Guardians of the Galaxy Exclusive: Michael Rooker on Yondu & Tough Love

When some actors have a part written specifically for them, it can be a daunting task living up to their writer-director’s vision of what the character can be. For Michael Rooker and his role as Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy, having his friend James Gunn pen the role for him made it actually easier, he told us in our exclusive interview.

Michael Rooker Guardians of the Galaxy

Rooker plays Yondu, and as teased in the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, he is kind of a father figure to the Chris Pratt character, Peter Quill, aka Star Lord. It was Yondu’s ship that picked up the young Quill and has raised him across the galaxy ever since.

The former star of The Walking Dead told us about which was harder: Sitting in a makeup chair for hours or having to not tell a soul about this Marvel movie for years. He also dishes what role in his long career people most talk to him about and also dishes how Yondu’s tough parenting is largely responsible for Star Lord being the leader of those Guardians of the Galaxy.

Movie Fanatic: First of all, you can’t walk away from watching Guardians of the Galaxy and not be so impressed with your director, James Gunn.

Michael Rooker: You are?! I am! I have to call him a genius now! He is awesome.

Movie Fanatic: I was going to ask what most impressed you about him, but is it hard to pick one thing?

Michael Rooker: To put all this together, the vision, someone giving him the ability to cast how he wants, you know how hard that is today for a director? Directors, nowadays, can’t cast their own movie. I was very happy and pleased that my buddy gets to cast and write do this movie, man. What a beautiful adventure he’s been on and everybody with Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean, he wrote the role for me. That’s astounding and kind of crazy.

Movie Fanatic: Now, when you hear that, going in to it, does it make you nervous? Or do you just think, “He wrote this because he knew I could do it?”

Michael Rooker: Less pressure because he trusted me to bring to the role what I do best, which is using my imagination and letting it go, baby! Just do it!

Movie Fanatic: What did you like most 1) About Yondu and 2) About playing him?

Michael Rooker: They end up being the same in reality. You surprise yourself sometimes. You get out there and are doing it and all of a sudden new things pop up. You think you know everything and then you end up knowing nothing because things change on the set. All of a sudden you say something in a different way -- it’s not even the line that’s written on the page. For some reason, it comes out a certain way and after the take the director’s like, “(expletive) yeah, man!” That was awesome. Sometimes it’s just going to come out like that. It’s absolutely amazing and a beautiful thing when that happens.

Movie Fanatic: What was harder… sitting through the hours of the makeup or not being able to talk about this movie to anybody?

Michael Rooker: [Laughs] Not being able to talk about the movie until now! But, I got good at it because I had just gotten off The Walking Dead, so I learned a lot from that because they’re so secretive. And it’s every week too. You have to be careful what you even say on the internet after it’s aired here in America, because people all over the world haven’t seen it yet. For me, as the actor, I didn’t want to ruin it for people. I didn’t discuss it.

Movie Fanatic: It must have been hard on a movie like this because you started filming this a few years ago now?

Guardians of the Galaxy Michael Rooker as Yondu

Michael Rooker: It was very hard. You want to tell the world. You see the movie, and it’s like how can you keep that a secret?!  I would have loved to have talked about it, but you know what? It’s fun to talk about it now because it’s opening.

Movie Fanatic: And on that note, how excited are you that people are finally getting to see Guardians of the Galaxy?

Michael Rooker: I was excited people even got to finally see my poster!

Movie Fanatic: Of all the roles you’ve played over the years, is there one that people talk to you most about? For me, I loved you in Days of Thunder!

Michael Rooker: I love to hear that! Right now, it’s so The Walking Dead. There are people who come up and say, “I loved you in Henry.” People do say Days of Thunder. You’ve got your Tombstone fans, Sea of Love and Mississippi Burning – it’s the 50th anniversary of those kids being murdered. They’re going to show Mississippi Burning at the White House. That movie was so riveting and scary. And my role was the most unforgiving, brutal person.

Movie Fanatic: Yondu has parts of him that people won’t like, but others that people can. Do you have to find something to like in the guy to play him?

Michael Rooker: I don’t worry about that stuff. Yondu is who he is, he’s an alien creature. His idea of raising a child is different. He knows he’s going to have to be tough or die. He has to live amongst a group of Ravagers, my group. And they want to eat him. He’s going to have to stick up for himself. I can’t watch him every second of any day. You have to know when to turn and walk away.

Movie Fanatic: That’s what struck me by the end of the movie, is that Peter Quill is able to be the hero he is, is because of how Yondu raised him.

Michael Rooker: That’s exactly why he’s survived all these years. For him to have the guts and the ability to steal from me and rob me, that’s how proud he is as a parent. “You stole from me, I love you so much!” 

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