Guardians of The Galaxy vs. The Walking Dead
Unless you’re a The Walking Dead or Guardians of the Galaxy fan, chances are you might not recognize Michael Rooker’s name instantly. But one look at his menacing mug and you’ll quickly identify him as “that badass guy” from just about every other movie since the 1990s. He’s got that friend-that-could-kill-you-at-any-moment grin down pat, but offscreen Rooker’s just about the nicest dude in Hollywood - equal parts grounded, self-deprecating, funny and cool.
And with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 set to drop in May and his character, Yondu, taking on a much larger role to team up with the Guardians for some self-serving purpose, we caught up with the man once known as Merle Dixon on The Walking Dead (TWD) to talk all things comics, fandom and popularity.
THE RED BULLETIN: First thing that comes to mind when we think Michael Rooker is the stinkpalm …
MICHAEL ROOKER: Dude, Mallrats! Yes! Whenever I go and do fan events there’s always gonna be at least two or three people who will bring me chocolate covered pretzels in a bag. And to them I say, thank you! [laughs].
Between TWD and Guardians, you’re a fan favorite at any event. Whose fans are best?
I love it. They’re the same people, man. There’s so much spillover. I have people coming to meet me at the fan gatherings and they want an autograph of a Yondu print and a Walking Dead print. I find it’s very hard for them to choose between the two.
You’ve literally starred in the biggest TV franchise of this decade and now one of the most successful movie franchises …
Yeah, you would think I’d have jobs lined up for years! But I’m still looking for a gig, man. I’m looking for a gig right now! [laughs]. What the hell!? The biggest franchise in the world on cable and now Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, and I don’t have a job? Something’s wrong with this world! [laughs]
Should we post this in the classifieds?
I think I will! I’ll do a better job doing it myself than my agent does [laughs].
Guardians 2 is set to drop in May, and Yondu’s blue face is back and way more involved…
You bet Yondu is back, dude! Is he a good guy now? Hmmm… Yondu is Yondu - good, bad or whatever. He sort of teams up with the Guardians a bit, trying to help them out anyway he possibly can. He’s got his trusty arrow and his whistle - always handy. And you know what, I dig the Guardians franchise. It’s so cool. Just wow. People are already asking if there will be a Volume 3. And I tell them without much thought at all that I hope there’s going to be 15 of them!
Looks like Yondu’s undergone some cosmetic enhancements since last time we saw him.
Yeah, I have a brand-new look. I have a new fin! That’s pretty cool. Maybe Yondu’s a little self conscious… [laughs] But that fin, man. That fin knocked me out almost one or two times on set. I kept bumping the first point of it on doorways and things like that. Some of the scenes, I’d walk through the doorway and smash my fin and then finish doing the scene - and I don’t even remember the scene.
You were definitely semiconscious because of the fin? Because it sounds like an analogy…
[Laughs] I know, right!? I barely remember London when I was filming the first one - and I had a short fin then … [laughs]
The Walking Dead is basically a survival soap opera these days. Did you expect it to still be going so strong when you left?
No! It’s been like four years since Merle died and I’ve been absolutely blown away by the show’s popularity and how much Merle remains a beloved character in that series. It’s so great.
So in soap opera fashion, would bringing Merle back be a stretch too far!? Like, really?
Yeah! Merle died two times already, man! I can take a hint! You know? [laughs]. Not only that, I don’t think they can afford me! They can’t afford Yondu [laughs]. Especially if I had to wear that knife hand again! I would charge them at least quadruple of my top pay.
Knife hand or fin as weapon of choice?
Wow! I would prefer the fin. That’s my prop of choice. I like the fin better because I can do the whole whistling thing and the arrow comes out. It’s a great weapon of choice. But with the knife hand, it’s OK … but I’ve accidently stuck myself a few times with that fucker. You gotta really be careful. I’d rather bump my head than stick my leg with it!
Who would win in a fight, Yondu or Merle?
You know, Yondu is an alien creature so there would be no fight. Although, I think Yondu would really respect Merle. Yondu would be quite moved by Merle’s attitude. He’d relate to it. Sidenote, what a great honor to play a great character like Merle. It was amazing actually. I was down for that.
Was Chris Pratt funnier when he was fat or is he just as funny now he’s shredded?
Chris Pratt is funny no matter what! That dude … and his humor is smart! He’s got some really intelligent humor genes going on. Unlike James Gunn (director), I don’t think he’s funny whatsoever. I’m even funnier than James Gunn, I think. Actually, I take that back. I’m not sure if I’m funny at all.
Speaking of funny, when will we see Michael Rooker in a romantic comedy?
Not unless my lover dies afterwards. That’s the only rule. And I’m wearing some sort of prosthetic. I don’t know! [laughs].