Norman Reedus (Credit: Mark Schafer/AMC)
Norman Reedus’s six-episode motorcycle road trip series Ride With Norman Reedus has been a fun way to help count down the weeks until The Walking Dead star and his castmates return to AMC for Season 7 and the big reveal on who was unfortunate enough to meet the business end of Negan’s barbed wire-covered bat, Lucille.
Before the Season 1 finale of Ride airs Sunday with Reedus’s excellent adventure to Key West with Easy Rider legend Peter Fonda, the man also known as Daryl Dixon talked to Yahoo TV about his dream trip with his counterculture hero, about how — if Ride gets a likely greenlight for Season 2 — he’d like to give his fans the chance to road-trip with him, about his favorite item on the menu of his new restaurant collaboration with TWD pal Greg Nicotero, and his prediction for how you’re going to feel about the Season 7 TWD premiere.
Do you feel like you kind of saved the best for last with this Peter Fonda episode?
It was definitely a good one. I liked them all for different reasons. This one with Peter, he’s such an icon, and then to sit there with him and talk about his life. … I kind of just geeked out on everything he said. He’s such an extraordinary person, and to be back in an area he used to live in and hear his stories of when he lived there and to meet his friends and hear stories of Hemingway — it was pretty amazing.
He talked about traveling and seeing things “outside the cage,” which is such a cool way of putting it, and also just made a motorcycle road seem incredibly fun.
Yeah, you know, you watch movies like Easy Rider and the way they used to talk back then, all the groovy one-liners they had, and then you meet somebody who actually really talks like that, who really lived like that, it makes it so personable and real. It was quite extraordinary. I used to have a poster that he signed when I first met him, and he wrote, “Ride hard or stay at home” on it. That phrase, I think, will probably be on his grave one day. It was written for him. You know what I mean?
It’s funny, you had told me part of that story before, and when you were talking about it in this episode, how you had met him years earlier when he was filming something near your home in Hollywood, I just kept thinking, if someone had told you then that you would, years later, go on this incredible road trip with one of your heroes, what would you have said?
I would never have believed you. It’s weird how things come full circle over a period of time, and you never know how much time that circle is going to take up. But sometimes they come full circle and they have an extra deep meaning to them, and they’re extra personal to you. I don’t know, it’s like a dream come true, really.
Peter Fonda, Norman Reedus, Tyler Mullins, and Bryan Mullins (Credit: Mark Schafer/AMC)
Do you think now about, if you do future seasons of the show, you might do a ride like that with someone who looks up to you, who would feel the way you do about riding with Peter?
I would love to. I’d love to involve fans on a ride or do some stuff with Make-a-Wish. I do a lot of stuff with Make-a-Wish already. I’d really like to, if it comes full circle and full circle again and full circle again… it’s fun and it’s extra special that way, so I hope to.
What’s the best feedback you’ve gotten from viewers or from friends, family about the show?
That it’s me. From family I get, “It’s nice to see you being you.” They can tell that it’s unscripted and it’s all on the fly, and interaction with other people is genuine. From family I get that, but I also get big Harley biker guys coming up to me going, “Hey brother, it’s awesome. I love the show; it’s great.” Then I also get girls coming up to me and going, “I’ve always wanted to get into motorcycles, and having those girls on your show really inspired me to take motorcycle lessons and get into it, and it’s been very empowering for me, and it’s been great for me.” Then I get the couples who ride cross-country once a year and live on their motorcycles, and they’re up there in ages, and they come up and they say, “We’re plotting next year’s ride based on some of the places that you visited.” It’s like I’m getting a whole spectrum of good feedback from a lot of places.
Norman Reedus and Caramel Curves (Credit: Mark Schafer/AMC)
Did you imagine so many different kinds of people would be drawn to Ride?
No. I’m approaching it like I’m a novice myself, and I’m not trying to be an expert. I’m not a novice, but I’m definitely not as schooled as some of the people that I meet and some of the people that I know. I’m hoping that people always watch the show and feel like they’re on [the trips] with me. My mistakes are genuine mistakes, and my goofy stuff that I do, that’s me, so I’m not trying to be very polished. I also didn’t want hair and makeup to be on the show, and I didn’t want wardrobe to be on the show. I wanted every time I’m sweaty and out in the middle of the desert, to take off my helmet and look like I’m sweaty. I wanted people to feel like they were there, and if I took off my helmet and then you cut to me and I’m perfectly groomed and clean it just wouldn’t make sense. I really wanted it to be authentic, you know? So you’re like, “Yeah, you have helmet hair in every scene of the show.” I’m a dude. I like to be sweaty, and I like it to be real. I like to have some mud all over me, and I like the little cuts and stuff on my chin.
I love that Peter Fonda was uncensored, though I’m guessing there were probably stories that were told when the mics were off that maybe you cannot share ever on TV?
Yeah. I’ll save that for later on, but yeah, there were definitely stories I was like, “Shhh, you’re miked, buddy, you’re miked.” He’s that guy, though. He says what he wants, and that’s some of the beauty of him. When you’ve done as much as that guy has done, you’re allowed to do that. You’ve earned it. You get to say whatever you want, and that guy, he’s one of those guys. He can tell me whatever he wants.
It’s fun to watch the two of you bond in the episode, and it seems you’ve developed a genuine friendship. It’s also really striking when you’re watching him on the bike, and interacting with people, that at no time do you think about the fact that this guy is 76 years old.
Trust me, he outdid me in every single way, every single time we were out, every single night. Yeah, we do have a good bond. I still talk to him today. I talk to him all the time. It’s funny, we got trapped in Key West with flights back to New York and back to Los Angeles, because that was when that big snowstorm hit New York. We were in the airport bar, actually, watching flights get canceled all the way down the TV screen. There happened to be a bunch of professional sailors there with their sailboats, doing a whole thing in Florida, and Peter also used to do that. He was commanding this room of about 20 strapping men who were all sun-kissed and telling sailboat stories, and they were eating up every single thing he said. He was definitely holding court, and then we meet somebody who’s a pilot, and he’s like, “I used to fly a so-and-so plane,” then this guy… I mean, there’s nothing that guy hasn’t done. He’s kind of amazing.
Then we finally get on the plane, and the company Bowtech that does the crossbows and compound bows for The Walking Dead calls me, and they’re like, “Hey, we got a new compound bow. We want to send you one of our new compound bows. What color strings do you want? What’s your size for the bow?” I’m sitting there next to Peter, and I’m like, “Hey man, you want a compound bow?” He’s like, “Yeah,” so we get a compound bow sent to him, and I’m getting red, white, and blue strings on it to match his motorcycle in Easy Rider. He just texted me the other day and he’s like, “Yeah, I got the bow. It’s awesome. I’m going to put a laser sighting on it.” I mean, he’s full-on, that guy.
OK, on the road trip theme, your new restaurant with Greg Nicotero, Nic & Norman’s, is probably sparking more than a few road trips to Senoia, Ga., this summer. How long had you been planning this?
We’ve been planning this for years. Originally it was just going to be a little bar, and we were going to have our Teamsters on the show, they’re all excellent grillers, so we were going to have a little bar and have them making tacos and stuff and have it be a little place that the cast and the crew can hang out — and somehow that morphed into a full-fledged restaurant. Robert Kirkman got involved and [executive producer] Dave Alpert got involved, and Scott Tigchelaar, who owns the studios down here in Georgia, and his brother. It turned into a full-blown restaurant, and I know nothing about the restaurant business. Luckily, we have good people behind us, and it’s been jam-packed. I was there last Saturday, and there was a three-and-a-half hour wait for a table. It’s packed, and it’s delicious, and people are going and pigging out. It’s got really cool memorabilia on the wall. It’s got some of my photos, some of Greg’s photos, some of the stuff from the show. It’s like an inside little look into what we’re doing down here, and you get good food, and every once in a while you see somebody from the cast or the crew there.
— The Walking Dead (@TheWalkingDead)June 26, 2016
I love the logo. It’s a subtle, but really nice little nod to Daryl and the show.
Yeah, Greg made that. He came up with the name and logo, as a matter of fact.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
I have my own burger. It’s the healthy burger on the menu, and I tried to do it… it’s sort of like an In-N-Out burger wrapped in lettuce. It’s got beetroot on it and a fried egg. It’s bison. I’m doing a leaner burger.
Greg also opened his big interactive attraction at Universal Studios this summer. Have you been?
You know, I went there and did an interview, but I didn’t have time to go see [the attraction]. I think it was just completed the day that I was there. But I definitely plan to go back.
What would a Norman Reedus-designed, Daryl Dixon-themed interactive experience be like?
Wow, I think you would have to get on the motorcycle and you’d have to zigzag in between zombies. You would have to almost reach something, and then it’s taken away from you, and you’d have to just keep chasing something, whether it be a girl or saving someone’s life or whatever, but it would be a constant, torturous experience all the way from beginning to end. You’d come out of it exhausted. Yeah, with a motorcycle, and you’d have to shoot crossbows and stuff. You’d have to stab a bunch of stuff. You’d be really, really smelly by the end of the ride.
I know you can’t say much, but you know how shocked fans were by The Walking Dead Season 6 finale, what their reaction to it was. So, having filmed the continuation of that story, what do you predict the reaction will be to the Season 7 premiere?
More shock. Definitely more shock. Oh, yeah. Shock and tears.
The show often offers up a little bit of levity even in the most dire circumstances. Is there one single thing that will make us laugh in the season premiere?
Not one thing. I mean, I can’t think of anything in there that’s going to make you laugh. No, I’m guessing not. I’m guessing no laughter.
The Ride With Norman Reedus Season 1 finale airs Sunday, July 17 at 10 p.m. on AMC.