At this Spring’s MCM Comic Con Birmingham, Gaming Editor Roshni Patel interviewed Michael Rooker, who plays Yondu in the Guardians of the Galaxy
In the second of the two interviews from MCU at Comic Con Birmingham, Redbrick caught up to Michael Rooker, who played Yondu in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. We asked him about his experience as part of the MCU, his time on set and his past work in The Walking Dead and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
What do you love about the character Yondu, and particularly how James grew and developed him in the second film?
Well the second film was an absolute continuation of the first one. So, if you watch them back to back its almost as if… well you can watch them back to back. Without any kind of issues, like the first one was this and the second one was this, no they really, really flow and work well as one continuous flow. I remember us talking about things in the first one, and back stories and motivational things, like why Yondu would want to do a certain thing or not a certain thing, and then in the second one a lot of the backstory we were talking about in the first one actually was manifested in the second one. It was very cool to see, as you don’t usually get the opportunity to do that as an actor, to talk about your development and about maybe what’s going on in the backstory, and then do another movie and actually get to do [it].
What was it like working with Chris Pratt and the Mary Poppins scene?
You know the Mary Poppins line was a fan favourite, honestly, Chris sets that up extremely well. Without Chris’ comments, the Mary Poppins line would kind of be a stand-alone line. But with his comment, along with my response, is what made that line go crazy with fans, they loved it, [it] was a beautiful moment, and the entire crew loved it because they broke up in laughter almost every time we did the take.
Following that hilarious line, we experience the pain of losing Yondu, what was it like to film that scene?
Well that’s James Gunn for you. But for me acting wise, you’re just sort of playing it, as the character you don’t know what’s going to happen, you’re just going through your life and doing what you need to do. So, I’m not thinking about that end scene when I’m doing the Mary Poppins sequence, I try to keep it as simple as I can, and I don’t try to think about other things when I’m in the moment of that scene. The hard part of film work, is that they film out of sequence. I wasn’t sure even in the beginning of my career, for instance with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, with that movie, I ended up doing that movie simply to see if I could even do film work. At the time, it seemed so strange to have to do the ending before you do the beginning and that kind of stuff, and you’re flipping all over the place, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to even be good at it, or whether it was going to be rewarding for me as an artist. But I sort of take it a moment at a time. It was a beautiful sequence (Yondu’s death), it was written quite well, it was set up brilliantly and James Gunn makes it easy for the actors to be open and honest and in the moment with his projects.
How was the physical transformation required for Yondu? Especially with the additional burden of the prototype fin?
It wasn’t, the prototype fin was just as easy to put on as in the first film. As a matter of fact, it was so easy I forgot it was on many times, and forgot to duck, I literally almost knocked myself out, several times.
Did you leave a trail of blue paint around set?
The paint did not come off. I could sweat through, it was breathable. They took several months to develop the paint and I had 5-6 layers of different shades and colours of paint, and they were airbrushing it on, and it was really quite thin, and as I said it was breathable. The first time I had it on, I did a jog, ran up and down stairs, just to build up a sweat to see what would happen to it. And I got a few strange looks, but it was all still top secret, so I had to run around the backlots and got a good sweat going, and technically it was beautiful, I was sweating, and the paint was not dripping, and it didn’t come off. Took about 4 hours to put on in the first installment, all totaled, with all the prosthetics, all the painting and wardrobe, everything in 4 hours, I was ready to go in 4 hours. We cut it by about 45 minutes in the second one and I think we cut out one of the layers of paint and replaced it with a base layer with a material that helped with the removal. The base layer protected my skin and made this layer of paint on my skin, which helped everything come off easier, so we cut the time by 45 minutes to an hour. So, it took about an hour and a half to get off. Unlike a movie I did called Slither, which is another James Gunn movie, that was seven and a half hours on and took about two and a half hours to come off. And the less time you’re in the makeup chair the better, but sometimes it gives you time to prepare for the scene, get your wardrobe on and chill out before you go in and start working for the day.
Do you find new generation of younger viewers coming to your work now, who may not be familiar with your breakout work in Henry: Portrait of the Serial Killer. Have you seen your fanbase change?
My fan base has changed a quite lot, especially with my casting in The Walking Dead. You’re on the TV and you’re there every week and you become a household name and that’s what happened on The Walking Dead. Merle Dixon was a quite a fun role for me, a politically incorrect kind of guy, who would almost say or do anything practically. I think you’re very into Merle Dixon, whether you were for Merle or against Merle, whatever you thought about him, whenever Merle Dixon came on, you were glued to that screen, which was very cool to get a bigger fan base because of that show. And it’s just continued since, as after leaving that show I went on to do Guardians of the Galaxy which is highly popular and then volume 2 of course. Where very similar events from The Walking Dead occurred, Merle Dixon dies in a heroic stance, and the same thing happens in Volume 2, with very similar responses from fans, they cried, they were upset, a lot of emotions went through both of those character’s deaths and I think because of that I got a whole another group of fans. It’s quite interesting how your career changes, grows and develops, and I’ve been very pleased and very happy for those changes.
With Merle in The Walking Dead, did you ever have any idea how big the show was going to be?
Yes, well not before I was cast, or even when I was cast, I was like “I don’t know if people are gonna get this, I don’t know if middle America’s gonna dig this” but boy oh boy they did, they really enjoyed it and they enjoyed it immensely, I was really surprised and pleased.
In your earlier work you starred in Mallrats, did this give you an inkling as to the size of the comic book industry?
Oh yeah, the comic book industry is massive, the gaming industry is massive. We are only now just beginning to be able to utilize our technology to bring these things to life and it’s only going to get bigger, better, and sweeter. I mean look at what you’re seeing on the screen now, all the technology is only going to make it grow make it simpler, and easier and cheaper for filmmakers to bring almost anything to life and have it very natural and very realistic.