Michael Rooker (born April 6, 1955) is an American actor, best known for his roles as Henry in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead, Frank Bailey in Mississippi Burning, Hal Tucker in Cliffhanger, and Rowdy Burns in Days of Thunder.
Michael Rooker was born in Jasper, Alabama. He has eight brothers and sisters. His parents divorced when he was 13 years old, and he moved with his mother and siblings to Chicago, Illinois, where he studied at the Goodman School of Drama.
Rooker made his film debut in 1986, playing the title role in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a film based on the confessions of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. He was acting in a play when the director of the play, who was going to do the prosthetics for Henry, told him about the film. Rooker did not care if the script was good or bad, he just wanted to act in a film as it would "challenge" himself. Henry was a critical success and got Rooker noticed in the filmmaking industry, which led to his receiving more film roles.
Rooker was given more dramatic roles in films such as Eight Men Out, Mississippi Burning, and JFK, but he became widely known for his roles in action and thriller films such as Sea of Love, Days of Thunder, Cliffhanger, and Tombstone. He also starred in Mallrats, Rosewood, The 6th Day, Slither, Jumper, Super and Hypothermia.
In June 2010, he revealed via Twitter that he was to appear in the AMC television series The Walking Dead as Merle Dixon, one of the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. He guest starred in two episodes of the first season and one of the second season before finally becoming a series regular for the third season.
Rooker is married to Margot Rooker. They have two daughters and one granddaughter.