Guardians of the Galaxy's Michael Rooker on playing Yondu, the big blue anti-hero

His hulking, blue, veiny build may look evil, but Michael Rooker — who plays Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — says his character is anything but.

'Just when you think I'm going to smack you, I give you a kiss,' says actor of his unpredictable role

The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 star stored an interesting incentive inside his character’s pocket 2:00

His hulking, blue, veiny build may look evil, but Michael Rooker — who plays Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — says his character is anything but.

"I've never played bad or good," he told CBC News. "I tend to want to make my characters way more complicated than just being one or the other … it'd be really simple to do one or the other."

And he's right: Rooker's interpretation of the space pirate — whose whistle can make arrows whiz all over the place — is shape-shifting.

Michael Rooker plays Yondu, the big blue anti-hero in the second instalment of Guardians of the Galaxy. 'It’s very nice to get the opportunity to come back and play some more and have a good time,' he says. (Marvel Studios)

He can seem like a blue baddie one moment, and then he's a charmer, an anti-hero who offers a helping hand with a side of snark.

"I just enjoy throwing people for a loop so, you know, just when you think I'm going to smack you, I give you a kiss."

'It's a beautiful role'

The 62-year-old actor's career has been full of the same twists and turns — with roles in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, JFKThe Walking Dead and even voice work for the Call of Duty franchise.

But Yondu has become a defining character for Rooker. 

Michael Rooker, right, shares a laugh with writer-director James Gunn during the premiere of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 at the Dolby Theatre on April 19 in Hollywood. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

He was a hit in the first Guardians adventure, a surprise blockbuster, and plays a substantially larger role in the sequel, something he credits to writer-director James Gunn.

"He wrote it so well. He improved upon the first Yondu, just grew," he said. "[It's] much more richer and way more challenging for an actor to do," he said.

Rooker wooed fans last year when he showed up at San Diego's famed Comic Con in full costume. But even without his makeup, he still gets recognized by fans who know him for his Guardians role.

Rooker shows up in character as Yondu during the Marvel panel at San Diego's Comic Con in 2016. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

If fate intervened and he was hit and killed by a "semi truck" (his words), he said he wouldn't mind if Yondu was what he was remembered for.

"It's a very satisfying role. It's a beautiful role."

Oscar-worthy? Gunn thinks so

Gunn, too, has been praising Rooker's performance, telling Fandango in an interview that he deserves an Academy Award nomination for it and calling it a "real lifetime-achievement role."

Rooker jokes about the praise — saying he had "spiked" the director's lemonade and he wasn't in his right mind when he said that — but is open to the consideration.

He says he's not sure why action movies aren't often nominated for Oscars, given they can be "just as challenging as any other type film."

"I've never gone to the Oscars, so I don't really know what it's all about."

The outer-space sequel opens Friday, with the same ragtag assortment of characters from the first film, including Chris Pratt's Peter Quill/Star-Lord and Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket the Raccoon. It has already been scoring huge box office numbers abroad.

About the Author

Haydn Watters

Haydn Watters is a Toronto-based journalist. He has also worked for CBC News in Halifax, Yellowknife and at the politics bureau in Ottawa. He is currently based in Barrie, Ont., running a one-person pop-up bureau for CBC.


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