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

My name is Merle: Michael Rooker on “THE WALKING DEAD”

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Michael Rooker, Fango fave and star of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and SLITHER, can now be seen playing Merle Dixon on Frank Darabont’s AMC series THE WALKING DEAD, airing Sunday nights at 10 p.m./9 Central.

AMC’s official site ran a chat with the actor, who made his first DEAD appearance in episode #2, which premiered last week. He points out that even though he was unfamiliar with Robert Kirkman’s WALKING DEAD comic, it didn’t take him long to get hooked.

“I was totally new going into it,” he admits. “I got the call on the phone, then I did everything I possibly could to be involved with it. When I started reading the comics, I couldn’t put them down. The things that these people go through—oh my God. What would happen if zombies started coming down on my house? How would I protect myself? What would I do to protect my family? It’s just crazy.”

Rooker’s WALKING DEAD role isn’t the nicest guy. Merle is a bigot and a bully and definitely has anger issues—and is the latest in a long line of bad-guy characters Rooker has played. “It all started back when I did my first film, HENRY, and it’s been going on ever since,” he says. “I’m not one to totally buck the system, so whatever is on my plate, I have to look at and decide whether or not I want to eat it. A lot of times that is what I get. You know how it is; somebody will see your work and like it and remember it, then decide to make it a role in their film. They think, ‘Oh man, that guy who did that role, I want that guy.’ I don’t mind it. I have fun doing it. A lot of the roles aren’t always bad bad guys—a lot of the time they are tough, down-to-earth, straightforward individuals, and they always have their own motivation.”

In addition to villains, Rooker has often been associated with horror. “You know what? When you think of it, I haven’t really done a lot of horror,” he remarks. “It’s amazing: I have done some really good ones, but I haven’t done a lot of them.”

Merle is one of the characters on the show who isn’t in the comics, which Rooker finds freeing. “I didn’t have that body of work, so it gave me freedom to use my own imagination, and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned,” he observes. “My guy [Merle] and my brother [Daryl] are new guys, and I plan on putting my stamp on it, and having a good time doing it.” Daryl is played by BLADE II and THE BOONDOCK SAINTS’ Norman Reedus, and Rooker adds, “They had Norm looking at the stuff I had done so that he could hear my voice. Not to mimic, but to get to know we are brothers and that we hang out together a lot. He’s an awesome actor, and when I see his work and I see my work, we really make a nice combination. We really could be brothers.”

Look for Rooker in THE WALKING DEAD’s next episode, “Tell It to the Frogs,” airing this Sunday, November 14.

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Posted by Allan Dart Nov 10, 2010