Norman Reedus Auditioned For ‘The Walking Dead’ Because He’s A Huge ‘Mad Men’ Fan

As Fear the Walking Dead careens towards the small screen for a Sunday AMC debut, it’s worth reflecting upon the tiniest aspects of the spin-off’s highly successful predecessor, The Walking Dead. The flagship series continues to be a ratings boon, and the critics are rather fond of the show, too.

In that light, the Hollywood Reporter caught up with cast members of the flagship show to discuss their nerve-wracking audition stories. These actors went through the undead hoops to secure a role in the zombie-outbreak series. Tales of botched auditions tapes, near miscastings, secret recruits, and plenty of off-screen drama rule in this piece. When all is said and done, 26 people reveal their casting nightmares, which (mostly) worked out well in the end. Here’s the lowdown from Norman Reedus, whose character creation tale isn’t brand new at all, but he gives it a special Don Draper twist:

I went to L.A. for pilot season just to see what was on TV because it was starting to become really great. I was already watching AMC shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men religiously. There were so many similar scripts — hospital and cop dramas — and then The Walking Dead was so different. It stuck out like a sore thumb. I had a feeling it was going to be something cool that I would want to watch. I asked to go in for anything, even something just for a day. They got me in for an audition — not in front of Frank — 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. I read it and went back to New York after pilot season and got a call to audition again. I came in and read different Merle lines. I thought maybe Rooker was not going to be doing it. When I left the offices in New York, I was walking home through Chinatown and got a call saying Frank created a new part — Daryl — for me. I did cartwheels in Chinatown!

Reedus adds that The Walking Dead has been his favorite acting experience, although he initially thought Daryl could only last a short time in the series. Five seasons later, Daryl is still trucking, despite rumors to the contrary. The full list of casting stories can be read right here.

In the meantime, Reedus continues to be a swell guy, whose resumé includes real-life lifesaver, grabber of butts, and all-around nice dude. Reedus is also terribly loyal to his young fans, especially when it comes to a little girl named Ava, who suffers from alopecia areata. Reedus has met Ava on a few occasions and sent her some special shoutouts on social media:

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Ava ❤️

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The story of their friendship dates back only a few years, but it could actually bring a tear to your cynical eye. Go read it and catch some serious Daryl Dixon cryface.

(Via Hollywood Reporter)