Exclusive: Michael Rooker Talks Walking Dead, Video Games, And Guardians Of The Galaxy


The Walking dead returns to our TVs tonight when the Season 3 premiere kicks off the most exciting season yet. We still have more Walking Dead coverage to go, but today we have a pretty candid interview with Merle Dixon himself, Michael Rooker. We teased part of the interview a few days ago with the Guardians of the Galaxy comments. Now check out all Mr. Rooker had to say about his character and all the things he gets to do this season!


Last time we saw the real Merle he had sawed his hand off and seemingly escaped the roof. When he comes down, I’m guessing he didn’t meditate and find his happy place, is he a man on a mission this time around?

Yeah, he’s not…hopefully he has a few happy times, but I don’t think he’s anywhere near forgiving anyone for what took place. Definitely a man on a mission. The main thing everybody wants to know, and what we’re hopefully going to answer in season 3, is where has Merle been and what he’s doing now. What’s up with him? Will he ever find, or get a chance, to find his brother? In that sense, I think it’s more of a man on a mission than setting around in his happy place.


Piecing together photos and trailers for this season, it looks like Merle has cast his lot in with The Governor and the Woodbury crew.  Can you tease anything about that particular relationship?

You know what? Merle has found a place where people appreciate his specialized abilities. Merle’s a survivor, he’s a good hunter. He knows how to fish, hunt, he knows the woods, he is a good fighter. You defineltly have a lone wolf, but still he’s…there’s going to be a lot of different shades of Merle people will experience, I think, in this new season.  It’s going to be very cool to find out more about this character for sure. He seems to be a very popular character and it’s sort of touched the nerves of a lot of people.

Kind of going off of that, Merle is a bad guy but fans love him. Do you have any idea or thoughts on what makes him appeal to people so much?

I think what happens is when there’s a character that has the ability to do and say whatever the hell he wants to do and say, he’s not politically correct by any means and yet when he says it it’s not completely and totally disguising because it’s in the way you say it sometimes. It’s intriguing. I think people live vicariously through Merle in some odd way, even in the short amount of space that we’ve encountered Merle. I’ve only really been in one episode, one monologue, and one scene in the entire series. So, this character really has touched on some sort of nerve that people are into. They’re digging it a lot. They love to hate him, they love to love him, there’s all sorts of emotions that go on when you encounter a character like this. You hate him, love him, whatever you appreciate what he’s doing and you can maybe see his side of it. I think it’s really cool for me as the actor to be involved with a character that has done so much with so little when it comes to how much work I’ve actually done on the series. To have at least four or five major fan clubs and all these people really intrigued and on the edge of their seats waiting for Merle’s return, it’s very exciting for me as the performer and as the artist. I hope to hell they’re not disappointed is all I can say [laughs].


Going on from what you’re saying, you’ve been in all three seasons and you’re basically a regular for the show but you’ve only popped up a few times. Does that kind of feel odd for you?

Isn’t it? It’s interesting isn’t it; I mean I’m in the show more than I’m in the show. It’s so weird, it’s like even when I’m not in the show, when I’m not physically there, I’m still there. It’s my motorcycle; it’s my drugs that saved T-Dog’s ass. It’s just Merle is definitely this entity that has a major influence on the people in this series, hence the audience as well. The audience, the fans are just can’t wait to have Merle do something. I mean, all the shit that happened in the series so far, all the negative stuff, a lot of time ‘Merle must have done that. Merle must have shot the rifle that shot the deer that shot the kid.’ Merle almost by not being in the show became one of the most popular characters simply by the fact we’re allowed to use our imaginations to fill in what we think Merle has been doing and how we think Merle is going to react and respond when he meets up with the group, if he meets up with the group, when and how and all that stuff. We’re allowed to fill in all these interesting and very interesting, very intriguing questions that we really don’t know if they’re going to come to fruition or not. It’s just what we think might happen, this is what we hope might happen. It’s like I said before, it’s very cool. It’s a major turn on for me as the actor and coming back and now being in season 3. It’s really cool.


Merle, for lack of a better term, was kind of a spirit guide for Daryl in season 2-

Indeed he was. I’m glad you put it that way. That’s a very interesting way of putting it. When I did the scene, when I read the scene I said ‘oh my God, this is such a positive scene between these brothers.’ The whole tough love thing that comes out in that is, wow. If he hadn’t have been there Daryl would have died. He definitely would not have gotten up and he definitely would not have climbed that hill to make it out of that ravine. I’m glad you put it as a spirit guide because that’s exactly what sort of happens. You get these images and stuff and that’s what happened to him. He was basically on his deathbed there.


Going from some of the photos we’ve seen, you’ve got a new set of gear where your hand was. Can you talk about any of that, how it works for him, functionality?

I think if you’re going to have a stump instead of a hand, that is the best prosthetic to have adapted onto your hand because it’s quiet handy. You can do all kinds of stuff with it kill zombies, kill humans, kill animals, cut bread, slice butter. You can do all kinds of stuff with it [laughs].


Going back to the relationship with Daryl and Merle, can you talk anything about the potential family reunion we might see this season?

You know, I think that’s probably the only thing missing in Merle’s life and/or Daryl’s life as well. Just the times when they’re quiet and you’re not fighting and killing zombies or running around trying to find food and survive, you’re just wondering if your sibling has survived. I think that will be a big part of who these guys are, I think in the future. In season 3 Merle wondering about his brother and all that. That’s going to be a cool throughline to follow and see where it ends up.

Switching gears just a little bit, The Walking Dead video game is going to be the Dixon brother in the spotlight. Can you talk anything about your involvement in with that?

I have decided to be a part of it. It wasn’t sure in the beginning, but I decided to go on and be a part of it and we’re going to have some fun with that. I have some experience with other video games. It will be interesting. I’ve worked with Activision before once on Black Ops 1 I did a map pack called Call of the Dead where I play myself and we basically fight zombies. Then they asked me to be in Black Ops 2, the brand new Black Ops 2,that comes out November 13th. So when I was asked to do the video game with merle and Daryl in it, I was like ‘oh I like this medium’ so I was really digging and I really enjoyed my work on the previous video games I had worked on. I’m up for it; we’re going to be involved with that.


I talked to David Morrissey earlier today and I asked him the same question- The Governor and Merle are both pretty  intimidating guys, which one of you two would you say is the baddest? Who should we be more afraid of?

[laughs] I think you should definitely be more afraid of the Governor. With the Governor you don’t see what you get, with Merle you know what you get you know what you have in front of you. He’s either digging you, he likes you or he’s f***ing going to try to kill you. With the Governor, he can f***ing try to kill you and still pretend like he likes you. That’s different. I would more leery of that kind of person than Merle. Definitely I think Merle may be more physically able to f***ing f**k you up, but definitely someone with the ulterior motives…don’t get me wrong, Merle has ulterior motives. Merle is for Merle and he’ll do thing that will get shit done that suits him. He is nowhere near as manipulative as I think the Governor is. People who are manipulative and that kind of sneaky kind of way are much more dangerous. The mountain lion in front of you facing you down, I think is less dangerous than the mountain lion waiting in the tree waiting to f***ing pounce on you and you don’t know it’s coming.

In fairness, he did say that it was kind of pick your poison. You’ve got what you were saying the mental aspects. He said they were both kind of bad guys.

True, true. I think that’s what it is. That’s a good phrase, pick your own poison. Either way you’re going to get your shit given to you. Do you want it up front, in your face or do you want it behind your back? That kind of thing.


Yesterday a story came out where you were talking about James Gunn’s involvement with Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel and you talked about Rocket Raccoon. Can you expand on that? It sounded like you might have talked to James Gunn since he got the gig?

Didn’t it sound like that? All of a sudden you make a statement that “yeah, I know James Gunn and I know he’s doing this” and yes, you know. I’m teasing the reporter saying yeah, me and raccoons are friends. All of a sudden I am on a major campaign to do the role. I love reporters they are so much fun [laughs]. They add a lot to…you know, they use their own imaginations sometimes. I know James Gunn and we’ve talked about the show. He’s very busy rewriting and getting ready to do it and Marvel and him are definitely going to be picking a wonderful cast and in reality I would be very fortunate to be involved in that cast.   But at this time I’m not involved with the cast. You know, me having worked with James Gunn before, I know his work and I love how he deals with actors so it would be a pleasure, it would be an absolute pleasure, to work with Mr. Gunn again.


Yeah, I wanted to ask you that to see how much was fans getting excited.

I think it was mainly fans getting excited. They want to hear…you know they like my voice and they dig my work so that’s good, that’s cool, that’s alright, nothing wrong with that but there is no official, anything official going on. It’s just fans getting excited because they’d love to see me play one of those roles in that show. I think it’s because they like my work and they really dig my voice and they’re thinking of my voice and matching it up with different characters in there and stuff wondering which would be better for me to play.


I understand. It’s a really exciting idea.

Oh, I think it’s extremely exciting idea as well.


He raised some great points about how big a character Merle is without truly being on screen. We’re finally going to see how he escaped that roof and a little of what he has been up to since then. It sounds like we’re finally going to get full one Merle this season. Rooker sounded incredibly excited and enthusiastic about all he got to do this season, and it sound like he has plenty of reasons to be excited. What do you think? Are you ready to see even more Merle?

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