The Walking Dead: Norman Reedus, Greg Nicotero and Christian Serratos interview
With The Walking Dead back for season 7B, we chatted to the actors behind Daryl and Rosita, as well as director/VFX legend Greg Nicotero...
With Season 7 of The Walking Dead now in full swing, we had a chance to catch up with several of its core players, who were all in town for Walker Stalker Con London (now in its second year) and yet again provided us with an opportunity to talk about what’s been happening to their characters.
Roundtables can be a tricky prospect, especially when multiple people are aiming questions at the interviewees, but a confession of tears yielded an unexpected and awesome result for this particular writer, who found all three guests – Norman Reedus (Daryl), Christian Serratos (Rosita) and special effects legend and director Greg Nicotero – on fine form. Mr Reedus even seemed to make a beer appear with the power of his mind at one point, which he dutifully shared with Nicotero. So without further ado…
Rosita has had an increase in hostility in season 7, not just towards Negan, but towards her friends like Sasha and Eugene, has it been a challenge to keep that aggression up?
Christian Serratos: It was very easy to be hostile to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character – he wasn’t very pleasant to us and our family! But yeah, I was mentioning how fun it is to do any real scene with any of our fellow actors because we’re all so close and we trust each other so much, that to portray such very dramatic material is really easy and fun.
But with Sonequa [Martin-Green, who plays Sasha], for instance, we’re so close, so getting to be a little salty towards her is fun. We cut and we just giggle and play and that’s what is great is that we’re comfortable enough with each other that we’re allowed to just play and know that we’re gonna get a good result.
It’s good to have Daryl back…
Norman Reedus: Thank you. I like your shirt by the way (I’m wearing a Terminus themed one, so my choice is instantly validated)
… because for me, I’m a fan of the character and it seems like ever since the group hit Alexandria he’s retreated, even from the core group and has been in the background and now he’s coming back to prominence now he’s escaped. Do you think because of his troubled past that he actually thrives on adversity now?
Norman Reedus: It was interesting when we shot the… when we first got to Alexandria and I didn’t feel like Daryl fit in there. Those were the people who didn’t accept him before this went down and I remember shooting that party scene and I’m out by the tree watching the party and I was never written into Alexandria after that, I was always was doing something outside of the group.
I do feel like he was the type of kid that was pushed up against the wall and had to… like people fight for different reasons you fight to prove a point, or for revenge, or to protect somebody. I felt he was the guy who always had his back up against the wall and so he was always fighting – I don’t think he wanted to fight all the time, I don’t think that was the adversity he was looking for that fuelled him then, but I felt like he’s the type of animal that was brought up that way and so when push comes to shove, he’s the first one swinging, you know?
But I do also feel that he likes to be put on a mission, he wears his heart on his sleeve, he protects the people he loves and he means it. So I don’t think he shies away from it, but I don’t think he is a thrill seeker or anything like that.
Were you surprised by peoples’ reaction to the violence in this season, especially in terms of the opening episode deaths?
Greg Nicotero: In regards to all that we felt that it served the story, in order to make it uncomfortable in order to make it thought provoking and horrific, we felt that there was a brutality in this world that propels our story. Everything that happens in that first episode shapes what happens in the rest of the season and I don’t think we would have done it any differently, it served the purpose of the story and if you look at any other show; Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad it’s to serve the story, we don’t do it to be gratuitous, even though people look at it that way, but it serves a point.
To me that’s not even what’s so shocking about the episode what’s shocking about the episode is the next morning when the smoke clears and these people are sitting in a circle just completely broken and we’ve seen Rick with an axe in his hand about to cut Carl’s hand off. To me that’s what’s shocking about that episode – it’s not the deaths, it’s the fact we watched our hero be reduced to complete subservience and it’s uncomfortable.
I mean you never want to see your hero turn into that and that’s what we did for the first half of the season – watching Rick not activated and not doing anything was very difficult, but then that’s what our story is about, we have these worlds… so you know I remember when we shot the finale last year – all the actors we were excited about where the show was going, because with the addition of Negan it means that after seven years the show can continue to grow and be organic.
If we did the same thing over and over again the show would suffer with fatigue, so people that love what we do on the show might not react the same way when the show evolves, but they have to trust that the journey we’re taking them on will be well worth it.
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And do you consider fan reaction when shaping the next season at all?
GN: No. Never. You can’t! I mean Scott Gimple would jump for joy, knowing that you asked that question, because there are some people that actually think we read the reviews and we tailor the show to what the fans think. We’re going to write the show we want to write and if people react to it, or they don’t like it, it’s not going to change… it’s never going to change what any of these actors do if somebody goes “Oh Daryl should do this!” doesn’t mean that he would do it…
NR: Look at my hair!
GN: No, we are absolutely dedicated to telling the story we want to tell and I don’t know any artist that would ever want to be influenced by somebody saying “Oh you used the wrong colour on that painting…” Really? Well that’s the colour that it is, sorry!
And it’s always the pay-off that makes the journey worth it. You were saying about the violence, but almost get used to the trauma of losing the characters throughout the years, but when Rick and Daryl were reunited and they hugged, I wept…
At this point Norman Reedus gets up out of his chair and proffers his hand for a high-five, which connects and makes my year.
NR: That’s what the fuck I’m talking about.
… because those characters are important to me and that dynamic has been sorely missed. This time last year you (Greg Nicotero) were teasing Rick and Daryl were going to have that little road trip together, when they found Jesus… wait that sounds wrong! [they laugh] But having them back together again was impactful, as they’ve been a core part of the show since the start.
GN: But that would’ve never worked if we haven’t seen what Rick and Daryl went through – that embrace would’ve just been like “Hey man, good to see you again” but by going on that journey with them, you know watching Rosita’s journey when she pulled the trigger and Olivia died and Eugene was taken – she’s a different woman. When Abraham was killed – she’s a different woman and what’s great about the show is that these characters evolve and they change and they’re activated…
NR: You love that word!
GN: Well I do! Because that’s the best word to describe it, because one minute they’re like “Oh well, we’ll get some guns and then we’re gonna go off and kill Negan” and she’s like “Oh fuck that, we’re gonna go and kill Negan now. We can’t wait until tomorrow.
NR: I mean, look at Chandler – from having to kill his mom, to what he is now – that storyline’s crazy.
GN: Doesn’t he turn eighteen this year?
NR: Yeah, he’s got more facial hair than me, it’s crazy!
GN: And his voice is deeper than Andy’s!
And with that our time was sadly up! Norman Reedus, Greg Nicotero and Christian Serratos thank you very much!
The Walking Dead, Mondays at 9pm on FOX. Chat more about The Walking Dead here.