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NYCC: Michael Rooker almost missed out on The Walking Dead over 19-year grudge

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Mar 26, 2021, 3:00 AM EDT (Updated)

Well, you can be sure of one thing in life: Nothing is ever dull when Michael Rooker enters a room. All hell broke loose during a Q&A with the Guardians of the Galaxy actor at New York Comic Con today.

Moderator Paul Vigna (author of the recently published Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead) tried his hardest to remain in control, but Rooker took the event off the rails, running into the audience to ask his own questions, swearing a bunch, handing out Reese’s cups, and even calling James Gunn at one point! For the record, his GOTG director didn’t pick up, but Rooker was sure to leave a hearty voicemail.

Nevertheless, during the more restrained moments of the panel, Rooker offered up a few enlightening anecdotes about his prolific career thus far. For example, he claimed that an alleged 19-year-old grudge by a producer on The Walking Dead almost kept him from playing his now beloved role of Merle Dixon, older brother of Norman Reedus’s Daryl Dixon.

As soon as he heard a description of Merle’s character, Rooker wanted in. But the casting official said there was “one little issue,” something that happened in the past, which turned a high-ranking producer off of Rooker.

Michael Rooker, New York Comic Con 2017

Michael Rooker at New York Comic Con 2017 (Getty Images)

“The producers have a hard-on for you,” Rooker said, quoting the casting director. “And I’m thinking... it’s not a good one. It’s not a good hard-on.” Not giving any names or specifics, he went on to explain that years before, he’d pulled out of a project from that very same producer, leading to the aforementioned grudge.

“As an actor, it’s good to know these things. That way, you can write a letter and that’s what I ended up doing,” he said. Giving the finished letter to the casting people, Rooker told them, “If you can get this to him, it explains exactly what took place.”

In the end, the producer believed the letter, and Rooker credits his written explanation with nabbing him a second chance at the role.

There were plenty of moments of levity during the panel, as well, like when Vigna asked if Chris Pratt got teary-eyed during the final moment between his Star Lord character and Rooker's Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- when Yondu says, "He may have been your father boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.”

Rooker responsed in the affirmative, but not for the obvious emotional reason. “Yeah, but I thought that was because we were hanging on a wire. I thought it was so painful for him that he actually started weeping,” said the actor, in reference to the crotch-digging harnesses both he and Pratt were strapped into while filming the scene. Still, he was surprised by the seriousness they were both able to muster, despite being so uncomfortable.

Talk of tears didn’t deter Rooker’s energy, however, and he was soon back in full swing, making his rounds across the room, and even filming a video on his phone of himself, Vigna, and the entire audience shouting, "I’M MARY POPPINS, Y’ALL!

Like we said, never a dull moment.

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