On “The Walking Dead,” Norman Reedus plays Daryl Dixon, a rough-around-the-edges hick with a heart of gold — and a penchant for employing a crossbow to shoot zombies in the face. In real life, he’s a 45-year-old dad who orders in french fries via Seamless, eating them in his Chinatown pad while lounging in a onesie that he says resembles a cat costume.
“People think I’m this angry, surly, ready-to-start-a-fight guy, but I’m kind of a pussycat,” he tells The Post. “I’m kind of a wimp. I don’t like confrontation at all, anywhere. I don’t even like to watch other people have confrontations.”
Born in Hollywood, Fla., Reedus made his film debut in Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic” in 1997 before breaking out in 2000’s “The Boondock Saints.” He’s worked steadily ever since, including stints on “Charmed” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” But the success of “The Walking Dead” in 2010 took his stardom to a new level. Fans of the show are rabid, to say the least — and, as it turns out, opinionated.
“I get fan letters, and they’re like, ‘You should get a haircut. You should really wash your hair,’ ” he says. “I’m like, ‘You know it’s a zombie apocalypse? It’s not a lawyer show.’ ”
Fans are also insistent that his character hook up, particularly with Carol (Melissa McBride), a character whose husband abused her until a zombie ate him. But Reedus isn’t so sure that’s a good idea.
“They’re both really damaged people,” he explains. “But I don’t know, [Daryl] hasn’t hooked up with anyone at this point. It is the end of the world, and I think you get love where you can find it.”
That’s maybe not so different from Reedus’ own reality.
“I’m pretty single in all areas of my life at the moment,” he says. “I’m like that weird old cat lady.”
It wasn’t always that way. From 1998 to 2003, he dated model Helena Christensen, whom he met through a mutual friend, photographer Yelena Yemchuk.
“I guess Helena saw a picture of me and said, ‘Who’s that?’ and Yelena goes, ‘Oh, that’s f - - king Norman,’ and took Helena to meet me at a friend’s birthday party,” he says.
He and Christensen are no longer together, but they co-parent their 14-year-old son, Mingus.
“When Mingus was smaller, it was a little harder, going from two places,” says Reedus. Now, “he has the best of both worlds. The only hard part is, ‘Where are his sweatpants? Are they at your house or at my house?’ ”
And Reedus still calls Christensen a friend.
“She’s a really cool girl,” he says. “She’s really smart and we laugh at the same crap.”
In December, he was seen holding hands with 20-year-old model Cecilia Singley. But it seems things have cooled down since.
These days, when he’s not spending time slaughtering the undead or taking photos (he published a book of his work last fall), he’s lying low with his black cat, Eye in the Dark. The feline was named by Mingus at a time when Reedus couldn’t afford to keep his lights on.
“Mingus was only about 5, and he came up to me and said, ‘I need a black cat.’ So I went everywhere trying to find a black cat, and then finally this shelter in the East Village said they had one but I probably wouldn’t want it,” Reedus recalls. “I went over there and the cat was just, like, hissing. He had this sketchy, wiry, ferocious little screaming thing.”
Reedus likes making his boy happy. He says Mingus got the first copy of the first “Walking Dead” video game.
“I forgot I cuss in it,” he says. “I was sitting behind [Mingus] when he was playing, and all of a sudden you hear me say a bad word, and he turned around with his mouth open, like, ‘Ahh!’ ”
The actor brings his sense of whimsy to the set, as well. He finds moments of levity with series lead Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes.
“Every once in a while, there’s a really intense scene, and it’s just me and Andy, and if we’re sort of close to each other, I’ll whisper, ‘Love you,’ and he’ll whisper, ‘F - - k you,’ ” he says.
Reedus also makes the most out of having to endure 45 minutes of makeup prep every day.
“I always tell the makeup artist I want people to think they can smell me through the television set,” he says. “And sometimes I steal the little bags of dirt so I can apply more when no one’s looking.”
In fact, he’s notorious for his sticky fingers.
“I steal a crossbow [from set] every year,” he says, laughing. “Which is probably a felony, so I don’t know if I should be telling you that.”