While fans of The Walking Dead are still desperately trying to figure out who was on the receiving end of “Lucille” in the season six finale, Norman Reedus is putting his free Sunday evenings to good use. On June 12, Reedus returns to AMC’s Sunday night lineup as himself in the new travel series Ride with Norman Reedus. And while Daryl Dixon’s loyal army of riot-ready fans will be disappointed by the lack of crossbow, they can rest assured that Reedus will still be a motorcycle-riding badass.
With Ride, Reedus cements his status as the coolest man on television, as he takes off across the country with his friends and fellow celebrity bike enthusiasts to explore motorcycle culture and interact with likeminded aficionados. Sound like an awesome job? Reedus agrees. In fact, when Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development for AMC, called the actor with the idea, it didn’t take more than a second for Reedus to accept the offer.
“It was pretty quick,” he laughs. “When I talked to Joel, I said ‘yes’ right away before he changed his mind. It’s a dream job and something I’ve never done before, and it’s something I was completely interested in exploring.”
As far as the basics of the news series, Reedus has already answered all of the routine questions. If he could ride with any person of his choice, who would it be? Evel Knievel, Lemmy Kilmister, or Steve McQueen — all great choices. How many bikes does he own? Five, including his newest, a Tiger 800. What is his dream motorcycle? An Indian Larry. Any advice for new riders? “Don’t chew gum.” But as someone who is completely green to motorcycle culture, I need a little bit more from the actor, as he is now the face of a culture.
For starters, what kind of bike should I buy for my first ride? Please remember, I’d like to look cool and not like I’m capable of falling off and busting my ass. “The Triumph Scramblers are really good,” he offers. “If I was going for a Harley, I’d probably tell you to get a Sportster because it’s easier to learn on. It’s one of those things where you start smaller and safer until you feel more comfortable on it and build your way up.”
Reedus was riding his friends’ bikes long before he saved up enough to buy his first, a Buell X1 Lightning. He says he was 19 or 20 when he finally had enough cash to afford that particular model, which he describes as “Harley-esque, but with more of a sporty street bike flair.” The actor’s first ride, however, was actually a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia that broke down a lot. “But, you know, it’s a Volkswagen,” he adds, “so you just kick it in the side and it starts up again. It was canary yellow, but we painted it white right off the bat. It was cherry when I got it, but I just beat the shit out of it.”
Back to the challenge of getting on a bike for the first time, what if my biggest safety issue is my wife hitting me over the head with a frying pan because she thinks motorcycles are death traps? “Put her on one,” Reedus says of a solution. “Get something with ample butt room, put her on the back of it, and drive safe.”
That’s easier said than done, but it’s a novel approach to erasing any negative stigmas associated with motorcycles or the stereotype of the loud, obnoxious biker. While the purpose of Ride isn’t to identify and strike down such stereotypes, Reedus will shine the light on particular biker cultures that the ignorant masses might not know about.
“People think that someone who rides a motorcycle is a bad boy or a bad girl, but there are a lot of different cultures with different types of bikes,” he explains. “You have dirt bikers, café racer styles, Harleys, sport bikes – they’re all kind of connected in a way and it’s not just one type of person riding a motorcycle. You’ve got lawyers and dentists, people who are into the aesthetic of it, or Harley riders who are into the freedom. It’s all kind of different and yet they’re all sort of connected.”
“It’s just something that happens naturally,” Reedus says in regard to Ride showcasing those different types of biker cultures. Striking up a conversation about someone’s type of bike or where they’re riding to isn’t the show’s plan or purpose, but those aspects are included. Like Southern bikers waving to each other as they pass, he says, it’s all part of the natural interaction between Reedus and his guests and fans along the way.
As for the guests, the list of potential riding partners was expectedly long, and if Reedus had his way, he would have filmed an episode with every person. “I could have made 500 shows,” he says, but ultimately it came down to who was available and where they could go, such as Peter Fonda taking Reedus for a spin across Florida. The Easy Rider star lives in the Keys, so he was more than qualified to be an ambassador of the Sunshine State, as his episode fittingly ends in his old home and features the actor telling old motorcycle tales that are sure to be enthralling for riders old and new alike.
Obviously, Reedus won’t ever be sharing the screen with Knievel, Kilmister, or McQueen. So who does he consider his ultimate dream guest for Ride? The answer may shock you. (Seriously, it shocked the hell out of me.) “I’d really like to have Cher. She’s a big motorcycle rider. I want to go through Rome with her.”
Reedus has a great reputation for being incredibly cool to his fans, specifically those who are willing to riot should The Walking Dead ever send Daryl to the grave. Except maybe when they bite him. It’s not hard to imagine that having him show up in towns across America to enjoy the best of their biker cultures will bring out his craziest followers, and that makes us think his job may become more difficult. He disagrees, though. “Part of the show is meeting new people,” he says. “You do sometimes want to sneak into a town and meet people on the fly, but if there’s a ton of people waiting there already, then, you know, here comes the circus. But it’s part of the show, so bring ‘em. I think it’s fun.”
You’re probably wondering if I asked Reedus the million-dollar question: Who did Negan kill? As if he’s going to reveal that or anything about the fate of Daryl’s crew (he does say that it’s going to make the planet explode, so enjoy these last months). Instead, I asked him about life beyond The Walking Dead. After all, this is a guy who earned cult status as one of The Boondock Saints, long before he wielded a crossbow. He also has a little comic book movie history with his role as Scud in Blade II, so that made me think about a character that has been rumored to have a reboot in the works, and would be perfect for a motorcycle-loving badass like Reedus.
Would he be down to play Ghost Rider if Marvel came calling?
“Hell yeah,” he says, acknowledging that he also liked Nic Cage’s version. “It would be a blast. Do I get a skull face that’s on fire and all that stuff? Fuck yeah. I’m down.”
Ride with Norman Reedus debuts Sunday, June 12 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.