The Walking Dead: We ComiConverse With Michael Rooker
October 15th, 2016 | by Linda Marie
Michael Rooker, star of The Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy, was also star 2016’s Walker Stalker Con Philadelphia. Our own Linda White had the good fortune to catch up with Michael Rooker and get his thoughts on where his career stands at the moment.
The Walking Dead: We ComiConverse With Michael Rooker
While my experience at Walker Stalker Con (WSC) in Philadelphia on October 1st and 2nd was more than I could have hoped, I was also given the honor of interviewing the very talented Michael Rooker. He is best known recently for his roles as Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead (TWD) and Yondu Udonta in Guardians of the Galaxy. I truly enjoyed not just speaking with the fascinating and highly amusing Mr. Rooker but, I also got a thrill out watching him interact with fans and provide awesome entertainment throughout the convention.
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I would like to start off by saying that there is not enough preparation in the world to get a person ready to speak with the energetic, charismatic, sometimes deflective, often snarky but always hilarious Michael Rooker. Since I was not scheduled to speak with him until the afternoon, I was able to observe him ‘in action’ in the actors area at WSC. Mr. Rooker posed an undeniable presence as he strutted onto the floor and made his way through the cheering crowd and into his autograph area. Excited fans reached out to hug him, snap a selfie or just say how much they adored him as actor. Mr. Rooker took it all in stride and greeted every fan openly and with a genuine smile, it was heart-warming to witness.
Expect The Unexpected!
At one point, sensing all the fun around him, Mr. Rooker chose to leave his table and meander over to the areas of his former The Walking Dead cast-mates to say hello. Needless to say, the fans went crazy as Mr. Rooker moved from table to table. Excitement kept building in anticipation of his interaction with former cast-mate brother Norman Reedus. Applause erupted as ‘Daryl’ and ‘Merle’ embraced, a sight to behold between two guys that seemed to have complete respect for one another. It was hard not to get a little emotional witnessing the warmth shared, not just between the two talented actors but that of the fans in relishing the moment. I felt fortunate to see that moment in person and it got me even more excited in knowing I would be speaking with Mr. Rooker later in the day.
As interview time approached, I made my way over to where I would be conversing with Mr. Rooker. I could hear his very distinct voice as he was having fun with the fans during his photo-ops. While waiting to speak with him, I was told by staff, security, and assistants that I should be ready for anything and that he may possibly move around anywhere and take me along with him…or not. Oh boy. As it turned out, we managed to contain him to one spot (a difficult task indeed). I put my notes aside and turned on the recorder as I realized this was just going to be a fun conversation started by me but clearly steered by him. After greeting me warmly, here is how it went…
Reeling In Mr. Rooker.
ComiConverse: I spoke with several fans today and told them I would be interviewing you. I asked them what they would most like to know. The biggest question… Who do you think Negan killed?
Michael: They don’t tell me that stuff.
ComiConverse: Ok, ok. I promised I would ask. Another fan question that popped up often… Is there another character from The Walking Dead, other than Merle or Daryl, that you would have been interested in portraying?
Michael: No interest. Merle was written for me. A great role. Really quite a complicated piece. To say what he got to say and still have people like you is not easy to do, in case people don’t know. Thread the eye of the needle where one episode they hate you (the fans), the next episode they love you. An interesting thing that I like doing.
ComiConverse: Speaking of Merle… In real life, do you think you could cut off your own hand?
Michael: Have to really. You’d starve to death or die of thirst or get eaten by zombies. Don’t have much of a choice. You gotta do what you gotta do. If you’re thinking more clearly you go for the chain first but Merle was not thinking clearly because he had been there 3 or 4 nights and days. He just needed to get out, he was panicked.
ComiConverse: Let’s talk about another big role you have, Yondu, in Guardians of the Galaxy. How is it getting done up in that make-up? I saw a photo of you at San Diego Comic Con and you looked awesome! You seem to be having a blast at these conventions. How many do you do in a year?
Michael: Laughs. Thanks, thanks! How much fun was that? They asked me if I would do it (dress up) and I said yeah why not. Turned out great. I do have a blast. I love meeting the fans. It doesn’t happen too often. It has only been over maybe the last 20 years that fans have been able to get up and close to the actors. I love seeing a fan’s first time reaction. It’s incredible to hear the reactions, to see the reactions, especially from somebody who’s never been to one of these things. They get all nervous, they lose it, they get very excited. It’s all very rewarding for them and for me.
Perfect timing as fan walks by, sees Mr. Rooker and says “You’re awesome!” Mr. Rooker thanks the fan and we both laugh.
ComiConverse: Is there any type of traditional ‘good-guy’ superhero that you would like to portray?
Michael: Yondu is really up my alley. I don’t radiate toward good guys, I don’t radiate toward bad guys. I radiate toward characters that are real. There is good and bad in everybody depending on the situation and I tend to radiate toward very complicated characters, like Merle, Merle is an extremely complicated character. Yondu, on the other hand is very complicated as well but in a different setting. If you can think of something that is similar with those two characters it’s that they’re very complicated, I don’t wanna say confusing but they’re not just a good guy or bad guy. My characters have flaws. My characters are people with flaws. Sometimes flaws generate positive-ness, sometimes negative. Sometimes in the process of the movie (the characters) overcome flaws or the flaws end up eating them up. Those are the most fun. I enjoy those battles. I enjoy that conflict.
ComiConverse: Speaking of conflict, who do you think would fare better… Yondu in zombie apocalypse or Merle as a space pirate?
Michael: Merle has got the hand (for a pirate). Laughs. Yondu would fare really well, could take down any number of these creatures. Aim exactly where he wants the arrow to go… (whistles). Just do away with all the zombies. Be done in like 5 minutes, that’s the show. (Laughs).
ComiConverse: Do you prefer the physicality of Merle’s hand/blade fighting or Yondu’s arrow?
Michael: I like getting in there but the arrow is very cool. Those are scenes that are very, very memorable from Guardians 1. Very cool stuff. The kids love it. All the people love it. I do like being very physically though.
ComiConverse: Do you like to do your own stunts?
Michael: Normally I do a lot of my own physical stuff. Don’t want to take away from the stunt guys though. Your body only lasts so long. Been doing this movie stuff a long time. I’m like, take it easy. I tell young actors to be careful what you wish for because it will come back and bite you in the ass in the end.
ComiConverse: You are such a busy guy with quite a long list of credits. You have a couple movies coming out early next year… The Belko Experiment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. How do you manage to keep up with such a busy schedule?
Michael: Yeah, The Belko experiment, very bloody, very violent, it’s a horror movie. Guardians 2 comes out in May. I also have the movie Bolden! coming out. They all seem to come around at the same time. It’s been fun, it’s been cool. You gotta keep up the energy otherwise it’s not gonna happen for you. Just maintaining right now, just chill ‘in out not trying to re-build. Staying generally fit so I can do what I wanna do. I did indulge in a Philly cheese steak last night, only ate the inside part of it. Too much bread. (Laughs).
ComiConverse: I feel as if I’ve taken up more than enough of your time and I know that there are fans waiting for you. I am so happy to have talked with you, this was awesome.
Michael: Thank you. What publication is this interview for?
ComiConverse: I’m writing for a rapidly growing website called ComiConverse that provides exciting information on all things comic and pop-culture related. They happened to need someone to help cover the comic convention scene. I enjoy comic conventions and writing, it was a good fit.
Michael: Good for you, you’re gonna have a blast! You’re on ground zero. One-on-one with the fans. We have a blast. Most of us (actors) have a lot of fun. Fans have a good time. Smaller conventions are more personalized but we still have rules. It’s not like all-out mayhem. Everyone (actors) is different. Everyone’s personal level of physicality is different. I’m very physical in my work and my personal appearances too.
ComiConverse: Yeah, I truly enjoy Walker Stalker Con as well as Heroes and Villains Fan Fest (HVFF) Conventions. They do a great job with personal interaction. I would love to attend Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta, it’s gonna be big. I know that you will be there. I am already confirmed to attend HVFF Atlanta in November. What’s the next event for you after this?
Michael: Wizard World Tulsa then two weeks off. I’m going everywhere. In the northeast, all over New York and upper East (including) Chicago. I will be at Heroes and Villains Atlanta as well.
ComiConverse: I will see you again! That will be very cool.
Thank you Michael Rooker and Walker Stalker Con.
Needless to say, it was an immense pleasure to speak with Mr. Rooker. I found him to be nothing short of a kind, funny, open and approachable guy that appreciates his fans. I thank everyone involved, from the Walker Stalker Con staff to Mr. Rooker himself for allowing me the time to do this. As a bonus, I also attended his panel the following day where he was just as entertaining and sarcastic as ever. I truly admire his ability to deflect topics at will and still maintain his charm. My favourite response came when a fan asked his favorite role. After a long explanation of how he usually responds, he finally says, “The one that pays the most.” That is true Michael Rooker. May I also add that his ‘Yondu’ sneakers are pretty awesome!
Walker Stalker Con, a convention based around the hit AMC TV show The Walking Dead and all things pop culture horror, held their Philadelphia event on October 1st and 2nd. An amazing time was had by all those relishing guts and gore! I highly recommend attending this well put together fan-oriented festival of freaky fun.
Then, go online and purchase your tickets at Walker Stalker Con.
Keeping you Comic Con-nected!