‘The Walking Dead’ Star Michael Rooker Says The Cast Smells As Bad As They Look

The world of The Walking Dead is far from glamorous. The survivors of the apocalypse have to make camp and barricade themselves safely from the walkers. Then, of course, everywhere they look there are living dead zombies roaming around. Very few scenes show the characters bathing or doing laundry, and nobody’s making new clothes. Former Walking Dead star Michael Rooker said it’s even worse live on the set.

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

Rooker played Merle in the first three seasons of The Walking Dead. He was a guest on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast on April 7. While they were discussing his stint on the show, Rooker revealed the ugly, stinky truth about The Walking Dead.

‘The Walking Dead’ actors would stay dirty on the set

The apocalypse of The Walking Dead is Hollywood magic. They film in modern day Georgia which is very non-apocalyptic. All the dirty from wandering and battling zombies is makeup. Still, after a day of working, it’s caked on pretty good and the cast don’t bother to clean up.

Walking Dead: Michael Rooker
Michael Rooker | Gene Page/AMC

“You know how it is, you’re so busy,” Rooker told Rosenbaum. “You go home, you go to your hotel and you sleep. Norman [Reedus] would go home without cleaning up and taking makeup off. You’re so tired, dude, you quit. They wrap you. You don’t even want to take the 30 minutes or whatever it takes to get cleaned up. You just hop on your bike and you go and you shower when you get home. I did that many times.”

The heat makes ‘Walking Dead’ odor worse

If you were living in The Walking Dead, you’d have to get used to the smell of dead, decomposing bodies all around. Fortunately, those are KNB makeup creations, so they only smell like latex and spirit glue. However, working outside in the Georgia heat all day, there’s no way around human sweat and odor.

“It’s hot and it’s sweaty,” Rooker said. “There’s not much you can do about it.”

Michael Rooker toughed it out more than his costars

Rooker wouldn’t name names, but he indicated that other actors had a harder time with the conditions on The Walking Dead.

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

“I never felt that on that show at all, even on the rooftop when it was 115 [degrees],” Rooker said. “Other people are getting weak and passing out. I was just sitting there. A couple of the actors [were] getting weak, almost passing out. I kept drinking. I kept hydrating.”

Michael Rooker had a tougher job after ‘The Walking Dead’

Rooker worked on the Fantasy Island movie in Fiji. That sounds much more luxurious than the humid south plus caked on dirt and old, ratty clothes. Rooker discovered he was vulnerable to heat there, although he didn’t complain about any smell.

I had never felt as though I think I’m going to pass out. That happened on Fantasy Island. My first two days, I’m fighting this guy who’s like seven foot tall, probably 280 pounds. We’re rolling around in the dirt, in the gravel, and the top of a mountain. There’s no air conditioning. I don’t like to eat and snack like a lot of other actors do. That’s my mistake. You do need it because I was depleting all my electrolytes. I was sweating. I was drinking plenty of water. The doctor, when he got there, was saying, ‘What’s going on is you’ve depleted your electrolytes. Now you’re drinking a lot of water but you are diluting the electrolytes that you still have left.’ What I needed to do even more than drink water was to have some sort of drink with electrolytes. That’s basically what happened. He gave me some powdered electrolytes, I took two of those guys, half a bottle each and within 20 minutes I felt great.

Michael Rooker on the Inside of You podcast, 4/7/2020