Daryl Dixon is arguably The Walking Dead‘s most popular character to date, and here’s how actor Norman Reedus ended up cast in the role. While the show’s current quality level can be argued, there’s no doubt that when it comes to viewership, The Walking Dead has seen much better days. The AMC series used to be a pop culture phenomenon, rivaling shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things when it came to online discussion. With every new season though, the amount of people sticking with The Walking Dead continues to dwindle.
Thankfully, The Walking Dead‘s numbers were so high at their peak that the ratings the show currently draws are still good enough to keep it around, and millions of people do still tune in for each new episode. If there’s one thing The Walking Dead is famous for though, it’s being willing to kill off major characters. Of the remaining cast, however, there’s only two characters that seem like they would earn widespread outrage from fans if given the axe: Daryl and Carol.
Like Carol, Daryl has been with The Walking Dead since season 1, and the fans have lots of love for the character, a badass, motorcycle-riding archer with a heart of gold. Yet, Norman Reedus didn’t even initially audition for the role, because oddly enough, it hadn’t even been created at that point.
Why The Walking Dead Cast Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
When The Walking Dead was still in the casting phase, Norman Reedus got his hands on the pilot script, and was floored by its quality. Considering many would call The Walking Dead‘s debut one of the best pilots ever, that’s not hard to imagine. Reedus was so desperate to be part of the show that he asked to read for literally any role available, even a small part with brief screentime. He was eventually brought in to audition, and producers had him read Merle Dixon’s lines. Reedus was a bit perplexed by this, as he’d been told Michael Rooker had already been chosen to play that character.
However, after coming in to audition using Merle’s material a second time, Reedus was contacted and informed that Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont had created a new character specifically for him to play, that being Daryl Dixon. Everyone involved had been so impressed with Reedus’ readings that they set out to invent a way for him to be part of the cast, leading to the creation of Daryl, a character who had and has never appeared in Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comics. Clearly, they made the right call, as Daryl is at this point a hall of fame worthy TV hero.