One of the first characters introduced on The Walking Dead, Michael Rooker’s Merle Dixon came back a few times before being killed off in the third season of the show. Brother to Norman Reedus’ Daryl, Merle made appearances in seasons 2 and 3 before meeting his end and Rooker has now given a concise explanation for why Merle was written out of the series, and it seems it came down to the amount of money that AMC were prepared to spend on the actor.
Making a guest appearance on a panel at Wales Comic Con hosted by his Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Sean Gunn, Rooker had this to say about his experiences working with AMC and Marvel on different franchises:
“I don’t prefer either. I made more money on Guardians. Walking Dead, they were cheap. AMC was very cheap. That’s probably why they killed me off, because they knew I was gonna get more money the next season.”
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The actor had become a series regular for season 3 of the show, and played a key role in the Governor storyline for that year of the series. At the very least, Merle received a strong send-off, sacrificing himself and then reappearing as a Walker for an emotional Daryl to despatch him in the penultimate episode of the third season. Rooker did, however, make another appearance in the franchise before his character’s departure, contributing his voice to The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct game.
The claims that AMC are “very cheap” appear to make sense, too, considering long-running accounts of the network cutting budgets, while many showrunners have come and gone on the series. Indeed, the early years of The Walking Dead appeared to involve a lot of struggles over costs, something that’s presumably now been rectified by the many spinoffs and movies in-development. Given the timing of Rooker’s departure, though, it appears likely that the actor was a victim, at least partially, of financial caution by the network at the time.
Tell us, though, do you think Merle Dixon and Michael Rooker were given short shrift in The Walking Dead? As always, share your thoughts in the comments section down below.