When will I die?

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 16, 2014

The Walking Dead cast love to spoiler themselves - it is a matter of survival.

American actor Norman Reedus, 45, who plays charismatic redneck Daryl Dixon on the hit zombie TV series, says: "All of us get our scripts and quickly go to the end, so we can be like, 'Phew, we're still here'."

On the horror drama, no one is safe from sudden death by flesh-eating undead, even fan favourites such as Dixon as well as the show's main protagonist, deputy sheriff Rick Grimes (played by actor Andrew Lincoln).

English actor Lincoln, 40, says: "Just look at all the great actors and characters that we've lost. No one's safe."

So far, some major deaths on the show include Dixon's older brother Merle (played by Michael Rooker), Grimes' wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and villain The Governor (David Morrissey).

Adds Lincoln: "But I think that's the strength of the show - it's real jeopardy."

Reedus starts knocking on the wooden table in front of him for good luck and says: "It's just like real life. No one knows when they're going to die."

At a recent interview with Life! in Singapore, Reedus and Lincoln - sitting amiably side by side - are looking clean and relaxed, compared with their screen alter egos.

They were flown in by TV channel Fox Movies Premium to promote the show.

Not that the show, based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman about a ragtag band of survivors navigating a world overrun by zombies, needs any promoting.

Since its debut in 2010, it has become a global hit. The premiere episode of the fourth and latest season, in October last year, drew 16.1 million viewers in the United States alone - beating all other entertainment show premieres for the autumn season there.

The show has also gained a cult following. There is a post-episode talk show called The Talking Dead on TV channel AMC as well as Halloween rides at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando.

During interviews, the stars sure sound as eager as the fans.

Lincoln says: "I feel the same excitement about how these people in the show will get out of situations. I'm rooting for these people just as much as I'm rooting for my character to stay alive."

Onscreen, Grimes and Dixon become great friends and protect each other. Often, they do not even need to verbalise their thoughts to each other.

Offscreen, the two actors seem just as comfortable together. Free with praise for each other, they also good-naturedly poke fun at and finish each other's sentences.

Lincoln says: "Norman and I are kind of the elder statesmen of the cast and crew now and we have a great character relationship onscreen and off. I think that helps. When you have a good atmosphere around the set, you see it onscreen too."

Reedus pipes up that he misses his Walking Dead co-stars when he is away filming other projects. The series is filmed in the American south-eastern state of Georgia.

Last year, he was seen in two films: crime comedy Pawn Shop Chronicles, starring the late Paul Walker, as well as drama Sunlight Jr., starring Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon.

"Sitting around on set with these different people, and all I wanted to do was to go back to Georgia and be with The Walking Dead cast," says Reedus.

"This show is a dream job. We do like one another and we get along so well. When you love it this much, it's fun."

Then, there is the attention from fans. Reedus, in particular, is beloved for his bad-boy charm. Young girls are especially enamoured of him and his character, giving themselves names such as Dixon's Vixens.

"Oh god," says Reedus with a straight face. "Some of the fan comments from the women can be really creepy. Sometimes from the men too. But that's fun. I'm not mad at it. It's just fun."

Lincoln adds with a laugh: "Norman is the firewall for the crazy fan base. He absorbs all the craze, thankfully."

In fact, there is a running joke on set about the wacky things Reedus has received among his fan mail. Over the years, he has gotten everything from a flogging whip to voodoo dolls to the widely reported single silicone breast implant.

"I'm still waiting to get the other boob," jokes Reedus, who is not married but has a 13-year-old son with ex-girlfriend and supermodel Helena Christensen. "I haven't gotten any more boobs, but I still have that one boob and I use it as my phone cradle in my trailer."

Meanwhile, Lincoln is glad that he has been spared the bizarre presents.

"Already, I think there's something incredibly strange about seeing your own face on somebody else's body and that's definitely happened at conventions. I mean, having your own face tattooed on somebody - that's really strange.

"Any more than that - let's say I get a boob - would be a real concern, especially for my wife," says Lincoln, who is married to Gael Anderson, daughter of rock band Jethro Tull's vocalist Ian Anderson. The couple have two children - Matilda, six, and Arthur, three.

As Lincoln continues to speak, you find it hard to reconcile his posh British accent in real life with Grimes' thick Southern accent on TV: You and a lot of other people, including British writer- director Richard Curtis.

Lincoln, who played a best man in love with his friend's bride in Curtis' hit ensemble romantic comedy Love Actually (2003), recounts: "Funny enough, Richard said to me just before Christmas, 'I forgot how British you are'. Maybe it's because I'm out in America and he watches the show. It's strange. But no, I'll always be English."

Reedus adds with a chuckle that whenever Lincoln starts talking in his British accent on set - which is only "once in a while" as he stays in dialect all day - it "freaks out" the crew. "When he speaks with his homeland accent, the good old boys in the South are, like, in total confusion."

Lincoln mulls this over and adds: "I actually think I like my accent better in America. It really feels so familiar now."

Reedus, a native of Florida, quips: "You're going to be banished from your country now."

Lincoln banters right back: "Yes, that's it. There goes my knighthood."

As they laugh heartily at their own jokes, you ask whether they would mind if their The Walking Dead roles become the ones that define their career. Both pretend to be flabbergasted at the question.

Checking off his character's traits, Reedus says with a huge grin: "I love it. A redneck that eats squirrels. A poncho. A chopper. How am I going to top that? Play Darth Vader?"

Lincoln adds: "I mean, come on, we have our own bobbleheads. Do you need anything else? I mean, forget the Emmys. I got my bobblehead."

yipwy@sph.com.sg

The Walking Dead Season 4 mid-season premiere airs on Fox Movies Premium (StarHub TV Channel 622 and SingTel mio TV Channel 414) on Feb 10 at 11.30am and 8.10pm.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 16, 2014

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