The Walking Dead: Michael Rooker almost wasn’t Merle due to a grudge

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 22: Actor Michael Rooker at 2017 WIRED Cafe at Comic Con, presented by AT
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 22: Actor Michael Rooker at 2017 WIRED Cafe at Comic Con, presented by AT /

Can you imagine anyone else playing Merle on The Walking Dead? Michael Rooker almost lost the role due to an almost two-decade old grudge.

Merle is one of The Walking Dead’s most colorful characters. It’s hard to imagine anyone besides the talented Michael Rooker playing the surly, racist, but devoted to his brother Merle. Rooker made Merle a character that fans loved to hate. And he turned Merle’s redemption into a beautiful swan song for the character.

But the role of Merle almost went to someone else because of a past miscommunication with one of the producers. As reported by Syfy at the Guardians of the Galaxy panel at NYCC moderated by author Paul Vigna, Michael Rooker said he almost wasn’t cast as Merle.

It turns out that even though he wanted the role pretty badly and was a perfect fit for the role almost 20 years ago Rooker had pulled out of a project with a producer on The Walking Dead. And despite the time that had passed the producer still held a grudge.

Because he really wanted the role as Merle when Rooker found out about the producer’s objection to casting him based on their past history he wrote a letter to the producer explaining what had happened. Rooker said: “As an actor, it’s good to know these things. That way, you can write a letter and that’s what I ended up doing.” Luckily the producer believed him and dropped his objection to Rooker being cast as Merle.

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The Dixon Brothers

Originally Daryl Dixon didn’t even exist. When The Walking Dead’s early scripts were written only Merle Dixon was part of the story. But when Norman Reedus auditioned for the role of Merle The Walking Dead team was so impressed with him that they created the role of Daryl Dixon for him.

Now, of course, Daryl is one of the most popular characters on the show and Rick’s faithful right-hand man. Merle also could have just been a one-off character but when he reappeared in season 3 his story arc filled out the story of the character and made Merle a much more relatable and dimensional character.

When he let Michonne go and sacrificed himself trying to take out The Governor it brought Merle’s story arc to a close in the best way possible. And it’s hard to believe that another actor would have made a character that could have been such a caricature a character that fans really cared about.

Next: How would Merle have handled Negan?

Thanks to that producer for giving Michael Rooker another chance. Merle wouldn’t have been the iconic character he is without some help from Rooker.