According to its director, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus insisted on one thing before doing the spin-off.
Daryl Dixon is just the latest entry into Robert Kirkman's zombie-infested franchise, following Reedus' fan-favorite character from the original series on a wholly new adventure.
The series sees Reedus' survivor washing up on the shores of France, where he journeys across the country in hopes of finding a way home.
While not hitting the highs of The Walking Dead's best seasons, the Daryl Dixon spin-off has fared well with critics. It currently sits at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the series' "different story" than has been seen in the franchise being a particular point of praise.
Norman Reedus' One Daryl Dixon Request
In the lead-up to The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, it has been revealed star Norman Reedus had one request for the AMC spin-off.
Speaking in the latest issue of SFX magazine, Daryl Dixon executive producer Greg Nicotero revealed his involvement was the one thing Reedus insisted on heading into the series.
Nicotero said, "[Reedus] had very, very specific input on everything" (with the actor serving as producer on the series), insisting that they "have a showrunner who was outside of The Walking Dead universe:"
“Norman really rolled up his sleeves as a producer. He had very, very specific input on everything, including that he loved David Zabel. Norman wanted to collaborate with him, and he and I really felt that it was important to have a showrunner who was outside of 'The Walking Dead' universe.”
This ultimately led to David Zabel being brought in to showrun with Nicotero serving as executive producer on the six-episode spin-off.
Nicotero remembered reading some of the first scripts from Zabel and thinking "Ooh, that doesn’t feel like The Walking Dead" before ultimately realizing, "Wait a minute, that’s what we want:"
“Initially, both Norman and I had a gut reaction like: ‘Ooh, that doesn’t feel like 'The Walking Dead.' And then after about 20 seconds, it was like: ‘Wait a minute, that’s what we want!’”
After directing several episodes of the mainline The Walking Dead television series, including the series finale, Nicotero wasn't brought into the fold on the Daryl-focused spin-off until about two months into pre-production.
However, according to the Daryl Dixon producer, it was Reedus who kept saying, "You can’t do the show without Greg! You guys have got to make a deal:"
“Norman kept saying, ‘You can’t do the show without Greg! You guys have got to make a deal. He’s got to be here!’ Then David called me and said, ‘How would you feel about not directing this season?’ Honestly, I felt that it was best for the show that we have someone else come in. Then I could help establish the visual palette, but have someone else realise it. In retrospect, I am really glad that I didn’t [direct] because it allowed me to roll up my sleeves with the directors and really hone in on exactly what we needed to do.”
He looked back on production for the series, lamenting "[making] sure that there was some continuity in the two worlds" between the spin-off and the mainline series:
“Stepping into this role as an EP, my job when I landed in Paris was to make sure that there was some continuity in the two worlds. But not enough that it would make the show feel like we’ve seen it before. I felt really passionate, along with Norman, that we wanted the show to have a different feel. My style of directing is kind of the style of 'The Walking Dead,' because I directed almost 40 episodes. I thought it was important that the show have a different visual flavour to it. So I was very glad because I didn’t need to be behind the camera.”
Why The Walking Dead's Latest Spin-Off Is So Important
While The Walking Dead mainstays like Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus are key parts to the franchises' latest spin-off, it is the new blood being brought in that is most important to the success of the series.
Having Nicotero on board was a form of comfort for Reedus, seeing that close collaborator by his side as they ventured into uncharted territory for the IP.
The Walking Dead has been a major name in the world of TV for nearly 13 years, and it would not be hyperbole to say that its cultural resonance has dwindled in the last few years.
That is why Daryl Dixon feeling like something unique to the franchise was so critical.
As Nicotero said, this had to break the mold of The Walking Dead formula. Yes, it still had to have "some continuity [between] the two worlds," but "not enough that it would make the show feel like [audiences have] seen it before."
While it seems unlikely that this The Walking Dead spin-off will do enough to bring the franchise back to the level of relevance it saw around a decade ago, if Daryl Dixon succeeds, the incremental gains could be the first step toward returning to those heights.
New episodes of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon air every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.