that happen. Merle would be a very good asset in the zombie apocalypse. He would be somebody good to have on your side. Maybe Rick would look at him a little differently and realize that he might need him to be there. There are a couple of different things happening here.

I heard that Glen Mazzara (executive producer of "The Walking Dead") gets a ton of fan mail explicitly saying not to kill off Daryl. Is that true, and what is your take on Daryl's fan base?

I have a big Internet family. I get a lot of presents. (Glen) told me right before the break, "Now I will have the worst Christmas ever." I said, "Why?" And he was like, "'Cuz people are going to be threatening me all through Christmas." I told him, "It was your fault, buddy." (Laughs) I love Glen. Glen is awesome.

What is your take on Daryl's fan base, who are known to be crazy about your character? Didn't they come up with a name for themselves?

There are like 20 different groups. There is Daryl's Dolls, Norman's Nymphos, Dixon's Vixens, Dixon's Sluts. There is a whole bunch of them. They sort of coincide with the Boondock Betties. I think that they should be one giant roller derby. They are all so cool. "Boondock Saints" became this huge cult film because of word of mouth. At that time, it felt like it was our movie. It belonged to all of us.

I am still getting that love on "The Walking Dead" for Daryl. I try to respond to everyone as much as I can. I am super appreciative of all the presents I get: all the paintings and all the drawings; the shirts, and the hats, and everything else. Everyone is super cool. I feel like I am not just doing a job, and I am not just doing it by myself. I feel like I am doing it with all these people. It is nice to have this giant, cool army behind me. I am having the time of my life.

What was your take on Daryl as you auditioned for the role, and are you happy with his evolution in the series?

I went to California for the pilot season. I read all these things, and it was like roommate drama, buddy buddy cop show, lawyer show, and doctors. Then I read "Walking Dead," and I was like, "What is this about? This is so up my alley." They are like, "Oh, we don't think that there are any parts available." I was like, "Just get me in it, just for a future guest spot in it." I have known about Robert Kirkman's giant, amazing world he has created. It had all the best elements.

I went in, and they had me read Merle's lines. I was like, "Yeah man, this is an awesome part." They told me it was already taken. So I went back to New York, and I got a call to come back and redo it again. It was a little different version of it with some new lines. I went in, and I read it. I thought maybe Rooker can't do it. Maybe he made the worst mistake ever and said no. So I read for it and got a call saying that Frank (Darabont) wrote a new part. I just got really, really lucky.

"The Walking Dead" Season 3 resumes Sunday, 2/10 at 9 PM ET on AMC.

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