Michael Rooker, who played the rough-and-rumble Merle Dixon on the first three seasons of The Walking Dead from 2010 to 2013, reveals he originally believed the show wouldn't take off.
"I don't know. I have no idea," Rooker said when a fan posed a question about The Walking Dead's popularity during a Q&A session at New York Comic Con. "It’s guts and blood and chewing and eating. It’s like, really weird. When I first read it, I’m thinking, ‘Dude, I’m digging this, but middle America is gonna hate it — it’s not going anywhere. This is obviously not going anywhere. But I’ll do it because I need to pay the rent.’ I got to pay my month for a couple months.”
Rooker isn't the only one who didn't anticipate the blockbuster success of The Walking Dead: Norman Reedus, who has played the youngest of the Dixon brothers, Daryl, since the series' first season, recently revealed "everybody" told him not to do the show.
Launched under Academy Award winning filmmaker Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist), The Walking Dead launched on Halloween 2010, giving rise to a pop culture phenomenon and cable channel AMC's biggest moneymaker. The show has long dominated the ratings, and last Sunday's season 8 premiere (also the series' landmark 100th episode) made The Walking Dead the top-rated cable show for six straight years.
The acting vet has since gone on to undergo a career resurgence from his roles in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and The Walking Dead, but Rooker nearly missed out on playing Merle Dixon because of a long-standing grudge from an unnamed producer. Rooker would play the role from 1x02 onwards, until Merle's sacrificial death in 3x15.
The Walking Dead alum recently joined his former cast members on stage for the two-hour Talking Dead special that immediately followed the show's 100th episode. Now in its eighth season, The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.