The Walking Dead heads into its tenth season as a series that, once defined by a sense of order – afforded by its close following of creator Robert Kirkman’s popular comic book series of the same name – now embarks on a zombie apocalypse trek into the unknown, both story-wise and personnel-wise. It’s something with which star Norman Reedus is acutely aware, especially as the series says goodbye to longtime cast member Danai Gurira this season.
Reedus, who’s played Daryl Dixon on the AMC show since its very first season back in 2010, offers his thoughts in an EW interview on what’s in store for Season 10 and the imminent exit of Gurira’s sword-swinging fan-fave Michonne, who debuted back in Season 3. For Reedus, who, in the last few years, has had to watch the exits of cast mainstays such as Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs and even his close friend and portrayer of the show’s protagonist, Andrew Lincoln, it’s always a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to a longtime colleague. As Reedus explains of Gurira’s last day on the set:
“Yeah, it was really sad for me. I had become so close to Danai and I just adore her. She’s somebody that always shows up at and brings the noise every single time she’s on camera and she’s become a really good friend, a partner.”
However, don’t expect to find even a tinge of bitterness in Reedus, who clearly understands that an actor’s creative inspiration is often defined by necessary changes. As he further comments:
“I get it, though, she has other things that she wants to do. Her dream is she’ll run a show. That’s what her dream’s been for a while, and now’s her time to do it.” He adds, “I can’t be mad at her, like I can’t be mad at [Andrew Lincoln] to want to be with his kids. You can’t be mad at him if he missed them endlessly. Her last day, we had some fireworks and gave her a send-off. We miss Danai. She’s such a strong part of our cast and such a valuable member of our family and so I miss her all the time.”
Regardless, The Walking Dead‘s decaying world will keep on spinning, with Season 10 looking to be a loose adaptation of the comic series storyline called “The Whisperer War,” in which the survivor communities of Alexandria and Hilltop engage in a morbid conflagration with the stealthy, savage skin-mask-wearing group known as the Whisperers, who, led by Alpha (Samantha Morton), made their debut last season, leaving a monumental impression with the killing (and subsequent severed-head-piking) of several beloved characters. Indeed, Reedus describes a dynamic that has become irreparably reshaped (both within and without,) by said incident:
“It’s full paranoia this season. It’s the group eating itself and having to deal with the consequences of just being trapped in all different directions. You can’t tell who’s on the good side, who’s on the bad side. Some people are playing other people for the wrong reasons and it’s kind of the breakdown internally, which is causing everybody to make these decisions that are just horrible, actually.”
He further explains:
“So, we have some people that are on this mission for revenge, some people that are haunted by visions of the past. Then you have some characters that are in totally different circumstances that they’ve never been. How can you trust in them? Then sometimes you think that you can’t, and then you can, then you can’t. It’s a real feeling of paranoia and claustrophobia this season.”
Reedus also acknowledges the long-formed evolution of Daryl’s character; an arc that started back in Season 1 as a misanthropic critter-hunting yokel loner, eventually becoming an honorably dependable soldier in the group’s perpetual struggle for survival. Indeed, Reedus hints that Daryl – after nearly a decade’s worth of denial – is finally embracing his role as a leader amongst the communities. As he states:
“Daryl’s got the ghosts of all these other characters that used to be on the show, they’re haunting him. He’s finding himself being in these roles of decision-making for a group. He’s got people to protect. It’s a much different Daryl than we’re used to seeing. He just makes decisions based on whatever he felt he wanted to do or whatever. You saw last year, where Daryl’s visiting Hilltop and then Alpha knocks on the door and says, “I want my daughter back, who’s in charge here?” Nobody says anything, so Daryl was like, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
Lastly, regarding the show’s long-teased showmance between Daryl and fellow Season 1 veteran Carol (Melissa McBride), Reedus isn’t confirming anything. However, while Reedus still classifies the duo as “two really good friends,” he doesn’t exactly dismiss the notion, especially since both characters are currently single. He explains:
“Daryl, he’s kind of got his side-eye on Carol right now. She’s been through a lot with him in the last year, and he’s kind of worried about her and she’s not necessarily making the best decisions. I think that scene in particular, she’s tense, sitting around going, “What if?” There’s got to be more than this?”
Regardless, AMC’s The Walking Dead small screen franchise – akin to one of its undead walkers – remains undauntedly ambulatory despite taking hits like crucial cast departures and lower ratings. Besides its continuing spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, the mythology will expand with yet another spinoff series, and will even see former star Andrew Lincoln continue the further exploits of Rick Grimes with an upcoming theatrically-released film.
The Walking Dead Season 10 gets things started this Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.