If you're reading this, chances are you're a fan of either Call of Duty Black Ops 2 or The Walking Dead. One depicts a global struggle over control of an army of unmanned drones; the other, a small group's attempts to find humanity in a world overrun by undead monsters. They've got at least one thing in commong: Michael Rooker.
Rooker plays Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead. Merle hasn't been seen since season one, when Rick handcuffed him as walker bait and he was forced to cut his own hand off. In season three, he's made his triumphant return, and we're eagerly waiting to find out whether he's plotting some sort of epic revenge.
In Black Ops 2, Rooker plays Mike Harper, a character we knew nothing about going into this interview. Thankfully, Rooker was able to shed some light on Harper, as well as some other projects he's got coming up—Activision's The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct shooter, for example, and Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.
And of course, we asked the most important question of all: when are we going to see a Black Ops /The Walking Dead crossover? Read on to find out what he said.
Complex: What can you reveal about your character in Black Ops 2?
Rooker: What can I reveal? Is that the question?
Well I know Activision wants to keep a tight lid on things still…
I can give you—the details that i can share are that my body is awesome. I am aspiring to be like my character, Mike Harper, in the game, as we speak. In the gym every day trying to look like Mike Harper. The guy—they did such a unbelievable, fucking amazing job, and I'm like, "Wow! [laughing] This is cool."
So the guy is ripped?
He's totally ripped. Attitude is awesome, I just—very cool, man. I couldn't be more happy with how Mike Harper turned out and just the attitude and the persona, the toughness, the brashness, you know, very cool characterization as well.
So are you playing any other characters?
I'm Mike Harper, U.S. Navy SEAL, baby [laughing].
So you're fighting in the game's present storyline, not the one in the past?
I will be. There's several storylines, as you know, and so I'm probably the up-front storyline, and yeah, that's—I got a lot of action, a lot of lines, and just a very macho, very cool—I actually have a tan, okay? [laughing] Beautiful stuff, beautiful stuff. I couldn't be happier. Absolutely.
You first got involved with Call of Duty with the "Rezurrection" Zombies DLC for Black Ops. How did you get involved with that—was it because of your zombie-filled repertoire?
I do believe it was because I was in The Walking Dead and the folks over at Treyarch and Activision are big fans of The Walking Dead, and I'm like, "Yeah!" I couldn't be happier. It came sort of out of the blue, and I was like, "Yeah!" I jumped all over it. Absolutely. I had also worked with George Romero maybe 15 years ago in a film, you know? So I was like, "Oh my gosh!" Okay. Yeah, I'm down for that let's do it.
You're a fan of zombie stuff in general?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah, man. Big horror movie fan and sci-fi movie—I just, yeah, love all that to death.
Are you a gamer too?
I am such a great gamer that seven-year-olds kick my butt [laughing]. I swear I am the worst gamer. I try, I try, and I try, but for some reason, you know, it, yeah. I got—everybody beats me. Let's just put it that way. My gaming prowess is so good that I tell nobody who I am online [laughing].
You don't brag? Like, "Hey, it's me, Merle."
I brag to no one. No one.
What does Mike Harper bring to Black Ops 2 that would be missing without him?
Oh my god, wow, I'll tell you what. Without Mike Harper, the color would not be there. The humor—because I bring a great dose of humor—and sardonic humor, at that—and just a pretty out-there amount of kick-assness. [laughing] Yeah, my guy's pretty tough, and willing to bend over backwards and kick your ass.
He's the jokester too?
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Willing to take a punch, and get up laughing.
You've done other games in the past, like Lollipop Chainsaw, but what do you enjoy most about working on a game like Black Ops 2?
Well, you know what, it took quite a few sessions, so I really enjoyed the motion capture and just the whole new—it was a whole new experience for me. And it had a lot to do with acting. I mean, you get to use your imagination, you get to use your sense memory, because you're in a virtual world, right? I mean, you don't have their guns, you don't have a real…real M16, or, you know, thinking about it, it's all just make-believe kind of stuff that gets put in later on. And that whole process was very intriguing to me and just a whole lot of fun.
Was this your first performance capture?
That was my first performance capture experience. Wait—no no no! I'm so sorry, I did a little bit of performance capture in—well, I did not a little bit, I did a lot of performance capture in "Call of the Dead," you know, [Black Ops'] "Rezurrection." So that was my second time being involved with extensive motion capture. Yeah.
What do you think is more dangerous—the zombie apocalypse in The Walking Dead or the war zone in Black Ops 2?
Oh wow, um, I'm telling you, the zombie apocalypse in The Walking Dead is an extremely challenging and depressing world to live in. I think the battle zones in Black Ops 2, was—you know—only a crazy person would want to be in one of those zones, but at least they're exciting and challenging in that way. You're kind of more—you're alert, and there are two different alert statuses that your body is going through, I think, and I think they're almost night and day. One is sort of like stealthy, and the other is kind of like, "Oh my god, let's get in there and make a dynamic entry and take down these bad guys."
Can we expect to see any The Walking Dead or Merle easter eggs in Black Ops 2? Like are we going to get to see Merle's knife-arm as a weapon in the game?
[Laughing] I think I understood the question. But Mike Harper and Merle Dixon are big opposites. Big differences between these two characters. But both have been very challenging for me as an actor, and just yeah, a whole lot of fun.
Congrats on your return to The Walking Dead by the way. Are we going to get to see what Merle did during his time off the show?
Thanks. Yeah, that storyline will be brought out primarily I think through our telling of the current story. It'll be enveloped within what you're hearing and seeing. Because they don't like to do flashbacks and things like that on the show. So because of that, it'll be brought out in other more subtle ways, through relationships, and/or through actual telling of. So it'll be brought out, but you won't get any kind of flashback-type experiences or that type of thing.
So there's also Activision's The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct first-person shooter that was recently announced, and we haven't heard much since. How is it different doing that versus doing the show?
Yeah I mean, if you're talking about the game that I'm going to do for—The Walking Dead game, right? Me and—Merle and Daryl? Yeah, I just sort of got a glimpse of the—I haven't had a lot of time with the script yet. I just got it. But it's—yeah, it's definitely the two brothers and a few other characters and I haven't really delved into the script as of yet. I'm about to, but I'm not at this time—so I don't know if I can answer that question as well as I could.
I wasn't sure how early in production it was.
Yeah, well, we are, it is in production, and I just have the script. And so we'll be getting into the voiceover and stuff very soon.
So one final question—you said previously that you hadn't had a chance to speak with James Gunn about Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. Have you talked to him yet?
We are discussing it. I know Marvel is very involved in Mr. Gunn's decisions as well. So I'm going to have a good time. I hope I'm involved with it because it sounds very exciting. Sounds like an exciting little project to be in—uh, "little"—it's not a little project. Sounds like a very exciting major deal to be involved with. And of course, my gosh, I would love to work with my buddy again, Mr. Gunn, and all the folks over at Marvel. So I'm looking forward to the future, if that is what the future holds for me. So I'm excited about it. Does that answer your question?
Yeah, it did—but what character would you want to play?
You know what? I don't even think it's going to be up to me [laughing] I think they're going to pick something really cool and fun, challenging enough for me to have it be a lot of fun. So yeah, I don't know yet for sure?
I don't think that—you know, that's what people say, but I'm just hoping that I'd be blessed to be involved with that production. It's pretty cool, and they're just always great. And of course my buddy James Gunn's movie, so I'm down for that. It's cool.