The conclusion of last Sunday’s episode of ‘The Walking Dead‘ was more handhanger than cliffhanger, with one very key appendage of Merle Dixon’s found baking in the rooftop sun. Much to the surprise of his brother and those responsible for his handcuffed predicament, Merle himself was nowhere to be found. Is he still alive? Or did the hungry Walkers make away with his body? Will we ever see him – in human form – again? Michael Rooker, who plays the firearm and racial epithet-slinging Merle, previewed his fate.
First off, congratulations on getting picked up for a second season.
I’m stoked. I’m blown away. I’m so proud to be in it. The writing and the other actors are fabulous. I’m a happy camper.
Can we assume Merle is still alive?
Well [laughs]…You can’t assume anything. We left Merle with a small portion of his anatomy still hanging out there on the roof. We’ll catch up to the rest of him one of these days, I’m almost sure of it.
Will we see his actual body, and not just his hand, in Sunday’s episode?
I think audiences will know my presence. I’m around. [Laughs.]
If he’s still alive, how’d he get off the padlocked roof?
I think there’s going to be a reveal in the next episode. Obviously part of me is there, and needless to say my brother is a wee bit upset. They expected to find me there and I’m not. I don’t wait for anyone. This guy has been doing things alone all his life.
How much do you know about Merle’s background? Where is he from? What did he used to do for a living?
We didn’t talk very much about that with [executive producer] Frank [Darabont]. I’m not sure of anything when it comes to ‘The Walking Dead,’ but we have many scripts to follow. We have [comic creator and executive producer Robert] Kirkman’s stories, and that’s going to be a blueprint. Obviously I’m one of the new characters in this television series, and my brother as well. I don’t want to start putting my personal ideas out there because I’m sure some of this background will start coming out. I just let my imagination go crazy.
Well obviously we know he loves guns — and I’d imagine his brother.
What you can tell from these two guys is that we’re survivors. We’re definitely outdoorsmen. We’re definitely close. We’ve probably been hunting together since we were children. That being said, when you look at our group of survivors, not a lot of them look like they’re capable of running a trout line or knowing how to stalk prey. Merle and Daryl Dixon are geniuses as far as surviving is concerned. As many times as I read ‘Why would anyone in this group want such crazy guys in their camp?’ I gotta tell ya, Daryl came back with a shoulderload of squirrels, and he would have had a deer if the Walker hadn’t gotten to it. That’s important stuff. These two guys are probably one of the reasons this entire encampment has been able to survive.
In the second episode Merle utters the “N-word” several times. Did you have any reservations about doing that scene or how it would be received?
The beauty of that scene is that it was very courageously written. When you’re able to use language that a character would really use in real life and under those intense situations…and, also, he was higher than a kite. We didn’t play that up too much. In other circumstances maybe he wouldn’t have been so violent. I’m not trying to rationalize it, but people are tense.
So you didn’t have any hesitations about it?
I found it very refreshing to be honest and forthright with that character. And obviously Merle doesn’t take s–t from anybody.
Were you familiar with the comics before starting this?
I’ve been reading them now and I simply cannot put them down.
What do you think would be worse — self-amputation or death by zombie bite?
I consider myself a survivor. I’d like to think that if something were to happen I would be able to do anything to make sure that I protect myself and my family. Self-amputation is a small price to pay for surviving!
Is there a reason why you consider yourself a survivor?
I’m a guy that was born in the South and we moved to Chicago when I was 13. I was put on a lot, being a little kid in the big city. I learned quick how to protect myself.
I hope that Merle is also a survivor.
I hope so too! You don’t really think that, do you? Are you being serious?!
Of course! There has to be a villain. He adds so much dramatic tension.
I agree 100%.
Are you wishing for a Merle return? Or do you hope he becomes Zombie food?