Guardians Of The Galaxy Star Michael Rooker Chats About Playing Yondu, Call of Duty, and Mary Poppins

by Javy Gwaltney on May 29, 2017 at 04:30 PM

Michael Rooker has made his living playing outcasts, rogues, and pariahs, coming to prominence in Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer. He recently played dangerous redneck Merle in The Walking Dead and scruffy adoptive father Yondu in both Guardians of the Galaxy films. Yondu recently made his way to Marvel: Contest of Champions as a new character so we sat down to chat with Rooker about comic books, video games, and the now infamous Mary Poppins scene.

So you were in some Call of Duty games. What was that experience like?
Yeah! I was in Black Ops Zombie games and then Black Ops 2. I’ve had a helluva a time doing those. Fun stuff.

Do you play video games that much?
I am a gamer. I wish I were a better gamer than I am. [laughter] I wish I had better skills in this arena but y’know, I just try to be as good as I possibly can but I’ve got a seven-year-old kicking my butt so yeah, I’m not that good but I try my best!

What are some games you play?
The ones that I’ve been involved with like Black Ops and Call of the Dead series. Those two are a lot a fun. I don’t get a chance to do a lot of gaming these days but I try to play whatever is one the market when I can.

Let’s talk about Yondu. You’ve had two movies as that character. What’s that experience like?
Yeah, dude. It’s been a blast. What’s really cool is that in the comic Yondu has had all these different powers and different ways of battling, and we kind of pared that away for the movie and just stuck with whistling. I was like “Hey guys, why don’t I have any fight scenes!?” And they said, “What are ya talking about? You got the arrow!”

And like, yeah, that’s cool but it’s also fun just to pound somebody down to the ground! That’s fun. I just want to have a little more fun in the movie! I can whistle and take out a whole army if I want to, but it’s just so much fun to throw someone through the window.

Do you do your own whistling in the movie?
Oh my god, dude, I did my own whistling. What was hard about it was having to relearn how to whistle because I had two plates in my mouth, one for my upper teeth and one for my lower. I mean, when I smile as Yondu you can see this grill which is unmistakably the ugliest thing. It’s pretty blingy and weird, but yeah, you don’t realize sometimes how the structure of your own mouth and teeth are so important when you whistle. And that’s probably why some people can’t because the structure of their teeth, their hard and soft palates, their tongue—everything plays a part in how you whistle. I didn’t realize that completely until I had to wear this getup and realized “oh my god I can’t whistle.”

So I said to the guys who made [the mouthpieces] “we gotta do something here.” So they went and made gaps in the prosthetic teeth just like real teeth have gaps in them so the air can escape. So they had to get in there with a little drill and break up these teeth and make sure they had real gaps.

I had to take the prosthetic teeth home with me at night and practice!

Did you have to wear blue paint? Was it spray-on from head to toe? Could you lean on walls wearing it?
Yeah, it was nice and dry. It wouldn’t transfer onto other things. We had to put concealment on my jacket and wrists and neck so it wouldn’t rub off, but otherwise the stuff stayed on pretty well. I could even sweat through it and it wouldn’t run. My makeup team was probably the best makeup team out there and it was only two people!

We had a blast every morning. I’d just get coffee and then we’d go do it. There was a lot I’d have to do too, actually. I’d have to help line up Yondu’s fin and clean my beard of any paint particles that got caught on there. There are certain things I’d have to do, like painting and shaping the nails. I grew my nails out for the role and tried to make them as alien-like as possible without making them look demon-like.

So yeah when we were doing the makeup I was constantly involved…except for when I went to sleep [chuckles].

So there’s been a pretty big reaction to a certain Mary Poppins scene in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. How did that come about? Was it ad-libbed?
[Editor's note: this answer has been updated for the sake of accuracy]

No it wasn’t ad-libbed, that scene was all from the beautifully sick creative mind of my friend [Guardians' director] James Gunn. He thought of me coming down, holding on to my arrow as if I was floating down like Mary Poppins – I even hold my feet like she does, angled at 45 degrees.
What I can say is that I added in my Southern vernacular, so that the scene is in step with Yondu’s chosen accent. And it was a chosen accent, in my mind, with Yondu picking it because of his affinity for the human race. He’s really into humans and likes collecting their trinkets and putting them on his console, he likes talking like them—that kind of stuff.

I understand if you can’t answer this but I’ve got to ask: do you think it’s possible we’ll see Yondu again? In a spin-off movie or the Avengers?
I can’t really say where I am or not. As far as I know, the end of the movie is the end of that movie and that’s it! But y’know, you never know about Marvel and Disney. They come up with all kinds of ideas. Heck, there’s even a petition out there for me to be in a new Mary Poppins movie.

Would you be up for that?
What would I do!? I have no idea. But people seem to want me in this Mary Poppins movie. I went down to Disneyland, actually, and took a picture with her. And I gotta tell ya: I was geeking out! I posted it on my Instagram and it went to my Facebook and everything. And it was just a beautiful hilarious picture. It was lovely. I had a blast going down there to do that.

For more on Yondu and Guardians of the Galaxy, check out our previews of Marvel: Contest of Champions and Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2