'Walking Dead's' Norman Reedus: Daryl Will Do Anything to Save Beth and Carol

The Walking Dead Norman Reedus Still - H 2014
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Norman Reedus Still - H 2014

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 507, "Crossed," of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

AMC's The Walking Dead set the stage for the midseason finale during Sunday's episode when, for the first time this season, multiple storylines started to converge as Rick's group planned its attack on the hospital, while the church camp faced issues of their own and Maggie took over Abraham's leadership role.

After fortifying the church, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) joined Noah (Tyler James Williams) and headed for Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital to rescue Carol (Melissa McBride) and Beth (Emily Kinney). While Rick wanted to draw Dawn's (Christine Woods) awful guards out and form a military-like plan to seize the facility, Daryl backs Tyreese's peaceful plan to take hostages and offer a civilized trade for Carol and Beth.

The plan ultimately backfires after Sasha — still mourning Bob's death — is manipulated by one of Dawn's best guards, who knocks her out and presumably heads back to warn Dawn that they're about to be attacked.

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Inside Grady, Dawn tells Dr. Edwards (Erik Jensen) to take Carol off life support, but Beth comes to Carol's rescue. Dawn, in a rare move of trusting Beth again after her escape, gives her the key to the drug cabinet, and Beth pressures Edwards for a treatment plan for Carol.

Meanwhile, at the church, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the group's take on survival and escapes through his office's floorboards. He's quickly attacked by a walker sporting a cross and, again, can't put it down.

As for Abraham's (Michael Cudlitz) group, the former military man is still reeling from Eugene's (Josh McDermitt) truth bomb as the scientist doesn't regain consciousness until the end of the episode. While Maggie (Lauren Cohan) takes on the leadership role with GREATM (Tara's term for Glenn, Rosita, Eugene, Abraham, Tara and Maggie), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) bond while they fish for food.

The Hollywood Reporter turned to Reedus to break down the episode — including Daryl's epic zombie fight scene — as well as find out what to expect from the human vs. human confrontation to come during next week's midseason finale.

Daryl sided with Tyreese over Rick in this episode in a bid to get Beth back in a more peaceful exchange. What has shifted for Daryl that he now backs a nonviolent approach?

I don't know if it's totally nonviolence. You've just got to pick your battles. He's learned a lot from jumping in head first and things not panning out. When Rick says to Daryl, "We're not like that," and he throws a fit around the campfire and says that "We are the walking dead; that's not us." He says it for Daryl's sake. I think all of these characters give each other little gifts here and there. Last week's episode with Carol, when we see the little kids and she goes to put them out of their misery and Daryl tells her she doesn't have to, he doesn't tell her he's going to; he tries to do it while she's sleeping. It just shows how close all these characters are. When we're sitting around the fire and Rick says that, Daryl needs to hear [it]. Daryl looks up to Rick and follows him. And if Rick is saying things like that, Daryl thinks everything is f—ed, so [Rick] has to recognize in himself and through Daryl what he's saying and has to backtrack and say, "No, you're right, there is hope."

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One of the kidnapped cops tricks Sasha and runs back presumably to warn Dawn. What kind of ramifications will that have on Rick's group now that it appears their peaceful plan has backfired and they no longer have the element of surprise? Can they really do this peaceful hostage exchange?

Daryl is thinking, "What's it going to take?" He doesn't want anything to happen to Beth, so if he can avoid bullets flying back and forth and get her out of there, that's his first option. Daryl in seasons one, two and three would have just gone in there and burned the whole building down and taken the bodies out. But now he's thinking and doesn't want to lose Beth or get hit by a stray bullet or caught in the crossfire. He's trying to save the hostage instead of killing him because it might be a bargaining tool. But I don't think that our group thinks we're going to lose. Look at us. You have those people at the hospital and they're armed with guns, but I really don't think they're as bad as the Governor (David Morrissey) or some of the other things we've gotten out of. The main concern is not hurting our girls in the process. Daryl keeps losing girls — it's a lot like real life! (Laughs.)

Daryl seems to be the only member of the group who is interested in finding Beth. Do you find it odd that Maggie was eager to go in a different direction?

That was curious. We all cling on to things in certain ways. I think that gets addressed later on, so there will be an answer to that. You'll hear different backstories. Beth has meant a lot to Daryl. It wasn't so much lovey-dovey feelings; she had hope in her. Hope in anyone is hard to find in this world. He thought, "Hell, we could live in this house together and maybe things can be good. I know we're going to have to leave this house at some point but let's hold on to this for a second." If he had butterflies in his stomach, I don't think he understood what those were, but he was down to feel those butterflies. She means a lot to him, as does Carol. It's a very important mission for Daryl.

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During last week's episode, Carol acknowledges that Daryl has really become a man. How much do you think his approach toward rescuing Beth and Carol is connected to that?

A lot. In the beginning, he would have gone in there guns blazing. He's matured a lot. What's interesting about that episode, too, there was so much fire and dialogue about ashes and burning out and being reborn like a phoenix. There were so many hidden things in that. There are so many moments in that episode where, "I've got your back" and "You don't have to tell me what happened, you can tell me when you want." And so many Norman-likes-Melissa things in that episode as well as Daryl-likes-Carol — and vice versa. It's those moments that pay off because we've been in this fight for so long.

Melissa McBride is just killing it. We're still not over the flowers episode.

[Showrunner] Scott M. Gimple is really writing good things for her and she's a really good actress and pulling them off. It's fun to watch. I think that flowers episode was the most well-written episode we've every done. I remember reading that and all of us were just like, "Wow." Scott threw her a Hail Mary pass and she caught it and spiked it.

Carol and Beth are two of, if not the two, most important, people to Daryl. What lengths will he go to in order to save both of them?

I think he would do anything to get them back. He's trying to be careful because of the situation, but there are no lengths he wouldn't go to. He's always been like that, even with Sophia. He went the extra mile and Rick saying, "Wait for us, we'll make a plan," and Daryl says he's better off on his own. You can't really stop him. When the group needed baby formula, he just went for it. He's balls-out on everything, and that also goes with matters of the heart. When he feels things, he really feels them.

It's been incredible to see the growth that you've brought to this character since the show started. This is a guy who grew up with a racist brother and never really had a sense of family. As much as Rick may be the group's protector, Daryl has become its caretaker.

Daryl wears his heart on his sleeve. Taking the book from that shelter about child abuse, he's not the type of person that's like, "Look at me, I'm doing this." I don't think he was happy that Carol saw that book; that wasn't the plan. He was going to sneak that book away. Daryl is growing as a person and growing as a man all the time on the show and he's still got a long way to go. He's never been the guy who's looking for attention. Even beating up Randall way back when everyone was freaked out about the Governor and an army that may come after them. Daryl quietly walked in, beat the crap out of him and then quietly came back with bloody knuckles and said "Here's what's up." He's always been that guy who gets shit done. Even at the beginning of last year when we were in the writers room and they said Daryl would be a leader at the prison and people would look up to him, I said, "A reluctant leader, right?" I didn't want to come in and be that "look at me" guy. Daryl isn't that guy. It's nice to keep moving and grow on the show.

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Dawn's group now has the advantage of knowing they're about to be attacked by Rick and company. How does this change the group's plan to rescue Carol and Beth? Can they still make a trade?

I don't think they're going to win in a fight between us. I don't know that they know what we're about. If you put them on one side of the room and us on the other, you'll definitely know who's going to walk out of the building. I think their ace up their sleeve is that they have Beth and Carol on their side, and that's the tricky part. That's why we can't go in there and kill all their cops beforehand; we have to use them to barter for our girls. That's really where our group's head is at. We have a bunch of badasses on our show right now and when they round the corner, I don't think a bunch of people living in a hospital are going to be thinking, "We can take 'em."

Knowing what the audience does at this point, do you think anyone at that hospital — Dawn, Dr. Edwards, etc. — should survive? Are these good people?

As a character, I don't know who they are. I just know they have our girls. As a viewer, I think they should all die. They may have started off with a good plan, but the world has won and they drank the Kool-Aid.

You filmed one of the most disgusting walker scenes the show has depicted thus far: Grabbing a walker by the eyes and ripping its head off. What was shooting that like? What was that head made of?

It was awesome. It was heavy and fun walking around with that on my hand like a puppet all day and f—ing with the crew! (Laughs.) I really liked that. I liked beating that guy with the head. It was awesome. It's weird: In those situations, if you're ever in a fight, you don't ever have a rational thought mid-swing. You just go bananas and see red — then when it's over, you may have a rational thought. But you don't have rational thoughts in the middle of a fight. I don't think Daryl does; maybe other people — like Hannibal Lecter — but I don't think Daryl does. It had to be aggressive. It's fun and I'm a dude and I like to get filthy, and I was filthy that day.

This episode set up a major confrontation in the midseason finale. What can you say about how deadly next week's episode will be?

The midseason finale is pretty gnarly. It's pretty balls-out. It's like the difference between a really hard rock Led Zeppelin song and a really soft one. There are those two opposites that get blended in before the midseason ends.

The Walking Dead's midseason finale airs Sunday, Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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