Witһout Normаn Reedus, We Wouldn’t Hаve Dаryl Dixon on ‘Tһe Wаlkinɡ Deаd’

In fact, Daryl Dixon wasn’t even in Robert Kirkman’s comic book series.


The Big Picture

  • Norman Reedus initially auditioned for the role of Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead, before Daryl Dixon was even invented.
  • Reedus impressed the creators of the show with his audition and they decided to create a new character, Daryl Dixon, specifically for him.
  • Despite not knowing how long his character would last, Daryl Dixon became a fan favorite and Reedus has continued to play him for over 13 years, now starring in his own spin-off series The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon.

No question, the long-running AMC series The Walking Dead has become one of the most popular media franchises on the planet. Based on the comic book series created by Robert Kirkman and Tony MooreThe Walking Dead has captured the imaginations of fans across the globe. And while the original television series ended its run after 11 seasons and 177 episodes, the franchise continues to march on. The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon starring Norman Reedus was a huge success, and has already been renewed for Season 2. What’s ironic is that the character of Daryl Dixon never appeared in Kirkman’s original comic book series, and Daryl was created specifically for the live-action TV show. So how did Daryl Dixon even come about?

Norman Reedus Originally Read for ‘The Walking Dead’s Merle Dixon


Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about his original audition for The Walking Dead, Reedus revealed he never even read for the role of Daryl when he tried out for the series since the character had not even been created yet. Reedus had auditioned reading the lines for Merle Dixon, Daryl’s older brother in the show portrayed by Michael Rooker. Merle is another character who didn’t appear in the original comic book storyline and was created exclusively for the television series. Reedus was motivated to audition for The Walking Dead having been a fan of hit AMC shows such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and he had a feeling The Walking Dead was going to be big.

Reedus was eager to audition for the series and said he would go in for anything. Reedus revealed, “They got me in for an audition — not in front of Frank [Darabont] — but I read Merle’s lines. I’d already been told that Michael Rooker was playing that part and thought maybe he couldn’t do it or said no for some reason.” So at this point, Rooker had already been cast in the role of Merle. Reedus had nothing to go on except the slim hope that maybe Rooker’s casting wouldn’t pan out, or the actor would say he wasn’t available. However, Reedus performed the audition and returned home after pilot season.

He then got the call to audition for the role again, still reading for the character of Merle, but with different lines. After leaving the audition, Reedus would receive a call saying that a new part was created by Darabont specifically for Reedus. Clearly, whatever Reedus did in his two auditions reading as the character of Merle struck a chord with the writers and producers, as they created a brand-new The Walking Dead character who didn’t have a comic counterpart to appear in the series. Thus, the character of Daryl Dixon, the younger brother to Merle, was born. Speaking on his reaction to THR, Reedus recalled, “I did cartwheels in Chinatown! It was a dream. I didn’t know how long I’d last or if it was just one episode. But the job since Day 1 has been my favorite working experience ever and it continues to be. I feel very blessed to be here.”

Daryl Dixon Quickly Became a Fan Favorite on ‘The Walking Dead’


Ironically, Reedus wasn’t even sure his new character would last more than one episode. Instead, Dixon would go on to become one of the show’s most popular characters and a veritable linchpin of The Walking Dead universe and franchise. Over 13 years later, Reedus continues playing Daryl to this day and now stars in his own spinoff series, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon. In the original series, Daryl appeared for the first time in the third episode of Season 1 of The Walking Dead, “Tell It to the Frogs,” as another survivor hunting animals for his own group when he first encounters Rick Grimes and his survivor group. Daryl appears to be an experienced hunter and tracker, but he also has a foul, rough, and belligerent edge.

Throughout the series, Daryl struggles with his relationship with his problematic older brother, Merle, who raised him when they were kids. However, Daryl evolves and becomes a trusted and valued member of the main survivor group, forming bonds and friendships with them. Eventually, he becomes Rick’s right-hand man. In Season 1, Reedus was only a recurring cast member. The show quickly became a breakout hit, and by Season 2, Reedus’ role of Daryl was upgraded to a series regular for the cast. Much as Daryl grew as a character throughout the show’s run, the fanbase for Daryl Dixon also grew exponentially. Daryl is now one of the franchise’s most popular characters. He was also featured in the spin-off prequel video game, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, and the mobile game The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land.

Norman Reedus’ Audition Experience Has a Powerful Message

One lesson to learn from Reedus’ experience auditioning on The Walking Dead is that he bet on himself. He was motivated to work on a new AMC show, and his instincts regarding The Walking Dead served him well. He took a chance, with really nothing to lose, by auditioning for the series. Rather than the expectation of him possibly playing Merle Dixon, Reedus instead got a brand-new character created for the show because his talents significantly impressed the creators, and they knew that Reedus should be working on their show. Had Reedus not pursued his ambition, he would never have become a marquee character for one of the biggest media franchises in the world, and now he’s starring in a new series as Daryl. Reedus’ act is proof that people have nothing to lose by trying, and even if it doesn’t work out how one expects, amazing things can still result from taking a chance on yourself.

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