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“Daryl Dixon ”is a 'whole new ball game' for “The Walking Dead” franchise

“Daryl Dixon ”is a 'whole new ball game' for “The Walking Dead” franchise

Daryl Dixon is lost. And in more ways than one.

When The Walking Dead fan favorite first shows up on the latest franchise spinoff — which premieres Sept. 10 on AMC — he is passed out on top of a boat off the shores of a foreign country. But the title character of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is lost in other ways as well. Because those are the shores of France. And Daryl Dixon does not speak French.

"A lot of the story is him trying to figure out: Is this going to work? Is this not going to work? Is this going to be a fight? Are we cool?" star Norman Reedus told EW prior to the SAG-AFRTA strike. "He doesn't speak the language, and that's part of the story."

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon _ Season 1
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon _ Season 1

Emmanuel Guimier/AMC Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon'

Another big part of the story is that it all takes place in and was filmed in France — a far cry from the back woods of Georgia where the original Walking Dead series was shot. The scenery change is one the crew took advantage of and went to great pains to accentuate. "The whole vibe is different," says executive producer Greg Nicotero, who has been with the franchise since day 1. "There's a romanticism and a classical feel that you can't help but feel when you're walking down the streets of Paris. The cinematography and the lighting and the production design all feels very romantic. The whole vibe of the show had a very distinctly European feel."

Nicotero was not only excited to show what another country looked like post-zombie apocalypse, but also to stage how the outbreak went down in another part of the world — which we will see in Daryl Dixon flashbacks. "When we first started The Walking Dead, I was writing and directing these little webisodes," Nicotero recalls. "And the exciting thing about that was to show what's happening in the rest of the world — that The Walking Dead is just one little microcosm of what can be happening out there. So we had always been committed to doing something where we were shooting in another country. There's always that day zero when the apocalypse happened."

Clémence Poésy as Isabelle - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon
Clémence Poésy as Isabelle - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon

Emmanuel Guimier/AMC Clémence Poésy as Isabelle on 'The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon'

Of course, since the zombie apocalypse occurred in 2010, that meant anything that happened in our real-life timeline after that point — like the Notre-Dame de Paris fire of 2019 — never actually happened in The Walking Dead universe. And that required some work for the production team. "The fire in Notre Dame happened theoretically after the zombie apocalypse would have happened," Nicotero explains. "So the visual effects team rebuilt Notre Dame Cathedral pre-fire. There was some architecture and there were some things that happened that were in Paris where we had to de-age them to pre-apocalypse."

The backdrop of France is just one of the things that makes Daryl Dixon stand apart from the original series, says its star. "The crew is different," notes Reedus. "The photography's different, the acting style of the people I'm acting with are different, the writing is different."

Even the zombies are different. "The walkers that we have on this show, they're all dancers," says Reedus of the performers playing the undead. "They're not extras, they're dancers — so they bend and move in weird ways. It's a combination of a horror film mixed with Cirque du Soleil. It's insane."

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon

Emmanuel Guimier/AMC Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon'

Reedus himself had a firm hand in all the changes for the new show as he serves not only as the series' star, but also an executive producer. "Norman's so committed," says Nicotero. "He reads all the scripts, he comments on the cuts. When we were casting Laurent, he went in and read with the kids. He is very involved and tremendously committed to making the show great. And I'm super proud of him. He wants the show to be great, and he knows that the fans have a lot of expectations."

Speaking of expectations, even though Daryl lands on shore with nothing, fans can't help but wonder if the noted motorcycle enthusiast will eventually find his way to a bike at some point. It seems even in that way, the show is charting a brand new course. "I get to ride a whole bunch of stuff I've never ridden before, and use a whole bunch of weapons I've never picked up before," laughs Reedus. "It's a whole new ball game."

And on September 10, it's batter up.

Make sure to check out EW's Fall TV Preview cover story on Gen V — as well as all of our 2023 Fall TV Preview content, releasing through Sept. 21.

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