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Noman Reedus on Daryl and Carol’s Reunion on ‘The Walking Dead’

Read no further if you haven’t seen Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead.” Spoilers below:

In addition to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the Alexandrians scaring up another ally in the fight against Negan, Sunday’s “The Walking Dead” marked a milestone: After, as Norman Reedus puts it, “like 85 years,” Daryl (Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) finally reunited. Reedus called up Variety to discuss the episode.

As you said, it feels like it’s been a few decades since Daryl and Carol were on screen together, even though it’s only been about 12 episodes. What was your first day back together like?

I remember reading the script and being like, “Yes! Finally!” This whole season I’ve been separated from everyone and finally I have been getting to be with everyone again. There are certain actors I’ve been with a while and totally trust and we have that rapport, we know it’s going to be good, and Melissa is one of them. We can throw rocks through windows and it’ll be great. It was like two kids on the first day of school.

I don’t even know if that hug was in the script. Our first rehearsal of that scene, everyone was crying. Everyone on set was waiting for that to happen. We were waiting for it to happen as much as everyone on the show was. Everyone was like, “F—, finally.”

Why exactly did Daryl decide not to tell Carol about Glenn and Abraham’s deaths?

Daryl’s seen how far she’s gone to preserve something of her own life. If you lose yourself 100% what’s the point of anything. We’ve watched her leave and come back and kill and not kill. He’s seen her go through that, and it’s a very selfless act to tell her everyone was okay. She means more to him than anything else. He’s protecting her inside and outside.

It’s crazy because me, Norman, and Melissa are very close. We know each other really well. To do scenes like that, it can’t help but become personal. The first time we did that scene we started crying. Andy [Lincoln] and I have that too. We’ve seen each other go through these things for seven years. There are bonds that are real. She and I have that real connection. Steven [Yeun] and I had that connection.

Talk to me about Daryl dealing with the trauma of what he had to go through. How does someone like Daryl cope?

The way Daryl deals with that is he buries it deep within himself and grits his teeth. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve until he comes in contact with someone he cares about. Carol is one of those people. It’s interesting to watch someone try not to cry, and he’s trying not to cry like all the time. He’s always had to be tough. He had to hide it. When he comes across certain people, it starts to leak out, it’s just a flood. Mesissa is one of those people that comes and does that with me, actually.

But he’s not quite back with the gang permanently.

He’s always hiding now. He can’t show up at Alexandria because they’ll kill everyone. Negan kind of wanted to adopt Daryl, keep him, and so now he will destroy everything trying to find Daryl. Now the group is back together and there is movement, but I can’t go, “Hey, I’m over here!” quite yet. But you’ll see.

You also had a nice little moment with Shiva the tiger, too. Were you acting against a tennis ball or — ?

Sometimes it’s our special effects guy holding a tiger head and rolling around—he even gives you a little growl. Ever since I read there was a tiger, I was lobbying for a scene with it. Like, “You wouldn’t give me a dog, let me have a scene with the tiger!” It was great.

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