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Norman Reedus thanks fans for giving Daryl Dixon, 'The Walking Dead,' lots of love

Norman Reedus doesn't watch TV, so "The Walking Dead" star wasn't familiar with any of the characters his TV persona, Daryl Dixon, defeated in RedEye's Best TV Character Tournament over the past two weeks.

On Wednesday, the zombie-killing Daryl defeated Abed Nadir of NBC's "Community" to win the fourth tournament, and Reedus was pretty stoked to be the new champ.

"I just want to thank all the people who are voting and the people who are watching the show and helping it become such a big success. It's all because of them, the fans," he told me Wednesday from New York, adding humbly. "I would like to thank the cast and the writers and the producers of the show for giving me such interesting stuff to play with and interesting people to play with."

But Reedus' nuanced portrayal of Daryl is the reason the character, who does not appear in the graphic novels upon which the AMC hit is based, has become a fan favorite. And he appreciates all the love he gets from fans.

"The fans have been so key to keeping Daryl alive on the show," he said. "I'm eternally grateful."

Reedus, who was heading off to Mexico with his 11-year-old son Thursday, talked more about his approach to playing Daryl, his newfound love for "Portlandia" and what fans can expect when "The Walking Dead" returns Feb. 12 on AMC.

Thanks for calling.  
Yeah, of course. Oh, happy holidays man.  

So you know about the tournament. I saw you tweeted it a while ago.  
Yeah, I won. Woo!  

Well, almost. (We talked about an hour before the tournament ended.)
Oh, I still haven't won. [Laughs.] Vote redneck!  

You've got about 50 minutes left and you're only ahead by one percentage point.  
Oh. What the heck? All right, cool. Well hey, I'm happy to be in the final. [Laughs.]

What did you think of the tournament?  
It's funny because it's gone back and forth; people are like kind of going to war.  

Right.  
I've never seen the show "Community," but I like Joel McHale. I did "The Soup," but I'm sure ["Community" is] hysterical. But yeah, I'm happy to just be a part of it. And you know, people are giving Daryl a lotta love, so. I'm just happy to be part of a cool show. I'm happy to have a job. [Laughs.] You know what I mean?  

I do. Let run down all of the people that Daryl has stopped. First Lydia Adams from "Southland."
I'm sorry.  

Then you beat Tyrion Lannister from "Game of Thrones." And then Walter Bishop from "Fringe," and now you're in the final.  
Nice.  

Are you familiar with those other characters at all?  
No. [Laughs.] In all honesty, I never watch television. I just got cable like a week ago. I'm so far behind. I just started watching "Portlandia," which I'm addicted to right now.  

Yeah, that comes back in just a few weeks.  
Yeah, around the 6th, which is my birthday.  

Nice. Happy birthday.  
Thanks. Yeah, a birthday miracle. But it used to be actors, like, you get a TV show and you'd be like, "Ah, keep trying, you'll get a movie." Now television is it. It's so rare that you see a movie that you go, "That's a great movie." But TV is just getting so much better all the time. It's great.  

Some of the time, but I know what you mean. What do you think of all the fan support?
I'm very thankful of it. The fans have been so key to keeping Daryl alive on the show. He was kind of an experiment at first, I think. Frank Darabont created him specifically for the show. He isn't in comic books. I get a lot of love from the fans so I'm eternally grateful.  

I've seen support for you on a lot of fan sites and Facebook and Twitter.  
That's awesome. Yeah, people are talking about some bots. What's a bot? I just saw that on there.  

Sometimes people program voting bots that will vote automatically over and over again. But we've been watching and haven't seen that.  
Oh, that's cool.  

We have done the tourney four times now, and people always bring them up. But it's just for fun.
"Community," that show and our show, they're all good shows, so lots of voting makes sense.  

Let's talk a little about what we can expect on "The Walking Dead" in February.  
A lot of action. I think we're kind of done talking for the second half of Season 2. [Laughs.] I mean, you have to do some talking to set up storylines and stuff, but I know people want to see things get splattered. [Laughs.] But in the second half, things, the violence steps up.  

Awesome.
It gets pretty crazy. And I think a new character is introduced.  

A new character?
Yeah, which I can't tell you who, but it's definitely a comic book favorite.  

Oh, is it The Governor?  
Hmm.  

Oh, OK don't tell me.
[Laughs.]

All right. We talked about at the beginning of the season how Daryl is sort of becoming closer to his group, and maybe curbing that anti-social behavior he's used in the past.  
Yeah, you know, he's definitely like; he's an abused person. Abused people kind of stick together. … He's got a really big bark, but he's got a soft side too because he grew up abused. So it's sort of his defense mechanism he's had his whole life. So, I think once you peel away some of the exterior sort of influences I think his softer interior side starts to come out every once in a while. But he'd never want to tell you that. And if you call him on it he'd probably, you know, stick you with a knife. [Laughs.] I'm trying to make him as complicated as possible.  

Right, will he intergrate even more with the group?  
Yeah, and you see him sort of take some more leadership roles and branch out on his own, not take a lot of flak from anyone. Yeah, he's not really part of the group in a way that he's looking for guidance so much or like looking for orders. He's not really one of those guys who takes orders, but he knows that there is safety in numbers, so, he's doing that. But as far as, like, [asking] "What should we do now?" he's not really that guy. Hopefully he can find himself in the group as part of a new family and sort of discover things for himself too, like just as a man.  

It's funny when you do television because like, in movies, you're going from here to here, and you have this sort of information to play with to get to this point.

With television if you can sort of skirt around and drop little seeds here and there and those little trees start to grow it's kind of a bonus for your storyline in the future. So if when you see those things sort of take fruition, it's kind of like, "Ah, I have a good idea." It's kind of a little Christmas present every time those seeds get watered.  

I love how you show his pain from his past experiences, keep him sort of a bit gruff and also show how he really does want to be included in the group.
Yeah. Thanks. When Melissa's character bends over and kisses him and tells him he's just as good as everybody else, like, she came in for the kiss and I was kind of like, [makes scare sound], "Hey are you gonna slap me?" "And please don't kiss me. I'd rather you slap me." You know what I mean? It's nice having all these different layers.  

All right, well I'm going to let you go. Thanks for calling. Happy New Year.
Thanks. I'm going to Mexico tomorrow.

Have a vacation?  
Yeah, I'm going to take my son and go catch some turtles or something. [Laughs.]

Have a good time.
All right, cool. Happy holidays. Yeah, happy holidays man.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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