Many fans of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics have a troubled relationship with AMC’s massively popular adaptation. One of the strangest things to get used to, however, is that the best part of the show is Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), a character who does not appear anywhere in the source material. That’s frustrating for those of us who read the comics, who love these characters but have yet to see them accurately portrayed on screen. (Over the last half of season four the show did make significant strides, but there is still work to do.) Still, even the most steadfast comic fans among us can admit that Daryl is a righteous badass, though it is surprising how close he came to never existing at all.
Talking to The Writer’s Room, Kirkman echoed the sentiments of many fans when he says, “Daryl Dixon is my favorite element of the television show.” He’s totally right, and, as co-creator, executive producer, and occasional writer, he’s responsible for Daryl’s presence. Still, that has to sting a little bit to see this new addition gain so much more popularity than any of the other characters that he has spend years and years meticulously shaping. At least he realizes that Daryl is the best part of the show, that’s a big step right there.
While Daryl doesn’t exist in the comics, he wasn’t originally a part of the show either. Kirkman says that Reedus originally came in to read for the part of Merle, who is Daryl’s brother in series. Though the role was technically still open, the producers were set on casting Michael Rooker in the part, which they eventually did. Still, Reedus left quite an impression. After they met with him, Kirkman says, “all the producers kind of got together and we were like, ‘We love this guy, we’ve got to get him in the show somehow.’ And so suddenly Merle had a brother named Daryl.”
Because he doesn’t exist in the comics, Daryl is also the only character without any insight into his own potential future. While that doesn’t always mean much—Andrea was unceremoniously dispatched on television but remains very much alive on the pages of the comic books—Kirkman jokes that Reedus is “very nervous about that every time he sees me.”
Even though he almost didn’t exist, we’re glad that Daryl is there. The first three seasons of The Walking Dead might have been entirely unbearable without his presence. As it is, there are times that are hard enough to get through even though he’s there.