‘The Walking Dead’ Star Michael Rooker On ‘Cheap AMC’ Letting Him Go: ‘I Don’t Blame ‘Em’

Merle (Michael Rooker) was a fan favorite character on The Walking Dead. The survivors met him at the beginning of the zombie outbreak on a rooftop. He was a little out of control so they handcuffed him to a pipe. Problem is, they lost the key. So poor Merle had to saw his own hand off to escape. Merle hung in there though. 

[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead.]

Walking Dead: Merle
Michael Rooker | Gene Page/AMC

Rooker was a guest on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast on April 7. When Rosenbaum asked Rooker about some comments he made about AMC killing off Merle in season 3 to save money, Rooker stood by his position but acknowledged the network’s too. The Walking Dead Season 10 finale is coming later this year. 

Michael Rooker said ‘The Walking Dead’ killed off Merle because AMC was cheap

Rooker appeared on a panel at Wales Comic Con in January 2020. According to Comic Book Resources and CinemaBlend, Rooker said, “AMC was very cheap. That’s probably why they killed me off, because they knew I was going to get more money the next season.”

Rosenbaum saw Rooker’s comments go viral on Twitter, which amused Rooker. 

“It was great,” Rooker laughed. “That was great.”

Michael Rooker still thinks AMC was cheap, but he would be cheap too

Merle made it to season 3, which is more than some characters on The Walking Dead. He also began as a guest star and became more central. Merle was Daryl (Norman Reedus)’s brother, of course. For a while, they got Rooker for a bargain. 

Michael Rooker | Gene Page/AMC

“Of course they were cheap,” Rooker told Rosenbaum. “Come on, give me a break. Are you serious? Nobody got any money those first three, four seasons and we killed it, dude. We worked our asses off and we made that series, but nobody got any money. We got paid really basic salaries.”

Once the show became popular, any recurring character was entitled to a raise. That meant AMC was only going to keep the most important Walking Dead regulars at increased salaries.

Michael Rooker on The Walking Dead
Michael Rooker | Gene Page/AMC

“Of course, the show becomes popular,” Rooker continued. “They start paying people after that but I don’t blame ‘em. I’d do the same thing. Why would I want to pay top dollar on a show that’s not proven? If I could get really good actors to do this for less money, go for it. That’s my producer brain thinking. Why not?”

The ‘Walking Dead’ veterans deserve the big bucks

Rooker wasn’t knocking any of the Walking Dead regulars who got their big paydays. Now that Andrew Lincoln has left, Reedus and Melissa McBride are the only actors who’ve been on every season. AMC can still pay new cast members standard TV cast rates for the opportunity to join the show.

Michael Rooker and Danai Gurira | Gene Page/AMC

“They get more money now, but not the beginning ones,” Rooker said. “Not the new guys, but Norman and all those guys get plenty money. And they deserve it. Dude, everybody gets hurt on that show. We’re running through woods, jumping over logs, dodging rattlesnakes, come on.”

At least Rooker escaped The Walking Dead unscathed, he said.

“I never hurt myself on the show,” Rooker said. “We didn’t really have any stunt guys at that time. We did everything ourselves, we did all the fighting, all the rolling around in the mud and dirt and the blood and the beer and everything.”