The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker Says AMC Didn’t Know What To Do With Merle

Merle Walking Dead

In just the second episode of The Walking Dead season 1, two original characters not from the comics were introduced – Merle and Daryl Dixon. But while Norman Reedus went on to remain with the show ever since, becoming the most successful screen-only character in the franchise, Merle only appeared a few more times. To be precise, he had one more episode in seasons 1 and 2 apiece and then he served as a regular in season 3 before he was killed off.

Star Michael Rooker – who’s since gone on to bigger things, like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films – recently spoke to SYFY Wire and reflected on his time on TWD. Rooker admitted that he doesn’t think AMC knew exactly what to do with Merle before they eventually brought him back in season 3. That said, the actor thinks the way he returned was the perfect way to reintroduce his character.

“It’s basically three years of work, and they held off on the second season. I’m not sure AMC knew what to do with the character,” Rooker told SYFY WIRE ahead of a virtual appearance at GalaxyCon Live. “They held off and they held off, and the moment I came back in the sequence when Norman’s character has fallen down into the ravine and I end up being his guardian angel who comes to him and antagonizes him enough to force him to get up and climb. It was just a gorgeous way to bring the character back.”

After he appeared via hallucination in season 2, Merle returned for real in season 3, where it was revealed he’d become one of the Governor’s lieutenants. This storyline led to a meaty character arc for Merle, as he was initially an antagonistic force to Daryl and his friends but ultimately put his loyalty to his brother above his ties to the Governor and received some measure of redemption when he sacrificed himself to stop David Morrissey’s villain.

Despite this, Rooker’s personal favorite Merle moment comes from season 1’s “Tell It To The Frogs.”

“From day one all the way to the death of Merle, my favorite sequence was in the beginning, on the rooftop,” Rooker said. “I’m handcuffed to the roof. T-Dog drops the key down the pipe, I can’t get loose and I end up cutting my hand off. That whole sequence for me was unbelievable, to be able to do a nine-minute monologue was fantastic.”

The actor then went on to express gratitude that he was able to be part of TWD, even if he didn’t have that long a lifespan on the show.

“To watch it again is simply amazing,” he added. “Frank Darabont, my man, thank you for casting me. And [executive producer] Gale Anne Hurd, thank you for casting me in that role.”

The Walking Dead is due to return to AMC for its delayed season 10 finale sometime later this year.