-- As “The Walking Dead” gears up for its fifth season premiere on Sunday, one of the buzziest issues among fans is if Daryl Dixon, the show’s rugged zombie-hunting heartthrob, is gay.
But executive producer Greg Nicotero floated a completely different theory.
“I think he’s a virgin in my opinion,” Nicotero told ABC's Dan Harris in an interview for "Nightline." “I don’t think Daryl has ever been close enough with anyone to have sex so I always imagined that he’s a shy 12-year-old kid who doesn't know how to handle the emotions that he has but has feelings for people on the show that he is close to but I never really imagined one way or the other that he’s had sex.”
Daryl, played by Norman Reedus, is the show’s breakout star who is handy with a crossbow, as in, he can put arrows through "walkers'" heads with ease. The quiet character’s love life, which is mostly non-existent, has often been a hot topic among fans who want to know whether he’ll strike up a romance with Beth Greene, Carol Peletier or any of the female characters.
But comic franchise creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman set off a firestorm of speculation this summer when he told fans Daryl’s sexuality had been “discussed” among show producers.
Reedus told “Nightline” he isn’t fazed by the speculation because it has created a build-up to this new season, and if Daryl does eventually have a sexual encounter, he wants it to be “awkward.”
“I don’t think Daryl is the type of guy to just throw someone up against a tree and kiss in the moonlight and once you do that it’s over,” Reedus said. “I want that to be as fumble-ly and as awkward as possible.”
Nicotero is a jack-of-all-trades behind the scenes on the show -- executive producer, director, special effects, make-up designer, he does it all. In fact, he has directed several episodes, including the season five premiere, and makes a cameo appearance every season.
“I like to because I have fun, it’s like Halloween,” he said.
And making the walkers as terrifying and realistic as possible is something showrunners have been meticulous about since season one. Their “authenticity” is what Nicotero believes is the whole crux for the show’s massive success -- the season four finale had around 15 million viewers.
“You got to keep the audience, the moment they think something doesn’t look real and you lose them, you never get them back,” he said. “So on 'The Walking Dead' I feel like we were able to establish this world, realistically ... so they didn't have to reach for it anymore, they could allow themselves ... to just fall into the stories that these characters are having, knowing that this threat is there and the threat exists.”
“If the zombies looked phony or cheesy nobody would care what the actors were doing or what the characters were doing,” he added.
The new season of “The Walking Dead” premieres on Sunday, Oct. 12 at 9 p.m. on AMC.