Since his breakout performance in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Michael Rooker has appeared in over a hundred projects including Cliffhanger, Days of Thunder, JFK, Tombstone, and Mallrats. Today we are pleased to have Mr.Rooker with us to speak about his portrayal of Merle in AMC’s wildly popular series The Walking Dead and the upcoming soon to be wildly popular Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy!
BLANKMANinc: Your first major film role was nearly thirty years ago in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but how did you first get into acting?
Michael Rooker: That was basically it. That was my first professional gig when it came to film. I had done theater for about a couple years before that. I went to a theater school, I graduated from there in 82. From there on I did theater and my first film was Henry. My school was called the Goodman School of Drama, it has since changed its name to The Theatre School at DePaul University but there’s still quite a beautiful conservatory professional theatre group there.
BMi: Most people today recognize you as Merle from AMC’s popular Walking Dead series, how did you come to be involved with the show?
MR: I got called in by some casting friends of mine, they told me about the character and the guy getting handcuffed to the rooftop and he cuts his hand off to get away from zombies and that’s basically it.
BMi: Your character was original to the show and that angered many comic fans, but your performance managed to turn Merle into a fan favorite, Did you feel any added pressure to make merle work against the critics preconceptions for the character?
MR: No, not at all. I had entire freedom to develop that role the way I wanted to make it work so I didn’t have to use any other character as a blueprint from the comics whatsoever. I think now they do realize that the Walking Dead tv series is a whole new animal and they use the comics as sort of a guidepost, if you will. It’s a whole different feel that way. The comic fans who know the comics in and out and backwards and forwards will still be a little surprised when they see the shows.
BMi: You’ve played some evil, vile psychopaths very, very well in your career. Where do you think you draw your inspiration for these dark characters?
MR: Um… it’s called the imagination! (laughs)
BMi: You will be Yondu in the upcoming Marvel Comics film Guardians of the Galaxy that will no doubt be a huge hit. What can you tell me about the project or your character’s roll in the film?
MR: Well, you know what unfortunately I can’t tell you a lot because it’s still in strict wraps but I do play Yondu and this time I am a character in the comics but as you can see in some of the photos that are already out I’m not in a loincloth like the original character. It’s a bit more of a modern updated version of Yondu. There’s not much I can say about Yondu at this point in time although it took a good six hours to get in makeup and wardrope and be camera ready. It was a pretty expensive process and so we worked our butts off.
BMi: How did that compare to putting on the makeup for Merle?
MR: Well, Merle had almost no makeup. Merle had sexy dirt; the girls in the makeup room like to call it sexy dirt. So, pretty much me and Norman were probably the dirtiest set of two mainly because we just put it in our hands and put it on ourselves and spread it over our heads and necks and arms and chest and everything but there was not a lot of makeup. We did a lot of sunscreen and a lot of sexy dirt, basically that was it. You didn’t have to do anything, if you’re sweaty you’re sweaty and if you’re not you’re not. We were in the Atlanta area and it would have been horrible to be in a lot of makeup.