Reedus appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to promote the eight season of The Walking Dead, and during the conversation revealed that most people actually told him to turn down the role of Daryl Dixon.
"It was like one of those scripts you get and everybody's like 'don't do it," Reedus said. When Kimmel asked "who told you don't do it", Reedus said "Everybody".
That even included his agent, but Reedus wasn't going to sell them out. "They're backstage so I'm not going to say that much," Reedus said.
"Yeah, it was a stretch, I mean it was out there ya know, but I saw a guy looking for his family, that was the real story, and it paid off."
To say it paid off is an understatement, as the show has become the leader of scripted shows. Even this year, which is a bit of a down year for the show, it still debuted to 11 million viewers, and that is before plus 3 and plus 7 numbers are added in.
The character of Daryl Dixon isn't even in the comics, but he' quickly became a fan favorite. That might not have been the case though if earlier scripts were adhered to, something Reedus fought early on.
"There were always scripts that had him taking drugs and being racist, like his brother was," Reedus said. "I fought to change those because I felt he should be more of an Al-Anon member and not a full-blown Alcoholics Anonymous member. He should have grown up with it, felt ashamed of it and wasn’t comfortable with who he was. That allows him to grow into somebody you respect. Now he talks to you like this [facing front], like he means everything he says. He’s super direct, super honest and you can count on him."
Ironically Merle became a fan favorite as well, but as a villain for the most part, not a hero. Reedus would not have developed the same rapport with fans if he was as screwed up as Merle, but it is an interesting look at what could've been.