Coney Island in March? Let us state for the record: not the best time to visit. The boardwalk is abandoned, and even on a sunny, chilly day, there’s a creepy vibe without the crowds of summer milling about. But we have a special reason for making the trip from Manhattan: Norman Reedus is filming an episode of the second season of his AMC motorcycle travel series Ride with Norman Reedus, and one of his sets for the day is the Coney Island Museum.
The Walking Dead actor has already spent the morning filming at a motorcycle shop/taco stand in Brooklyn and will later catch up with pal Mario Batali and a very, very special guest in Manhattan, but for now, he’s about to learn the art of sword swallowing, fire swallowing, the electric chair, and getting comfy on a bed of nails inside the Coney Island Museum and Circus Sideshow.
Then, it’s off to Gargiulo’s, a popular local Italian eatery where Yahoo Entertainment will spend lunch with Reedus talking Ride, why travel is so special when there’s nothing but a helmet between you and your destination, and the interesting people you meet along the way (for Reedus in Season 2, premiering Nov. 5, that includes his TWD friends Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Greg Nicotero, Dave Chappelle, and Bill Murray).
1. Ride Season 2 begins with Reedus and TWD co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan riding through Spain, and finding out just how big The Walking Dead is in that country. Fans swarm them in a marketplace, on their bikes, and in the streets, as one woman asks Reedus if she can kiss him while taking a selfie with him. “I need it,” she tells him.
The longtime friends — they met in Los Angeles, a couple of decades before Morgan was cast as Negan — frequently ride together in Georgia and nearby when they’re in production on TWD, and Reedus says the motorcycle is his favorite road trip vehicle.
“It’s a different thing when you go into a new town and you can feel the town on your face, and you can smell the town, and you see the town instead of being in a car and texting, playing with the radio,” he says. “You’re in it. It’s like being on a horse.”
2. When Reedus is in public, there are very few minutes between fan encounters. While walking from the Coney Island Museum toward Gargiulo’s, he’s stopped by folks from the New York Aquarium. It’s just a couple of blocks down, and when they heard he was filming in the area, they wanted to ask him to come over and meet his namesake. “They said, ‘We’re all just big Walking Dead fans, so when this shark came in, we had to name him Daryl Dixon,’” Reedus relays. “Cool, right?”
He’s also just learned, via a text his bodyguard, Cookie, received, that another fan named her baby son Reedus. “That’s cool,” he says. “It’s usually farm animals, like a cow, or a sheep, or a pig [that are named after me]. And some babies, but not Reedus as a first name.”
Baby Reedus’s mom also included a photo of the newborn. Is he a cutie?
“Of course!” Norman says. “All babies are cute.”
More fan attention awaits him inside Gargiulo’s, a beautiful eatery that has been in operation for more than 100 years. A fellow diner stops by the table to tell him her niece loves him. “Actually, she’s obsessed with you,” she says. She returns a few minutes later as she’s readying to leave, and tells Reedus the niece is “head over heels with you,” and asks for a selfie with him. She’s not so experienced with her cell phone camera, so Norman takes the photo for her. “Tell your niece I said hi,” he says, and her reaction confirms her niece is not the only one who’s head over heels.
And our waiter is a Daryl Dixon devotee too. As Reedus samples the restaurant’s pasta, the waiter delivers soda and then a double espresso. He asks what Reedus is doing in the area. Norman tells him he’s filming an episode of Ride, which has included lots of snacks on this particular day, from tacos at Vax Moto, that motorcycle maintenance and storage facility/taco stand in Brooklyn, to hot dogs at Coney Island.
“This is, like, my third or fourth lunch today,” Reedus tells the waiter. “That’s the problem with this show — I just eat, and eat, and eat. We’re doing a whole New York episode. I live in New York, so. … You know that chef, Mario Batali? We’re on our way to go meet him next. Which means I’ll probably eat some more.”
3. The episode Reedus is filming during our set visit is the Season 2 finale, which airs Dec. 4. He did indeed have his fourth meal of the day, as his pal Mario Batali took him to his favorite place, Artichoke Pizza on MacDougal Street in Manhattan, for a slice.
“I called him and I said, ‘Hey do you want to be in this [Ride] episode in New York that we’re doing?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, can you have your girl call this other guy, because I’m at a nightclub in Italy right now.’ Then he sent me a picture of him at some nightclub, and told me he’d be back the next day,” Reedus says. “I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve eaten at Babbo, of course, and I’ve gone out with him a bunch. I remember one time he made me try something he was cooking — it was crushed deer hooves.”
And? “It wasn’t bad, to be honest, but it even tasted like it sounds. It tasted kind of meaty and yummy,” he says, convincing us that he is a very good, and culinarily adventurous, friend.
4. The New York Ride episode is Reedus’s love letter to his adopted hometown, so it’s fitting that viewers also meet Mingus, his teenage son, during the installment.
We remind Reedus that during The Walking Dead Season 6 premiere at Madison Square Garden back in 2015, he got more than 15,000 fans in the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to Mingus, who recently turned 18.
“He wants to go to film school, he wants to study making films — not on my side of the camera, on the other side of the camera,” the proud dad says of his son with supermodel Helena Christensen. “He’s got no desire to be filmed, at all. He got offered to audition for a movie once, and he goes, ‘Nah, I don’t want to ruin my life. I don’t want to be famous.’ I was like, ‘What a smart kid.’ He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He knows exactly what he wants to do. Straight A’s, and he’s super-polite to everyone, super-kind, super-thoughtful. He’s a great kid.”
In the Ride season finale, father and son meet up in Washington Square Park in NYC, where Mingus shows off another talent: chess.
“I taught him chess when he was really young, and he kept playing,” Norman says. “Now he beats me hands down, but he started winning competitions around Manhattan when he was a little boy. He started beating his teacher, then he started beating his next teacher, and he just got really, really good at it.
“I used to take him to Washington Square Park, and he’d play chess against the hustlers there. You’d see them start to panic, start to freak out that this kid’s going to beat them and they’re not going to get their $10. You play for money, or whatever. I remember this guy started panicking, like freaking out that he was about to lose, and Mingus stopped him. He was a little kid, and he stops and he goes, ‘Hey, hey, it’s OK. What you should have done 12 moves ago was this…’ I was like, ‘Twelve moves ago? Come again?’ He’s got that brain. He’s smart as f***.”
5. Ride’s second season premieres with a two-night event, and the second episode features Reedus’s road trip through the Lowcountry with Dave Chappelle. Chappelle is a Walking Dead fan. When Norman asks him during the episode if he’s ever geeked out about meeting another celebrity, Chappelle says yes. “You, man.”
The duo rides from Charleston, S.C., to Savannah, Ga., bonding over their love of motorcycles, while also talking about why Chappelle quit his hit Comedy Central series in 2006, and stopping at a club where the comedian performs stand-up.
That all plays out on camera, but Reedus told Yahoo Entertainment about an evening we unfortunately won’t see on TV.
“While we were [in South Carolina], Chappelle calls Bill Murray, and we all went out for drinks. You know, it was a thing, it was great,” Reedus says. “I had met Bill at South by Southwest, when I was there for the Jimmy Kimmel show. [Murray] was wearing a dress and was riding a donkey. He walked by me backstage, and I was like, ‘Holy s***, it’s Bill Murray.’ And I just followed him, and basically walked into his room. He goes, ‘What bands are you going to see?’ I go, ‘I’m going to go see The Damned after this.’ He pulls out an iPad, and he had all the lists of all the bands he was going to see. He’s like, ‘This is who I’m going to go see,’ and we talked for a second.
“And then I saw him again with Dave, and I reminded him: I was like, ‘You know, the first time I met you, you were wearing a dress and you were riding a donkey.’ He goes, ‘No, no, no, that was a full-size horse.’ I was like, ‘Sorry.’ When you’re hanging out with Dave Chappelle and Bill Murray at the same time — pretty f****ing awesome.”
Ride with Norman Reedus Season 2 premieres Nov. 5 at 11 p.m. on AMC; the series moves to Mondays at 9 p.m. on Nov. 6
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