LOS ANGELES—In this part two of our interviews on the set of “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, we continue with the Q&A with Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) and Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier).
Brandee Brooks, the show’s unit publicist, said that Season 8 will have 16 episodes. They will shoot until February and March next year.
This season will be split into two, with eight episodes each. When we were there at the Raleigh Studios Atlanta early last October, they were filming episodes for the season’s second half which will air in 2018. Specifically, they were taping episode 12, directed by Greg Nicotero, who has megged the most episodes. He’s also the wizard behind the special effects makeup.
According to Brandee, the season, mid-season premieres and season finales take nine days to shoot. All the other episodes take eight days to film.
“We have meetings in here all day long,” Brandee said about the screening room where we first assembled. She added that the production team watches rough cuts in this room “but we also do screenings in here… It’s an inner sanctuary.” It’s also called the graveyard because framed photos of actors who are no longer in the show are mounted on the walls.
The series recently celebrated its 100th episode. Looking back, what do you remember about your first day on the set? How have you evolved as an actor since that day? The very first day on the show for me was the third episode of the first season. The whole cast had become friends already, done press junkets and was very tight. I came in as the new guy with crazy things to do, like throw squirrels at people.
I felt like the new kid at school. I was trying to figure out the character a little bit in my very first scene. They tell me my brother is trapped on a roof and I’m holding a string of squirrels.
When they tell me about my brother, I turn around and saw all these faces that were already friends with each other. I got immediately insecure, like I had a chip on my shoulder. I started to not look people in the face, unless I was yelling at them.
After a while, he became somebody that people relied on. Now, Daryl looks you in the eye, means what he says and doesn’t mince words.
As people started to trust me and I became a member of the leaders’ circle, I slowly turned that into something else, and these people gave me a sense of self-worth that I’ve never had before. It has changed my character.
It’s been eight seasons of living in Georgia. How do you like it here? I love it here. It’s so pretty.
It’s been an ongoing changing process since the beginning. I live in New York, so it’s not that far away.
Can you talk about how Daryl is handling the war?
Once they put the photograph of Glenn on the wall, he stopped fighting for himself and was like, I’m going to fight for this guy. Since then, he has been on a one-way mission to take out the bad guys.
A lot of this season, Daryl has gone rogue. So there is a lot of him on his own, thinking that he’s doing the best thing. Some of those plans work and some of them don’t.
How much do the scripts still surprise you? As the show has gotten bigger, the scripts have become more top secret. I remember in the early seasons, we got like six scripts at a time, which was great. But with spoilers, so many extras taking sides out of the garbage, websites devoted to just spoiling the show called “Spoil the Dead,” the scripts have become top secret.
But, we do get the scripts before we shoot, so you have an idea where your character is going. But the lines and details you don’t really know until right before you do it.
Is there still a cool moment on the set? Like, look what they just did? They sharpen every day on this show. Sometimes, even if I’m not in the scene, I will come to watch because it’s super intense.
Do you still have the restaurant? I do. You should go. I put up a bunch of photos, but if you go again, get the Norman burger because Greg and I have a competition between the Greg Nicotero Burger and my burger.
With the big war, how is Carol coping with life now? Is she going back into the action? Yeah, she is. After hearing, discovering what actually happened with Negan, and him killing Glenn, Abraham and Olivia and how he’s descended onto Alexandria, she’s now ready for the fight.
How does it feel to be one of the last four from the first season? It’s pretty incredible to come into this room, see these faces on the wall and know that you’re still here. My face—or Carol’s—isn’t up there yet. It’s very humbling.
Did you think your character would only last one season? I thought this character might last a couple of episodes. It was basically the pilot. Carol didn’t have a lot to say. I thought, there’s not a whole lot going on here, she may not make it to the next episode. The next episode came and she was still there doing things. I was surprised that she survived the season.
Then, it was a little waiting game of whether they were going to pick up the series and whether or not Carol was going to be a part of it when it came back.
As I sit here today, I’m still surprised and I love what the writers have done with Carol. She’s so complicated and multilayered. I think all the cast members, in some way or another, are heroes to anyone who relates to them. It’s one of the reasons why I love this show.
What do you remember about your first day on the set? I was just taking in a whole lot. I didn’t even have it in my mind to get used to anything. I just wanted to stay out of the way. There was nothing on paper to do anything. So, I had my business with Sophia (Madison Lintz).
I spent a lot of time just observing, trying to play the character. I had never been a part of anything like this before. I had gotten some small guest spots in a couple of movies. I had never seen to this degree how a television series is shot.
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