I first learned about Michael Rooker from watching AMC’s The Walking Dead. He played Daryl Dixon’s brother, Meryl. These days, I appreciate him more as Yondu in Disney-Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Meeting him during the Guardians press junket in Los Angeles only made me like him more. For starters, he’s enthusiastic and funny.
He walks into the room at the London Hotel where we are conducting interviews, turns to Sean Gunn, best known for his role as Kirk Gleason on the television show Gilmore Girls and Kraglin, Yondu Udonta’s second-in-command in the Guardians of the Galaxy series and says,
“Oh, this is fancy schmancy stuff. Look, we actually have a table this time around. Last time we did this, we were like, squatting on a bucket.”
Then he takes a seat at the table he mentioned, looks at the FunkoPops and jokingly demands to know,
“What do I have to do to get one of these figures made of me?”
He’s a man that fills the room with energy. His laugh catches you off guard and pulls you in. As soon as a question is asked, he invites the interviewer to:
“Stand up. Stand up so we can see your beautiful face. You’re lovely. “
The question refers to a spoiler in the movie, and Sean Gunn pleads the fifth,
“I don’t know anything other than where I’m supposed to stand and what I’m supposed to say.”
Rooker doesn’t miss a beat,
“Good answer, dude. You’re good at this.”
Sean Gunn, who also provided stand-in work for the character of Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) continues down the rabbit hole leaking no information.
So? I mean, honestly. I’d like to think there’s more in store for that character, but I don’t know anything. I mean, really, so I don’t know if anyone knows anything, actually. I don’t know if any of the story is he knows it all, but he forgets? And forget it. Go ahead.
We want the answers, and Sean Gunn is not about to spill anything, Rooker on the other hand?
I know everything. I know it all. Five minutes after I know it, it’s gone.
Rooker talks about his roles and how death has played its part for many of his characters.
“You know what? I’m used to dying. I’ve died several times. Many times in different movies and different TV shows and it doesn’t hurt at all. It’s okay. I’ll be back. Somewhere.”
There is prodding, do you want to tell us more about that?
He may be the life of the party, but he’s also tight-lipped.
“Other movies. You know?”
Photo Courtesy Disney-Marvel
So? We turn to something maybe they will open up about, the makeup process.
“Oh, you know what? The makeup process is awesome. We actually have a makeup artist in this room that was part of the makeup. My makeup crew is awesome. It took a three-hours to put on four, five, or six layers of different shades of gold, silver, yellow, and flax and all kinds of stuff.”
“They just sometimes flick it on with a brush. They put it on the brush and they just flick it and it’s like little, little spackling all over your face, but tiny little dots that helps to bring out the depth of the paint so it looks likereal skin It feels like real skin, too.”
Now we’re getting somewhere! So we ask Gunn about what it’s like working with the teeth he had to wear.
Rooker, in his usual form, jumps in.
“We both could answer that stuff. Oh, we both had some grills, baby. Do we not? Sean had more of a problem with it than I did.”
Gunn finally gets his turn.
“The teeth. The teeth can be tricky. I tried to get the teeth made a good several months before we started so that I could just put them in and work with the talking. I think talking through the teeth in the first movie, it was one of the most difficult things.”
Rooker isn’t giving up.
“It was. But I didn’t have a problem with it because everybody’s different. Sean can speak English. I cannot. His consonants are, you know, He uses consonants. I do not almost never and my quality is more throaty glottal. His is not. I mean, he can do that, of course. We are trained actors.”
Gunn tries to say more, but there’s no stopping Rooker. He has something more to say about the teeth.
“You know, this is just my quality in that’s how I do it, so thereby, the teeth are up in the front, so I form my words and my consonants and sounds more back, so it didn’t’ bother me at all with the speaking. What it did do, was it’s very difficult for the whistle. A whistle’s all in the front right where the stupid teeth are. These, we got to fix these because I got to whistle.”
“So they did. They did pretty good and I had to relearn a little bit of where I focus. Where I focus the sound for the whistling and stuff.”
Gunn interjects with a nod, acknowledging this is most likely what he thinks too.
And about Yondu’s whistle. Rooker gives us the inside scoop.
“They enhance it, but it is my whistle.”
The question is asked which, besides their character is their favorite and why.
Sean Gunn seeks clarification.
Rooker offers the low-down to Gunn.
“Besides your character. Beside your own. You can say me: if you want?”
Then Gunn catches a break and makes for it.
“I don’t know. I like them all in different ways. I love Drax. I love the journey that I’ve seen Dave (Bautista) take from his audition for the first movie through this magnificent performance he gives in this movie. I guess if I had to choose, I’d say Dave, but I love all the characters in the movie.”
Rooker wastes no time in sharing his opinion.
“Well, of course I would say, I don’t like working with real humans. Never have. I’m going to go with Rocket and Baby Groot are my favorite. That being said, Rocket is my friend right here (Points to Sean Gunn) and we worked together day and night doing this. “
We go through four or five times doing a scene. Four or five good ones to layer all that stuff and youcan probablyy talk a little bit more about that layering stuff.”
Sean Gunn takes the cue and tries,
“We have to do several takes for anything that Rocket is a part of. We do a reference take. We’re in there, and we make sure we get one or two good ones of those and then we have to do one with a light.”
Rooker wants to elaborate a bit more.
“A light. That’s right. We also did one with a stick and a piece of tape.”
“It’s a whole process.”
We get a more in-depth understanding from Rooker.
“The process for doing this kind of movie with such heavy CGI and also characters that don’t truly exist, is like doing five movies, for God’s sake. It is! I will forever get a whole hell of a lot more money if I ever have to do this again. That being said, I’ll probably never get hired again for this kind of movie, but if I ever do, trust me, guys. Producers out there, you better know you better come with your best offer because I know how this works now. It is hard. It’s difficult.”
Sean Gunn asks about the transition from a behind-the-scenes character to an on-screen character.
“The first point about working with my brother (Director James Gunn), We’ve been working together in various capacities since we were little, so I have an easier time working with him than just about anybody because we have such a shorthand for communicating with one another and I know for the most part, what he’s looking for. When I read scenes, I have a pretty good feel for what he’s going for.”
“I think that we work together really, really well. I’m certainly grateful that he gave me such a nice role in this in this film.”
Rooker chimes in.
“You owe it all to me. I talked to him about you.”
Sean carries on.
“I really am happy to be part of it. I know that that’s kind of what I’m supposed to say, but it’s true. It’s a great franchise and I think that the movies are made with a lot of love and a lot of heart and I’m very happy to be part of that.”
Back to Rooker. The banter between these two!
“And you should be happy that he didn’t torture you too much. You have a history.”
“These guys, what they go through with makeup and stuff is amazing. You hear Rooker talk about having hours worth of makeup and it’s really impressive. He never complains. It’s not just going through the makeup process. It’s then also being ready to go and ready to perform and focus. What he and Dave and Karen (Gillan) and Zoe Saldana go through every day.”
“It is just so intense. I was very glad that James let me play a humanoid character in this movie and that in every other I’ve had to do, either a lot of makeup or I get killed.”
Rooker assures Gunn.
“He’s into killing the people he loves the most. You get to die two times.”
There is some nodding, and Gunn backs up Rooker.
“Yes, I do. I die twice in. I was very happy when I read the script of the first movie.”
Then in closing, it’s recognized that Rooker’s character Yondu is loved by the fans and asked if he sees potential in expanding Yondu’s back story.
“Any kind of extension of Yondu would be good. I wouldn’t mind that at all. I’m used to the makeup. I’m used to the character. I already know it.”
See Michael Rooker as Yondu and Sean Gunn as Kraglin in Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers.