Interview with Michael Rooker

Michael Rooker is known for many roles throughout his career. Some of the notable ones are from the films “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, “Days of Thunder”, “Mallrats” and “Slither”. Michael is currently starring in AMC new TV series “The Walking Dead”. Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Michael about his role in the show and also about his many memorable characters he has played.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your role as Merle Dixon in “The Walking Dead?”
Michael Rooker: Merle is a survivor of the Zombie Apocalypse. And you can tell when you first meet him that even before all the shit went down he was kind of an asshole. We don’t play a lot of it up in our portrayal but he’s
the kind of person where you’re not really sure if he should be in charge…if he would be a good leader or not, though he certainly thinks he is.

MG: How do you feel about playing a new character which was not adapted from the comic book?
MR: Like the character I’m new to the comics. I started reading them when I was cast and couldn’t put them down. And I couldn’t find my guy in there so I realized that obviously my guy is a new guy. And when I went to Comic Con the writer of the comics made it clear to the fans that, yes, there will be new characters. And believe me, all of the “Walking Dead” comic fans will be very surprised at all of our attempts to bring the story to life. We’re not going to do everything in the same sequence as they’re done in the comics. I mean we learn as children that we want the same things again and again and again and again and again. And it’s not going to happen this way. We’re going to have fun with it. I’m going to do it the way my instincts dictate.

MG: What has been the best part of working on the show?
MR: Working on the show! I didn’t expect it, it came out of the blue. I didn’t expect to even be in the show. But once I read it I was like…”shit yeah!” The role is perfect for me….for the kind of energy I have. For the kind of person that intrigues me. I was like, “yeah man, I want to do this.” And I did whatever I could and whatever it took to land the role. Luckily I did. I had a lot of people on my side. The casting people stood up for me and fought for me and they’re the reason I’m in this show. Plain and simple. I’m looking forward to seeing how people are going to respond to the show…how middle America is going to respond to the show…how fans of the comic are going to respond to the show. From what I’ve seen they’re going to enjoy this a whole hell of a lot. Anybody who’s a fan of zombies or sci fi or action or tough portrayals are going to be wallowing in a big field of mud! Like pigs they’re going to have a great time. They’re going to enjoy it. And I’m going to enjoy it. Even though I’m involved in it I’m going to watch it and enjoy it.

MG: How do you feel that approaching 25 years “Henry: Portrait of Serial Killer” is such a huge cult classic?
MR: I have two movies that are approaching more then 20 years and both of the are absolute classics. I am extremely blessed and lucky to have been involved in any movie that doesn’t go straight to video (laughs), though that’s not such a bad thing these days, don’t get me wrong. I mean, “Henry” is approaching 25 years and “Days of Thunder” turns 20 this year. Each year they gain more popularity…each year new fans come on board. The fan bases are tremendous…two or three generations of fans for both of these projects. I was just approached by Paramount earlier this year to do a game based on “Days of Thunder.” I’ve got a full fledged, action packed, arcade style race car game where my character, Rowdy Burns, is the crew chief/racer that leads you through the game…and you end up racing against me as well. Fans of that movie are just going to be ecstatic when that game comes out because it’s going to be a kick ass game. Now I’m not going to do a game of “Henry” (laughs loudly) but if we did do a game of “Henry” what kind of game would it be? I’ve
been approached by game producers about doing a “Henry” game!

MG: Your role in the film “Slither” is definitely not for the squeamish. How was it working on that film?
MR: Well it took about eight hours just for the makeup. My call time would be for 3:00 am and I’d be in the chair until 8 o’clock, then go on set and work several hours. Then it would take another four or five hours to take it off. That was the longest. We did get it down to around five hours to put on and maybe two hours to take off. It became manageable. But it was hard…especially on the neck. I’ve been very lucky in that most of my characters have been pretty memorable. If I go out and get hit by a Mack truck tomorrow they’ll be able to say, “he played some pretty memorable people.”

MG: Your role in “Mallrats” steals the film. Was it fun working on that film?
MR: Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t know what the film was going to end up being when all was said and done. But that’s my goal. My goal is to steal a scene or to steal the show. Take it over and make it mine. Make every other actor chase me. Make them come up or come down to where I’m at…to get down and dirty in the scene. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. I don’t know if that’s a “team player” or not. But that’s the way I like to play. I like to play hard and I like to win. And I like to have fun doing it. And when I’m on set with other actors they may think I’m going to kow-tow to them, like it’s THEIR scene. But I’m going to take it and it’s up to them to try and take it back. And when actors work that way…when you’ve got a juicy competition going on…that’s when you end up with a good movie. A good scene. A good memorable character. All of those characters will end up being memorable. That’s only my opinion. I’m sure a lot of people think “I don’t think so, buddy.” Maybe that’s why I’ve never worked with Stallone or Tom Cruise or Kevin Costner ever again! “F*** that guy…he’s not going to be in MY movie!” I like to have fun…I like to do my thing. And in “Mallrats” they allowed me to do my thing. You know from most of my roles that I tend to be very physical. Whether it’s a comedy or a dramatic situation I’m usually a physical guy at time. And that sometimes scares directors. Especially those that are more into the words…they’re not necessarily into physical comedy. But doing “Mallrats” I think we both (Rooker and director Kevin Smith) had a good time. And I’m a little upset that before we did this interview I didn’t get a special delivery of chocolate covered pretzels! (laughs)

MG: Tell us about some of your other upcoming projects?
MR: I’m in a movie called “Hypothermia.” It’s not really a remake but it was probably inspired by “Creature From the Black Lagoon.” This time around the creature is a bit more aggressive and hungry. And he doesn’t fall in love with the girl, he actually wants to eat her! That’s “Hypothermia” in a nut shell. Another film is “Super.” It’s one where your friend calls you up and asks you if you want to do a role but they don’t have a lot of money. “I don’t even know if we can fly you down to the set.” The budget was that minuscule. And I told them, “you know I drive everywhere. Give me money for gas and I’ll sleep in my car if I have to.” So they gave me some gas money and I made it down and they even put me in a hotel. It was a lot of fun.

Click here to purchase “The Walking Dead” merchandise
Click here to purchase Michael’s movies

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