Michael Rooker: ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,” & More

by Marshal M. Rosenthal

Most actors expect to be interviewed while lounging with a drink, but Michael Rooker ain’t having any of that. Most recently known for his kick-ass role as Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead, he may not look all that terribly imposing at first glance…until a voice that comes across as both soft and deadly tells you otherwise. So we approach with caution (and spoilers)…

Man Cave Daily: Has your martial arts training been of use in your acting career?

Michael Rooker: My training in Aikido helped me tremendously — when you’re punching and kicking and being thrown… there have been times when the director wanted me to run and jump and fall off backwards onto concrete — no way you can do that without some training…

And yeah, insurance companies don’t want you doing that, but Hong Kong directors want it so yeah, go for it — hopefully not too many takes to get it done though…

Man Cave Daily: Your voice has been described as having an aggressive, “gravely” sound to it. Is this on purpose?

Michael Rooker: I never tried to “make” my voice sound like anything other than what it is — but I did lose theater jobs because they thought my voice couldn’t last the entire run of a play. But that didn’t mean they didn’t dig my voice, and in television/movies obviously you’re not doing long talks.

I’m fortunate because my voice lends itself to sound aggressive without being loud — it’s a soft sound that’s not harsh. But I can certainly turn it up when needed.

Man Cave Daily: How did you approach the role of Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead?

Michael Rooker: I didn’t go into it thinking that I wanted to make Merle Dixon this “love to hate” kind of guy but approached it as playing it that this is a zombie, f**ing apocalypse and all hell is broken loose. That means no law enforcement and who cares if there is, because Merle never got along with those pricks anyway.

So my guy is like the most adamant, not-PC correct guy on that show and started like that and went all the way through like that — it’s just how it had to be, because that’s who this Merle guy is and so I’m playing him as honest as possible.

Man Cave Daily: Few TV characters have to cut their own hand off…

Approach with caution

Approach with caution (credit: Marshal Rosenthal for Man Cave Daily)

Michael Rooker: One of the reasons I accepted the role was because of what it means that Merle has to cut off his own hand. It means he gets away from the zombies and you just know that in his mind he’s looking to wreak his motherf***ing revenge on those who brought him to the point of where he had to do that. The audience get this too…because once I leave the rooftop, in the back of your mind there’s always the thought that this Merle guy is going to show up and kick somebody’s ass. That went through all through season two and into when I showed up in season three – everyone keeps thinking that Merle Dixon is the boogeyman; every time you turn the corner for what happened to that group, you wonder if maybe it was Merle who set it up. It was one wonderful setup.

Man Cave Daily: So Merle goes out with a “good guy” bang?

Michael Rooker: Merle didn’t do what he did at the end to help everybody…he did it to help his brother. His last hurrah was to take out as many of the bad guys as possible so as to give his brother a chance to make it through. Sure the repentance angle was a bit of icing on the cake, but in my mind the main purpose was to give his only living kin a better chance for surviving. Merle was willing to pay the ultimate price to accomplish this goal and though he’d had a swift and sweet exit. But we all know that that didn’t materialize…

Man Cave Daily: So what are you working on now?

Michael Rooker: I’m really excited about the movie I just finished, Guardians of the Galaxy — it’s a a big Marvel superhero film. I play Yondu and it’s a beautiful kick-ass role. It’s right up my alley but the only thing that I can say about the role now is that I’m blue.

We bet the theme song's playing in your head right now.

We bet the theme song’s playing in your head right now.

Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture. Visit his website.

Mark Setrakian in exo-suit with training robot used in the time challenge featured in the premiere episode.

Mark Setrakian in exo-suit with training robot used in the time challenge featured in the premiere episode.

Marshal found the sound of the future in Christopher Tyng’s 31st Century Beat and learned how to build his own battle bot when he interviewed Sy-Fy’s Mark Setrakian in Slaughterbots: Roll Out!

More from Marshal Rosenthal

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