Michael Rooker Is Always Up For A Challenge
An interview with Michael Rooker is as distinctive as his resume. From his filter-free answers to penchant for swearing, Michael is as energetic over the phone as he is on screen, and his latest film is no exception.
In Hypothermia, Michael plays Ray, patriarch of The Pelletier Family, who is forced to fend off the murderous creature lurking just below the ice. It's an old-school chiller that Hollywood rarely, and sadly, makes any more. But that is exactly the reason Rooker signed up! Additionally, the actor and I talked about the return of Merle to The Walking Dead this October!
TheInsider.com: What attracted you to Hypothermia?
Michael Rooker: I'm a big fan of Creature From the Black Lagoon. Huge fan of that movie. I love seeing the zipper on the guy's neck. So when the director turned out to be going for that [vibe] with this movie, that sold me.
Insider.com: The movie either takes place on the ice or in the snow -- how cold were you during production?
Michael: Dude, I was so cold I brought out my huge expedition parka I bought when I worked in Winnipeg. The kind of jacket that only Canadian explorers use. I never thought I'd use that thing again, but it got so cold in upstate New York, I had to break it out. And the water in the lake was something else. They found the little stream that feeds the lake, so we dug out the ice and I laid in this flowing ice water forever to get that final little struggling shot. That was worse than actually going under the water. It was horrific. I came out of there and the entire lower half of my body was numb.
Insider.com: What is it that you look for in a character when reading a script?
Michael: I really like guys that are placed in extreme situations. Anything that challenges me physically or emotionally. The bigger the challenge, the greater the chances I'll sign on. I’m not game for these milquetoast characters or whatever. Taking on a challenge is embedded in my genetic makeup.
Insider.com: You're also returning to The Walking Dead this month -- did you know from the outset that Merle would return?
Michael: When I first took the job, I had one episode. That's it. This was my karma job because I owed a few people on the show a positive payback because of a project that happened 18 years ago that I ended up not being able to do. This came up and I jumped at it right away. Whether it was one episode, two episodes ... it didn't matter to me. I wanted to do this no matter what. But as far as I knew at that time, it was only a few episodes at best.
Insider.com: When we re-meet Merle, will we discover that he's no longer the same guy?
Michael: Indeed. The first time you saw Merle, he was higher than a kite; addicted to whatever he can numb his issues with. We left him on the rooftop like that, so what happened to Merle? Where did he go? Obviously we as an audience didn't know he survived a lot. I mean, the way AMC played it, the idea of Merle kept coming back into the show. His brother is there, his stash of drugs ended up saving T-Dog's life – crap medicine is good stuff. I'm just amazed that playing this role now in season three, I get the opportunity to bring back this character that people have hooked into. They're crazy for Merle! I love the ride so far and am having a kick ass time.
Insider.com: Sounds like you kept watching the show after season one.
Michael: [laughs] Totally! I'm a fan of the show [because] it creates this moral dilemma dialogue afterwards, and it's fabulous to be involved with a show that doesn't dull your mind. Sitting there, on the couch, blah, blah, blah, you don't have to think too hard with other shows. And that's OK -- I do it. Everybody does it. But this show is special. You're on the edge of your seat and then afterwards you're debating. For me as an actor, there's no better project.
Insider.com: One big difference with Merle this year is he's got a funky new arm. How do you like it?
Michael: Oh my god! It's amazing! Oh, it's amazing. In a zombie apocalypse, that's the only arm I'd want. It's very handy in this world. In an office building, maybe not so much.
Insider.com: How do you describe the third season?
Michael: There are turns and flips and crazy sh*t goes on. It's a very physical season. Every time I get a new script, it's like, "We're doing what?!?!? You've gotta be kidding me!" The show is on another level this season and you just have to be there. Everything you think could happen ... does.
Hypothermia is available on DVD now, while The Walking Dead premieres October 14 at 9 p.m on AMC.