Performers of the Week: Walking Dead's Norman Reedus and Southland's Michael Cudlitz

The Walking Dead Season 3 Performance Norman ReedusA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Norman Reedus

THE SHOW | The Walking Dead

THE EPISODE | “This Sorrowful Life”

THE AIRDATE | March 24, 2013

THE PERFORMANCE | People love Daryl for a lotta reasons. He’s hot. He’s cool. He’s a badass. He’s no-BS. But, beneath all of those lies the real reason the that character is so adored: He’s vulnerable. And rarely (if ever) has Reedus as viscerally depicted that quality of his post-apocalyptic counterpart as he did in Merle’s final scene.

We knew that it wasn’t going to end well for Daryl’s beloved brother — the Governor had already shot him, after all. But what we, and certainly Daryl, couldn’t have anticipated was that, instead of Merle’s dead body, what he’d find just outside of Woodbury was Merle’s undead body — feeding on the corpse of young Ben.

RELATED | Walking Dead Finale Preview: Who’s Going to Die?

As Daryl took in the stomach-churning scene, Reedus’ face crumbled. The redneck gasped for air and tried to choke back sobs. He even pushed Merle away, as if willing his eyes to be deceiving him. But he was only delaying the inevitable. Merle attacked, and Daryl, his heart in his throat, was finally forced to put him down.

As deaths go — especially on this show — it wasn’t the most gruesome one ever. Yet, thanks to the authenticity of Reedus’ performance, it’s likely be one of the most widely remembered.


THE SHOW | Southland

THE EPISODE | “Heroes”

THE AIRDATE | March 27, 2013

THE PERFORMANCE | On this week’s Southland, Cudlitz showcased his uncanny ability to say everything without saying anything at all. Forced to visit his dying rapist/murderer father in prison, Cudlitz’ stoic cop John Cooper stood silently over the man who had ruined his life. He listened to another round of his dad’s insults, including perhaps the worst one yet: “I used to pray you’d kill yourself, because I’d rather see you dead than have a f—-t for a son.”

Rather than lashing out and betraying his character’s guarded nature, Cudlitz kept his face almost still, but the pain in his eyes was evident. Then with a small, disappointed, resolute nod of the head, he walked over to his father’s side and whispered something into his ear. We never heard the words, but thanks to the actor’s performance, we didn’t need to.

RELATED | Three Southland Actors Line Up New Gigs — Is the Show Doomed?

It didn’t end there. In a powerfully emotional scene, Cooper once again listened as his retired training officer Hicks (a superb Gerald McRaney) waxed about his empty life. With sadness, compassion and even a little recognition – this could easily be a glimpse into his own future – on his face, he watched the man he admired for so long crumble before his eyes.

Then, making his words count, Cooper recalled a scary day when he was a young cop. “When I saw you, I knew I was going to be OK,” he said tearfully to his mentor. Slowly, Cudlitz let the walls down, unveiling a vulnerable side to his character that’s hardly ever glimpsed. “You are not going out like this old man. I’m not letting you,” he continued.

And it would be a shame if Southland went out without the consistently impressive Cudlitz getting some recognition, too.

HONORABLE MENTION| New Girl‘s Jake Johnson, who gave us a painful part of Nick’s backstory with his instant shift from loft clown to resigned family head following his father’s death. Every choice Johnson made in the episode – from haranguing Jess into writing a eulogy to grasping her hand in front of the crowd — was done with the weariness of someone who desperately doesn’t want the task he’s been handed but knows no one else will step up.

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  1. DL says:

    Hear, hear on all counts. The look on Reedus’s face in that moment got me choked up, and as for Cudlitz… what can I say? Over the past few years, his work on Southland has made him one of my favorite actors on television. I second your hope that he gets some long overdue recognition for his outstanding work.

    • DL says:

      By the way, my favorite moment of his prior to this was the one a couple seasons back where, after his father’s parole hearing, he drops the pills in the dirt and starts bawl like a baby. For me, it was one of the most moving, jaw-droppingly powerful, devastating moments I’ve seen an actor deliver in a very long time. Kudos to him for being able to maintain that rawness, pain, and depth for his character year after year. Someone give the man an award!

      • Ash says:

        “Give the man an award” Seriously. These actors on TWD need to start getting some more acknowledgement for their work from the professionals/media world. Everyone knows the fans love their work, and I know several of the actors said they love their fans’ love, but what does it take for them to get an Emmy or Globe? End rant.

        Anyways, I’m 100% bias towards Norman Reedus and TWD because I haven’t seen Southland, but I don’t think he needed to share the spotlight. Actually, if he had to share the spotlight with anyone, it should have been Rooker.

        • DL says:

          Haha, I was actually talking about Southland there, but yes, TWD deserves that awards love too! Andrew Lincoln and Sarah Wayne Callies in earlier seasons, and for sure Norman Reedus, Michael Rooker, and David Morrissey in this one. Also Scott Wilson, Lauren Cohan, Steven Yeun, and even Chandler Riggs can’t be underestimated! Such a great cast.

        • Crystal says:

          I absolutely agree with you. If this was a joint award, Michael Rooker should have been acknowledged. Like you, I don’t watch Southland, so I’m completely biased, but Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker were both wonderful the entire episode, and that last scene was absolutely heartbreaking.

          • patti says:

            I can not remember any time I cried broken hearted except when Merle was a Walker and killed by Daryl. I shall miss his character and hope to see his uniqueness on some other show and soon!

  2. Polly says:

    I really like Norman Reedus, but in last week’s episode Michael Rooker was absolutely INCREDIBLE.

  3. kat says:

    Both of these were amazing performances. Between his mentor and his dad, Coop had a SICK episode and was utterly heartbreaking (as he has been all season). Speaking of heartbreaking, Norman Reedus killed it. Both of these characters and actors are consistently among the best on TV right now. Few compare. I love this tie!

  4. Sharon says:

    What about Julianna Margulies and Josh Charles performance from this past week????

  5. neko says:

    I think an honorable mention should go to Josh Radnor for HIMYM this week. He was so good he made me cry. I mean there are sometimes where I’m not sure why I’m even watching anymore and then an episode like this one comes up and I suddenly realise how great it can be and how talented the cast is.

    • Jeff B says:

      And the critics have said Ted is the weak link in the show…. not after his end of episode speech where he went up to the mother’s door and gave the 45 days time speech. Awesome tv

    • Xime says:

      it was amazing… I almost cry with him…

  6. Elyse says:

    Norman Reedus was nothing short of amazing this week. he has turned Daryl into such an awesome character. love it!!!

    • Jeff B says:

      Remember the campaign over the christmas holidays that if TWD killed off Daryl people would stop watching it? Daryl proved last sunday he is the best character on the show.

      • I Heart Damon Salvatore says:

        Norman and Andrew both need some Emmy love this year — Andrew in lead and Norman in supporting.

      • Elyse says:

        yes! Daryl has a huge following! hopefully they realize if they ever kill him off it will ruin the show. long live Daryl!!!!

      • Amy says:

        There is no way they will kill off Daryl….I think. Daryl is to The Walking Dead what Sawyer was to LOST. A fan favorite you never thought would be killed off.

  7. Ruby says:

    Michael Cudlitz is phenomenal and it’s a damn shame that his work is all but ignored. I have also had the pleasure of speaking with him via Twitter and he’s also an amazing guy in real life. Glad to see him recognized here!

    Norman was also incredible. With that one short scene, he made us realize that Merle’s death wasn’t about Merle at all, it was ALL about Daryl, and it was beautiful.

  8. Lecholls says:

    Jake Johnson was phenomenal. He excels in comedy, but he’s just as good when he’s serious. He deserves more recognition. I always laugh at Max Greenfield, but Jake Johnson has really elevated New Girl this season.

  9. labpar says:

    best actor on TWD is Andrew Lincoln, he is also the most underrated. hope he gets deserved recognition sometime.

  10. Mike says:

    Good choices on both counts, Only honorable mention I would add is Josh Radnor, whose normally weak but shined this week.

  11. sparky says:

    Brilliant performance from Michael Cudlitz and Gerald McRaney. Heartbreaking last scene with both actors. Brilliantly acted by both!!!

  12. Mindy says:

    Michael Cudlitz was phenomenal in this episode! Wow! Her performance was riveting. He is absolutely the most underrated actor in television.

    The two scenes of Cooper’s you mention here are some of the best acting Cudlitz has done on the series. And that is truly high praise

  13. Ana says:

    I think that the cast of TWD is overlooked because critics don’t take the show seriously. They tag it as being all about zombies and that’s it. Some of these actors are unbelievably good. Andrew Lincoln was excellent in the first couple of seasons. Really award-worthy. Norman really hit it out of the park last Sunday. He straight up made me cry. I got completely choked up. He deserves to be acknowledged.

  14. Bri says:

    Michael Cudlitz is phenomenal! He has been providing an amazing performance on Southland for a while and I truly hope he receives the recognition he deserves.

    Just amazing.

  15. Ram510 says:

    Norman scene was very good on Walking Dead. However Michael Cudlitz stole the show and was the highlight of my TV week! Awesome acting and deserves at least a nomination for his work on Southland (cause we all know they are going throw Mad Men Boardwalk Empire ect in there). Great job Michael!

  16. Marc says:

    Southland is one of the best shows on TV…. Hear that Emmy Awards!!!!!!

    • seattlejohn449 says:

      SOUTHLAND just won a prestigious Peabody award last week for excellence in television…perhaps this will help bring more awards attention its way (especially if this is the final season)

  17. Hillary says:

    Cudlitz needs a pilot!!

  18. Jamie says:

    I don’t watch Southland, so I can’t comment on Cuditz, but I wholeheartedly agree with Reedus getting a nod this week! I’m so glad to see TWD cast getting some attention this year – even if it isn’t by the Emmys/Golden Globes (it will be a huge snub, btw, if no one is considered for this season). Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be so in love with a “zombie” show, but the characters and the actors’ portrayals sucked me in. I’ve actually gotten choked up and on the verge of tears on several occasions this season thanks to Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus (and the interplay with Michael Rooker), Lennie James (can you say Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama?!?) , and even Sarah Wayne Callies and Chandler Riggs in Lori’s death scene.

  19. RobMF says:

    The very fact that Josh Radnor isn’t even an honorable mention hurts my feelings. His performance in this past weeks How I Met Your Mother almost drove me a grown man to tears. It was phenomenal. I’m not arguing Reedus, I think his performance was great but Radnor at least deserved an honorable mention.

  20. Brock says:

    Is everyone serious about Norman Reedus? His crying on TWD this week was pathetic. My friends and I all started laughing out loud when it happened. It was terrible. I do agree that he is a great actor in a so-so show, but wow, how anyone could feel sad during that scene is beyond me

    • Jak says:

      pathetic was the point. pretty, hollywood-worthy crying where the actors still look good while upset is not good acting, its pretentious performance. have you ever seen a real person cry? they scrunch their faces up and look horrible, if your actually, really upset, you look like crap while you cry. moreover Daryl was abused as a child and is depicted as being emotionally immature as a result (ie. getting angry and verbally attacking Carol when he was actually just sad that he couldnt find Sophia). Thusly Reedus fed the charchter into a childlike regression, he loses control and just cries like a child would, because the audiance is meant to realize that, despite his exterior appearnce of a tough, rough bad*ss, unbenknownst to his fellow survivors he is infact emotionally unstable and sensative, and most of all, vulnerable.

    • patti says:

      do you “think” being shallow could be the reason you “don’t get it”?

  21. Bella says:

    Loved Daryl in the last Walking Dead. Was hoping Joseph Morgan would get an honorable mention here for his great performance this week on Vampire Diaries

  22. Amy says:

    I hope Jake Johnson will get an Emmy nomination this year! His performance as Nick Miller is remarkable. He’s a phenomenal actor! Absolutely a true gem in the show business! And he has been on fire in this season especially!!!

  23. Abacus says:

    Michael rooker should have been named performer of the week. His performance was the best in that episode.

  24. Kat says:

    Norman was amazing. Before that week he was my favorite character and this week performance only confirmed it. And yes I am one of those crazy fans who can’t imagine TWD without Reedus. Never had a crush on the redneck before lol

  25. Aleksa says:

    The great thing about Reedus’ performance wasn’t just that he cried, it was that he actually regressed into a child for a m

  26. t86 says:

    Norman was absolutely fantastic. Michael Rooker too. Daryl crying in the final scene for this episode was one of the most emotional moments of this season.

  27. CJ says:

    Michael Cudlitz is so, so good, and this week he was just downright phenomenal. I desperately wish that he and the rest of the cast of Southland (especially the incomparable Regina King) would be recognized come Emmy night, but history tells me that sadly it won’t happen. All of them are incredible, week after week. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows and I’m ever grateful to TNT for giving it a second chance.

  28. Teeny Bikini says:

    Michael Cudlitz = AMAZING! When I was watching him, I though – this has got to be the best actor on TV right now. It is so hard to do what he does and he does it so effortlessly – each performance ripe with raw emotion just using his eyes. Great choice!

  29. Renee says:

    Thank You for recognizing one of the best shows and actors on TV. Michael Cudlitz always gives a stellar performance. He is so talented. I hope they submit this weeks episode for Emmy consideration. He truly deserves one!

  30. Daisy says:

    Michael Cudlitz was amazing. I really hope he gets recognized for this role, especially if it turns out to be the last season of Southland (which I do not hope).

  31. Liz Ebrey says:

    I KNEW it! I’ve only watched the last two episodes of Walking Dead’s season 3 today, and I came straight on here to find out if Darryl was your performer of the week for that episode.. not surprised at all that he was. Merle’s death barely made me blink, but Darryl’s reaction had me in tears! Brilliant scene.