‘Walking Dead’: Michael Rooker on the return of Merle Dixon

Nov. 10, 2011 | 11:29 a.m.
the walking dead Walking Dead: Michael Rooker on the return of Merle Dixon

Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) face off on "The Walking Dead." (AMC)

At the recent Aliens to Zombie convention in Hollywood, fanboy-favorite actor Michael Rooker turned up carrying a large box of life-sized polyurethane severed hands that he planned to dole out as souvenirs.

“Thirty years honing my craft, and it’s come to this,” he joked.

The unusual keepsakes were designed as a homage to Merle Dixon, the character Rooker plays on the hit AMC zombie series “The Walking Dead.” A despicable drug-addled racist and the nastier of two Southern brothers, Dixon sawed off his own hand to escape becoming zombie food midway through the show’s first season. He’s been missing ever since, though a sizable portion of the show’s audience has been clamoring for his return. Now, it appears the character is poised to come back on the scene this coming Sunday — if Internet buzz and teasers for the next episode are to be believed.

the walking dead merle dixon Walking Dead: Michael Rooker on the return of Merle Dixon

Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon on "The Walking Dead" (AMC)

Rooker won’t confirm that he’s about to be reunited with Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse, but he’s the first to express surprise at the following the character has come to enjoy: the girls-who-love-bad-boys came out of the woodwork with Dixon’s Vixens, Rookerholics and the Mo’ Merle Monday Tumblr feed.

Nobody expected this level of Merle worship,” said Rooker with a laugh. “He’s such an out-there, crazy, anything goes kind of guy. There’s an uncertainty about Merle – like he’ll come back when you least expect it. He’s the boogeyman, and viewers love that suspense. The number one question I’m asked is, `When is your character coming back?’ I can’t say when, but I promise it’ll be a wild ride.

“The comic, zombie and gaming fans are a hoot – and they’re really into the plot twists,” he added. “They’re constantly throwing out these theories about Merle secretly stalking the group in the woods or luring zombies to their original camp.”

Rooker has enjoyed a decades-long career in genre fare and in mainstream Hollywood feature films — from “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and “Cliffhanger” to “Days of Thunder” and “Slither” — and he’s recently been able to parlay his “Walking Dead” popularity to open up new professional avenues, he said. Specifically, Rooker’s new undead cred enticed Santa Monica gaming company Activision/Treyarch to tap him to appear in their zombie shooter game Call of the Dead, part of the Call of Duty: Black Ops Rezurrection map pack.

“I’ve gotten more heat from the anticipation of my coming back to the show than any other thing I’ve done,” Rooker said. “Because of that, I found a whole new group of fans, and the gaming company would never have contacted me if it wasn’t for that.”

Appropriately, perhaps, Rooker unwinds by spending time at the gun range. He’s a shareholder in the Angeles Shooting Range in Lake View Terrace — and he happens to be a pretty decent shot.

“Every time I was cast in a role, the director put a gun in my hand, so I figured I’d better learn how to use one. Then I found out I really liked it,” Rooker said with a laugh. “I was 16 when I first realized I intimidated people. Maybe it was growing up in a rough Chicago neighborhood, I don’t know. But I remember heading to school one day, and watching people lock their cars as I walked by. I was really [upset] about it when I got to school until I looked in a mirror and was like, ‘Whoa! I really do look scary.’ ”

— Susan Karlin


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12 Responses to ‘Walking Dead’: Michael Rooker on the return of Merle Dixon

  1. Kim says:

    We love Rooker! Check out the "Rookerholics" group on Facebook! mo' Merle!!!

  2. Mick says:

    Can't wait to see Merle back on TWD! Thanks so much for linking the Dixon's Vixens website too! :)

  3. Eileen says:

    dixons vixens love a lil momerle!!! check us out! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dixons-Vixens/27190

  4. Tamela says:

    Michael Rooker is the best of the best! Love to love the bad ass. And he can be a teddy bear as well. I am happy to say I am a proud member of the 'Rookerholics' on Facebook. Mo'Merle!

  5. Anathema says:

    this may be good news-the show so far this season is dull and lifeless-like a zombie i guess-not surprised though-how far can a "zombie chasing me" series go? heres hoping!!

    • guest says:

      if you read the comic, the story goes in all kinds of exciting and demented places which the show hasn't had the guts to do yet. That's why it sucks.

  6. yukl says:


  7. carol says:

    I have been a fan since his first movie Henry. I own some original press photos and would love to get them signed. Anyway, that scene where he asked Andrea why they didn't hook up made me want to jump him right there! I can dream can't I!

  8. Gino says:

    Merle is the man !! lol Never before in cinema history has any actor being in a series only 15 or so minutes. Left such an legendary impression on people everywhere. Michael Rooker sure hit a goldmine with this one. He has a whole new set of fans that he never had.

  9. burçlar says:

    Great actors, great movies!

  10. cee jacobs says:

    Wait. Did I happen to come across a comment from a hater that actually bashed an awesome show like THE WALKING DEAD saying it sucks?! U have an exceptional cast that includes the very twisted Mr Michael Rooker (loved him in Slither!) , the storyline in and of itself is markedly different from anything else u see on television! I say gimme a break from the dull, banality that passes for “horror” on that other network called ABC. 666 Park Ave.? Love Vanessa Williams as a Desperate Housewife but she was better off staying on Wisteria Lane! Aaaah but I digress. Where on earth can u see zombies on a weekly television series who are dispatched with such… vigor and by a katana wielding whisp of a woman like the actress who plays Michonne? The woman is bad ass! Love her! Love the show in general! Hopefully, the show will run (or WALK in this case) for many seasons yet to come! TWD had me as a fan from day one and I’ll continue to watch! To all u haters our there… don’t hate..appreciate! Eleven million ppl cant be wrong!!! To cast and crew of this show I say keep up the good work! ;D

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