Michael Rooker nearly missed out on being a part of The Walking Dead because of something that happened nearly two decades earlier. Almost none of the people who Rick Grimes teamed up with in Atlanta at the beginning of The Walking Dead are still alive on the show. Jacqui, Amy, Ed, Morales, and Jim were all gone by the end of the first season, with Shane, Sophia, and Dale only making it a little bit longer. Some of them survived for awhile, such as Andrea, Lori, T-Dog, and Glenn. But now, only four members of Rick's original group are still alive on the show. Two of them are family, Carl and Rick. But Carol lost her abusive husband and then her daughter. And while he hung on for awhile, against all odds, at the end of season three Daryl lost his brother Merle.
Merle was not exactly the sort of character that fans root for. He was racist and sexist with a bad temper and foul mouth. He also had a criminal history and an unfortunate habit of both selling and using drugs. Worst of all, he had a tendency to drag his little brother down in the muck with him. Daryl became one of the more popular characters on the show, due to Norman Reedus' amazing performance, which showed Daryl learning how to be a better man than his brother. But none of that would have been possible without Michael Rooker's equally brilliant turn as Merle.
And yet Rooker almost didn't get the role. Comic Book is reporting that during a Q&A at NYCC, Rooker admitted he nearly lost out on the role of Merle Dixon, because one of the show's producers had a longstanding grudge against him.
While Merle might not be the sort of person who many want to hang out with, Rooker wanted the role as soon as he heard about it. Playing a rude and rough prejudiced characters who is forced to cut off his own hand to survive excited the actor, something he made clear from the start. But the woman he spoke to from the casting department had something rather unfortunate to reveal about his chances:
“She goes, ‘ah, yeah, but there’s… there’s one little issue.’ And I said, ‘what? It’s not an offer?’ And she goes, ‘nah… the producers have a hard on for you.’ And I’m thinking, it’s not a good one. I said, ‘well, what do I do to change their mind?’ She said, ‘dude, I don’t know. But something happened like years ago, and he still has some issues.’ And I’m going, ‘what was it? I don’t remember, what did I do to him?’ And I won’t get into the whole story, but something had happened, and I pulled out of a project, and it was their project, and it was like there was this grudge sort of held for a long time since, and I didn’t know that.”
So, because nineteen years earlier Rooker had to leave an acting role on a project that one of The Walking Dead producers had worked on, he was looking at missing out on a role he really wanted. So Rooker decided to do the professional thing. He wrote a sincere apology and explanation to the producer. He got another chance because of that letter, won the role, and spent three years playing the iconic character who audiences love to hate. A role he will be reprising - at least vocally - for the Robot Chicken The Walking Dead special 'Look Who's Walking Now'.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with the season 8 premiere and 100th episode on October 22.
Source: Comic Book