This article contains mild spoilers for Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
When he isn’t traversing the galaxy or at war with zombies, Michael Rooker is still a pretty tough guy. The actor, biker and shooting range extraordinaire, perhaps best known for playing Merle on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” took on a different type of genre fare this year in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The film, a box-office smash in the same cinematic universe as “The Avengers,” centers around a band of outlaw heroes, the titular Guardians. Rooker plays Yondu, a blue-skinned archer who adopts Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill into his band of thieves, only to be double-crossed. Naturally, drama ensues.
Blast Magazine’s Georgeanne Oliver spoke with Rooker about his new super gig, his time on “The Walking Dead” and upcoming projects.
Rooker was already familiar with the Guardians when he was cast, but still wanted to delve deeper. “When [Director James Gunn] told me I was going to play Yondu, I wanted to do a lot more research, but he told me to hold off on doing too much because his version of Yondu was a wee bit different from the original,” said Rooker. The character, who was one of the original Guardians in the comics, has been updated for the big screen. “Our script was kind of a brand new take on Yondu. There were still some elements from the older Yondu, but a lot of it was brand new and fresh,” he said. Despite the new take, Rooker did try to add as much of the original comics as possible into his performance.
When asked where he’d like to see Yondu go in the future, Rooker’s answer was “far-reaching places!” He added that he’d love to see the character flushed out even more and is open to playing Yondu in either the current story or in flashbacks. Fans of the films know that Peter Quill’s mysterious biological father will likely be revealed in an upcoming film, and when that happens, the unseen character’s rocky history with Yondu may come into play.
Rooker averaged five hours a day transforming into the alien character, most of which were spent in the makeup chair.
“I try to sleep, but my head keeps bobbing up and down,” he said. Regardless, the lengthy process wasn’t a deterrent for Rooker in taking the role. “It was not a big deal for me,” he said.
Yondu has a darkness in common with Merle and several other Rooker roles. The actor admitted that he’s often interested in meaty, dark roles. “I like that Yondu is a tough character, you know? You don’t want to mess with this guy. His weapon of choice is damn powerful!” The weapon in question is an arrow that Yondu can operate, not with a bow, but simply by whistling. Take that, Hawkeye.
Rooker’s time on “The Walking Dead” has come to an end, and, though he is open to the idea, he doesn’t see a reappearance in flashbacks happening. “Rick used up all those delusional flashbacks after you started seeing his wife!” Rooker joked. That’s alright, though, because he’s satisfied with Merle’s arc. “What we ended up doing was really amazing,” he said. “If your gonna go out, you might as well go out like Merle did, because that was a killer way to go out!”
Coming up next, Rooker has a few films in the works, including a biopic about jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden. The first attempt at making the project a reality was almost seven years ago, but after nearly a decade, Rooker is still attached and a version of the film is finally moving forward. “The script is fabulous and I think it’s going to be a beautiful, beautiful endeavor,” he said. Rooker was secretive about the project, but revealed that his character is an Irish-American named Pat. He is also currently starring in an Illinois Department of Transportation commercial aimed at saving lives.
On a future with the Marvel films, Rooker was very enthusiastic. “I really enjoyed being involved with Marvel, and hence working with my friend, James Gunn. I think it’s a great project. Hell, I’m up for 10 more!” We can only hope the writers will give us more of the badass, heavily-accented anti-hero. One thing is for certain: Michael Rooker is in!