With a show as beloved and scrutinized as AMC’s zombie saga The Walking Dead, locking down plot secrets from spoiler-hungry fans—like the identity of Negan’s victim in the season six finale cliffhanger—can be as doomed an effort as finding peace in the zombie apocalypse.
Cherry-picked, AMC-approved teases and tidbits fed to online news outlets aren’t enough for the fans who run sites like The Spoiling Dead, a community dedicated in part to crowdsourcing grainy footage of actors on set and deducing what the images mean about which characters live and die.
They’re a formidable force: the site’s 350,000-strong fan base has accurately predicted the deaths of several main characters over the last few seasons, using intel gathered from intrepid, cellphone-wielding fans who convene near set during filming.
And at least one star of the show is openly sick of it.
“When there’s 200 people who’ve all driven [to set] from other parts of the country just to sit there and get a picture of whoever’s there and wreck it for everyone, you’re like, what—what are you guys doing?” says Norman Reedus, who plays fan favorite Daryl Dixon.
“Why? Why? Why do you want to do that? Why do you want to spoil stuff? I like the enthusiasm and stuff but, you know, if I knew what you were gonna get for Christmas…I seriously doubt I’d put it on the internet. I wouldn’t want to wreck that for you.”
“I don’t know, it’s just the world we live in now, where everybody’s got a cell phone and everyone’s on a something-gram or a something-book and everybody wants to know everything right now, right now,” he sighs. “I don’t want to sit down with you at a movie and have the guy next to me tell me the end of the movie as it’s starting, you know what I mean? Everything’s all instant gratification.”
The 47-year-old actor is on the phone discussing his latest AMC show, the unscripted Ride with Norman Reedus, which follows him as he road trips across America and explores a passion he shares with his Walking Dead bad-boy alter ego: motorcycles.
The show’s first two episodes find him winding up and across California, taking in breathtaking ocean views on the Pacific Coast Highway and venturing onto the harsh roads of Death Valley. He meets up with talented mechanics and engineers who’ve crafted stunningly artful machines, from near-silent, energy-efficient electric motorcycles to wild, Mad Max-style rides.
He drops in on motorcycle podcasts, signs fan autographs, and samples diverse pockets of the state’s wide-varying biker culture, from the tattooed women of Babes Ride Out to groups of burly, bearded men “who look like they’re outlaws,” as Reedus puts it.
The looser nature of an unscripted “reality” show (“ugh, I hate that word ‘reality,’ but I guess that’s what we’re doing,” Reedus interjects) was part of the allure of Ride, an opportunity pitched to Reedus by AMC’s head of original programming Joel Stillerman.
Unlike The Walking Dead, where “every word [in the script] is precise and everything has a meaning,” he says, Ride offered him a chance to speak freely on-camera, acting as a conduit between his deeply knowledgeable guests and viewers.
The goal, he says, was “not to be a gearhead show,” but a series that anyone interested in motorcycles can watch and “feel like they’re on the ride with us—hence the title.”
“I’m learning things along the way too and I’m in no way an expert,” he says. “You see me fail and you see me have fun, back and forth. Basically, we wanted everyone to relate.”
Reedus picked up motorcycling in his early twenties in Los Angeles, in the years before he rose to cult fame as a guns-blazing Boston vigilante in Boondock Saints. In Ride, Reedus says L.A.’s biking community offered him a “home” as a young creative mingling between the actors and artists of ‘90s Hollywood. Today, he says, riding offers him quiet and solitude in the midst of a busy career.
“It was just one of those things I was interested in at a young age and the more I did it, the more fun I had,” he says. “You do your best thinking with the helmet on. It’s kind of like being in an airplane: You’re just there with yourself and you think and come up with ideas. That’s my time, and I keep going back to it. It’s kind of like my yoga.”
As for The Walking Dead, which returns in October, Reedus can only disclose that filming is well underway. And, despite the critical lambasting season six’s cliffhanger finale endured, Reedus insists that the story unfolding will “pay off” in spades at the start of season seven.
“All I can say is it’s worth the wait,” he says. “You just have to trust us. The show’s large and a lot of people like it and it’s done really well. You just gotta trust us that we’re telling a story and you’ll get the answers that you want.”
In the meantime, he’s already looking to the future of Ride and which landscapes he hopes to tear across next.
“I’d love to go to Europe, to Asia, to open it up to the rest of the world,” he says. “I mean, I could do 500 episodes just in American and I still wouldn’t see all of it. But I’d love to cruise through Vietnam on a bike with a friend. I think that’d be awesome.”