Stories: Interview

blacked-out Tiger 800 XCA with his Big Bald Head” logo

Exclusive: Walking Dead star’s Tiger obsession

Norman Reedus interview

Walking Dead actor, artist and photographer Norman Reedus leads a hectic work schedule, so you might expect his downtime to be a chilled out affair. You’d be wrong.

Instead The Walking Dead star is in an excitable and talkative mood for two reasons. One, he’s just taken delivery of his new, personalised Triumph Tiger 800 XCA and two, his other AMC show “Ride with Norman Reedus” has just been given the green light for Season Two.

“Yeah, I feel great about this. In the first season of Ride everything was new, we were constantly tuning it, figuring out what the show really was and I think we got it to a really good place. For Season Two we already have that short-cut and I’m only fine-tuning the rides, the places and the people. I’m excited for what we will do this season.”

The blacked-out 2017 Tiger 800 XCA with some added accessories and personal touches, including his “Big Bald Head” logo
Norman Reedus and the blacked-out 2017 Tiger 800 XCA

Bucket list moments

Season One of “Ride” saw Norman tackle some the most popular biking routes such as the Pacific Coast Highway and the Blue Ridge Parkway, joined by variety of guest riders including Mr Easy Rider himself, Peter Fonda.

“I definitely had some bucket list moments in the first season – Peter Fonda! It’s hard to beat Peter Fonda. We’ll continue with some of the best parts from Season One and try to make it a little more personal. Not just custom bike shops, but incorporate people and experiences that follow the same culture, like Hot Rods, Rock n Roll and different parts of the world.”

I rode the hell out of my first Tiger

Norman Reedus

The blacked-out Tiger 800 XCA Norman rode in Season One of Ride has 33,000 miles on it. Now relocated to his Upstate New York home, he needed another bike for Season Two and his choice was a 2017 Tiger 800 XCA with some added accessories and personal touches, including his “Big Bald Head” logo and a totally blacked-out theme.

He says: “I just rode the hell out of my first Tiger. I love them. I’ll take it on trails, ride to work on it. It does everything. I rode it all the way to Nashville. In the rain. That was one of my best rides. For Season Two I’m planning on using my new Tiger in every single episode, like a cowboy always rides the same horse!  It’s an awesome bike, I love the blacked out Darth Vader look with my logo on it. It’s so cool.”

Despite being better known for his role of Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, Norman is taking great pleasure in the positive feedback he’s gathering from Season One of Ride… and is inspiring people to get on two wheels.

The blacked-out 2017 Tiger 800 XCA including his “Big Bald Head” logo
The blacked-out 2017 Tiger 800 XCA including his “Big Bald Head” logo

He says: “One of the biggest joys from Season One is having people say to me: ‘I saw your bike show and want to get into motorcycles, I want to do the ride you did, explore the world, so I bought a bike’.  I get that from young girls through to retired guys all over the place.

“It’s cool to have people watch the show and feel like they are on the ride with us. Travelling on a motorcycle is different to travelling in a car. Like Peter Fonda said “Those people are in cages”. You feel and smell a town when you go through it on a bike. You see all of it. It’s exploration. We will do more of that in Season Two, and in very different parts of the world. We have a lot of hopes and dreams with Season Two.”

I texted Robert Redford…

Norman Reedus

Clearly a true hardcore rider, Norman enjoys the chance to share his ambition to get out and ride some of America’s best roads. With North America having such diverse routes and geology, Norman has some bold ideas of the rides he wants to make and is clearly inspired by classic movies.

“I’d love to do Baja, but there’s one ride through Utah that I want to do. I’m a big fan of the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We did an Episode of The Walking Dead when Daryl and Rick had a real Butch Cassidy moment. We watched the movie right before we started filming to get into it so I texted Robert Redford to say ‘We’re doing a Butch Cassidy thing’,” he says: “I’d love to do an episode of Ride where I go to all their hideouts, relive some of those film moments. Maybe I can steal a hat from Robert and pretend I’m him. If I could grow a moustache, that would be perfect!”

Walking Dead actor, artist and photographer Norman Reedus and his blacked-out 2017 Tiger 800 XCA

Norman is not only influenced by classic and cult movies, but carefully considers the right soundtrack to complement his riding and feature in Ride. When crushing a long trip, music becomes a key element to enhancing the riding experience.

Zone out

He explains: “During Season One I became friends with a music label called Easy Rider Records. A lot of their bands are perfect for motorcycle rides. Their band The Well did our opening soundtrack so I started to research other bands that I could use for my show. Bands like Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats or The Black Ryders are ones I Iisten to a lot. But sometimes you’ll just want to zone out and enjoy the ride.”
His Walking Dead character uses motorcycles as his preferred mode of Zombie-killing transport. Whilst not originally part of the narrative of his character, Norman didn’t miss an opportunity to make motorcycles a central aspect of his role.

He laughs: “That was something I pushed for. There was an episode coming up where they were going to put me on a horse and I was like ‘Man! I’m terrified of horses, I suck at riding a horse. With their big eyeballs, they can smell your fear’. There was this Chopper on set, a gnarly looking thing with stickers all over it. I was like ‘Whose bike is that?’ and they said that’s going to be your brother Merle’s, played by Michael Rooker.

The blacked-out 2017 Tiger 800 XCA including his “Big Bald Head” logo
The blacked-out 2017 Tiger 800 XCA including his “Big Bald Head” logo

“So I said ‘Well if my brother rides a bike, it makes sense that I ride a bike too and maybe I could do this episode on the bike instead of the horse?’ It was basically me being a chicken to avoid getting on a horse!”
With motorcycles being a huge part of Norman’s make-up and his enthusiasm for motorcycle culture, it’s no surprise that he’s influenced his fellow cast members into bikes.

“I got Steven Yeun, who plays Glen, into bikes. I talked him into it forever and by Season Three he finally got a Triumph Bonneville T100. But Geoffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Negan, has always ridden a bike. When he first came down to Georgia for filming he asked me which bike he should I bring. ‘All of them!’ I told him. We go riding all the time in Georgia. You can ride for hours and only see cows and horses.”

Fun and work

Despite his continual cycle of filming, promoting and creating art exhibitions, Norman continues to drive himself forward with a relentless passion and enthusiasm, as well as running a thriving restaurant business.

“I just don’t sleep, ever,” he says: “I’ll work on set and relax on set, but when I’m not filming I’m doing art shows, scheduling art shows or creating stuff for art shows, and I’m working on another book. With the motorcycle show it’s a weird combination of fun and work, because it’s a lot more work than I thought it would be. When you watch the show you think it looks easy, like a piece of cake, but it’s really hard to keep up your energy and not look like you want to take a nap because you’re exhausted. Sometimes I have to do things in fifth gear and some things only in second gear just so it balances out.”

The blacked-out Tiger 800 XCA Norman rode in Season One and the new 2017 Tiger 800 XCA with some added accessories

He adds: “I also have a restaurant in Senoia, Georgia, called “Nic & Normans”. It’s all about gourmet burgers, pasta, fish, chicken, real southern feel-good food. It started off as just being a Dive Bar, somewhere that the crew can hang out after work, but somehow it turned into a restaurant. I don’t know much about restaurants, but I know it’s doing really well. We may open another in Atlanta – that’s the plan at the minute.”

Ride with Norman Reedus Season 2 is currently in production and aired on the AMC Network.

Links:

AMC – Ride with Norman Reedus: http://www.amc.com/shows/ride-with-norman-reedus
Big Bald Head Production Company by Norman Reedus: http://www.bigbaldhead.com/
Nic & Norman’s Restaurant: http://nicandnormans.com/