Michael Rooker Talks Yondu's Backstory; Reuniting With Stallone & Russell

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Character Poster for Yondu - Cropped

Michael Rooker can play any type of character if you look at his impressive and busy schedule of work from the last few decades, but fans will know him best as Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead and the blue-skinned alien space pirate Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rooker is a real-life friend of GOTG writer and director James Gunn who includes him in all of hisprojects. Rooker even believes Gunn pushed Marvel to have Rooker not only involved with the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but to have such an important role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Screen Rant visited the sets of both Guardians films and while Rooker wasn't there on those days, we did have a chance to speak with him at the Vol. 2 junket. We discussed what it was like to further explore the untapped potential in Yondu Udonta, and original Guardian from the comics, him being reunited with Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, and what his upcoming project Bolden! was about.

At Comic-Con you spoke about the potential, the infinite potential that Yondu had. How was it like to finally display that?

Michael Rooker: Mmm. The talk about infinite potential that Yondu has, for sure, and that, Volume 2 shows it.


Michael Rooker: Oh man. Yeah.

It was all on display there.

Michael Rooker: Aw. Dude, it was out there.

Yeah. How was that? You loved it?

Michael Rooker: I loved it. Yeah. It was great. It was great. And the quiet moments were just as powerful.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Character Poster for Yondu - Cropped


Michael Rooker: You know, you got that dichotomy. You got that, there’s some stretching going on with all of the characters and Yondu in particular. I have a lot of stuff to do. A lot of it is internal work, which is my forte. I love that. And the tougher it is, the more complicated it is, the better I perform usually.

How much of the backstory did you work out with Sylvester Stallone and James Gunn together? Of the dynamic between your character and Stakar, Sylvester’s character?

Michael Rooker: That’s all in the writing, man.

It’s all James?

Michael Rooker: It’s all James Gunn.

Oh wow.

Michael Rooker: It’s all James Gunn. He wrote the script. There’s not a lot of, you know, we talked a little bit about it and, you know, actors always come up with, uh, he gives us the lay of the land and we come up with the connective tissues a lot of times internally. And that’s what took place. If we’re off a little bit, he’ll adjust us and stuff like that. Very cool. Great director.

Awesome. I’m a big Cliffhanger fan. How was it like to reunite with Sylvester Stallone?

Michael Rooker: Well, it was quite nice to reunite. Yeah. I mean, look it. We hadn’t really worked together with one another since then.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Empire Photo of Yondu and Rocket Cropped

It’s been awhile.

Michael Rooker: It’s been really a long time. And, literally, on set, first day it was like old home week like we had just seen each other yesterday.


Michael Rooker: Yeah. Just like that.

That’s amazing.

Michael Rooker: Just like that.

How much influence did you have talking to James about Yondu’s backstory? Did you give him like, “Hey, it would be cool if I did this. It would be cool if I did that.”?

Michael Rooker: Well, I do that all the time. And sometimes I don’t even talk to him about it. I just do it.

You just do it?

Michael Rooker: Yeah. I just do it. I found that - a note for any would-be actors out there and everywhere - I think sometimes it’s better if you don’t talk about it, guys. Stop talking about stuff. Just do it. Know what I’m saying? And I want to go back one question. Kurt Russell. Tombstone.

Aw! You know what?

Michael Rooker: So, same thing happened with Kurt. First time on set, “Hi Kurt!” And there’s like, it’s like we had just seen each other yesterday.

Tombstone is actually my favorite movie of all time.

Michael Rooker: Oh. There you have it.

Quick question. So I know you tweeted out, or it might have been an Instagram post, you on set of Avengers: Infinity War. Can you either confirm or deny that this is the final time we’ll see Yondu?

Michael Rooker: You know, I like your hat. I have one very similar actually. And the weather is nice here too.

Yeah. It’s great.

Michael Rooker: Yeah.

Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy

So, I’m going to take that as a maybe. [pause] You know if you were winking at me, I wouldn’t even know.

Michael Rooker: Do you have ear…? [gestures to his ear lobe]

I, uh, a long time ago.

Michael Rooker: Look at that. Uh, no. Anyway…[laughs]

Can you tell me about Bolden!?

Michael Rooker: Bolden? Yeah. Bolden is about the birthing of Jazz. It’s the story of Buddy Bolden who’s considered the grandfather of Jazz. Or the great-grandfather of Jazz. It depends on how old you are.

Well, I read a little synopsis and it was ‘The Mysterious Bolden’. So…

Michael Rooker: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, nobody knows. Nobody’s heard his music that’s living right now. And, so, his music is this, you know, he’s one of these guys that didn’t, from all accounts, he didn’t read or write music.


Michael Rooker: So, his music came from inside somewhere. You know, with the Jazz and the improvisational stuff that he did and all that, all that is like, people who read and wrote music would go and listen to him to try to learn to see what he was saying.


Michael Rooker: And he was the hottest thing. He was like the Elvis of his time. I mean, Jazz is a, now though of course, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. It’s a worldwide musical thing, but New Orleans. 1800. Maybe. 1805-ish. A little bit before that. The birthing of Jazz. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what Bolden is all about.

Next: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Chris Pratt Interview

Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock, with Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. Kevin Feige is producing, and Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Nikolas Korda and Stan Lee are the executive producers.

Key Release Dates
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) release date: May 05, 2017
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) release date: Jul 07, 2017
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
  • Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
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