The Official Website for Actor Michael Rooker
The Official Website for Actor Michael Rooker

AMC: The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker Reflects on His Own Horror-Movie History

Actor Michael Rooker knows scary and not just because he was Merle in The Walking Dead‘s Season 1. He also played a serial killer in Henry, morphed into a mutant monster in Slither (on AMC this Thursday), and worked with horror masters Stephen King and George A. Romero on The Dark Half. Given his association with both The Walking Dead and this year’s AMC FEARFEST lineup, talked with Rooker about a few of his favorite frightful things.

Q: It’s been 25 years since your breakout role, in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Anything about that experience haunt you?

A: It never really haunted me, but it was my first full role and I had never done a film before — and, psychologically, it was a different role to get into and maintain. I basically tried to stay in character throughout the day, and then I would chill out at night. It was a goody though. It’s one of these little movies that just will never be forgotten. People are seeing it now for the first time, so the fan base is three generational. It’s pretty cool.

Q: Do you have a favorite scary movie? What kind of things scare you?

A: As a kid, I saw a lot of scary movies, but they were mixed with comedy, like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. But then you’d see two or three movies all in one Saturday afternoon, and they were likely to have a real serious Dracula movie intermingled with these comedy pieces. So my movie upbringing consisted of that kind of thing. Slither completely filled both in me. It was gross at times and funny. I would describe it as just the weirdest, quirkiest, strangest love triangle that you’ll ever have the opportunity to see.

Q: What was your favorite Slither moment?

A: One of my favorite, favorite moments is not even in the movie; they cut it out. It’s when the character Grant Grant is filing his meat. He’s filing bologna. Puts it in a file. Puts it in the filing cabinet. He’s filing salami. Puts it in a file and puts it in the filing cabinet. I could barely do the scene because I was laughing so hard.

Q: Did doing that role turn you off of eating meat?

A: The lady who helped remove my makeup — about ten minutes into the makeup removal, which took maybe an hour and a half to two hours total, I would hear gagging in the background. I had to close my eyes, and about ten minutes in, every time, I would hear her leave the trailer and noise, like, “Oh, is she okay?” It must have been quite ugly. I was laughing of course. She’s outside throwing up. [Laughs] I’m sure if I had my eyes open it would have been no more meat for me for a while.

Q: Is there a horror movie you wish you could have been in?

A: Any of the Alien series. I really dug that whole series.

Q: Which was scarier as an actor — playing the killer in Slither or playing the victim in Whisper?

A: The victim in Whisper is scarier. [Laughs] Me, personally, Michael Rooker — I’m not a good victim.

Q: Are you someone who gets dressed up for Halloween?

A: [Laughs] You know what? I have the teeth from Slither, all the different versions of Grant Grant the monster. Last year, I put in the big teeth, and I put on a hoodie. That looked pretty cool, and it was very simple. I have the version just as the eyeteeth are starting to grow, and sometimes I just put those on and go down to the Starbucks for coffee. [Laughs] That’s not even on Halloween.

Q: You’ve worked with George A. Romero, the host of this year’s AMC FEARFEST. Have you talked with him about The Walking Dead?

A: I have, and he is very happy and excited that people are really digging our show. He’s the greatest guy. I did a project called The Dark Half with him, but I also just finished a project that’s part of the Call of Duty: Black Ops series called Call of the Dead. It’s basically me, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Danny Trejo, and George Romero. We’re all playing ourselves, and the scenario is that we’re doing a George Romero movie and all of a sudden the zombies become real, capture George Romero, and take him away. I got the gig because I was in The Walking Dead. All the people who made this game are huge fans. Is that the coolest?

Q: Speaking of Season 1, do you think you’d have the courage to do what Merle did and cut off your hand to survive?

A: That’s an easy question: of course. I think most people placed in a situation like that would probably do the same. If you still are conscious, and you can still think, and you’re not panicking. That’s really the only logical way of extracting yourself out of that situation. I have a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn’t have a second thought.