After a decade of The Walking Dead, star Norman Reedus credits the series' lifespan to a constant state of adaptation and change. Reedus, who in Season 9 bypassed former series lead Andrew Lincoln for most episode appearances, is the longest tenured cast member still with the show, a position he shares with Carol actress Melissa McBride. Reedus' Daryl has seen mainstays exit — Lincoln's Rick Grimes among them, with Danai Gurira's Michonne soon to follow — and has seen the show usher in a fresh era under showrunner Angela Kang with an aged up Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) and an influx of new characters, including Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and such fan-favorite additions as Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff).
"The writers are really good at introducing new characters, new storylines, and keep moving," Reedus said on Sway in the Morning. "People have watched this grey on my chin come out of my face. They've watched that character go from somebody who would side eye you and try to rip you off, and you couldn't trust him, to slowly squaring up to you. And when he says something, he means it. He doesn't lie."
Daryl, under the bad influence of older brother Merle (Michael Rooker), went from hothead hillbilly to someone who is now looked to as a leader as the survivors find themselves in conflict with Alpha (Samantha Morton) and an army of skin-wearing savages called the Whisperers.
"He's found this sense of family with these people that he never would have hung out with if it wasn't for this apocalypse," Reedus said. "So you grow with the characters, I think."
The secret ingredient: change.
"Like a virus, I think we have to continually adapt to our surroundings," he said of The Walking Dead's ten-year run. "I think that show, what's great about it is it never sits still. It's constantly moving and changing."
The Walking Dead will evolve again in Season 11 when the survivors encounter the Commonwealth, a massive group introduced in the final stretch of creator Robert Kirkman's comic book that came to an end after 193 issues in July 2019.
No such ending has been announced for the television show — which has inspired two spinoffs, Fear the Walking Dead and TWD: World Beyond, with more on the way — but Reedus intends to see The Walking Dead through to the end.0comments
"I started the show and I'd like to bookend the show. I'd like to be there when it ends. I just don't know when the endgame is," Reedus said in a 2019 interview. "I just don't want the brand to get watered down too much. You got this goose that lays the golden egg, sooner or later you got to let the goose fly free. You don't want to kill it. I don't know if that’ll happen, we've got a lot of good, creative people on the show, but if this show went on for 20 years, it would get watered down, there's no way around it."