It was 27 degrees celcius in Los Angeles the day Michael Rooker chatted with Toronto Film Scene about his upcoming appearance at Fan Expo and some of the projects he’s currently working on. Rooker recently posted his ALS Ice Bucket challenge video on social media to encourage donations and promote awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, he confessed that it was actually rather refreshing to dump a bucket of ice over his head in those warm temperatures.
Rooker is headed to Toronto again for Fan Expo Canada, now in its 20th year and taking place August 28-31, 2014. He’s no stranger to the city having shot several movies here including Sea of Love and The Bone Collector. “You guys have a great array of restaurants,” he recalls about Toronto, “They’re always to my liking.”
Rooker will be participating in panel Q&As, autograph sessions, and photo ops with fans at the convention. Though he’s not here to promote a particular film or show, he acknowledges that “there are going to be fans there of course that are Guardians of the Galaxy fans, that’s the latest thing out, but there are also gonna be fans of Merle Dixon. I’ve done about 120 projects and The Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy are just the latest two.”
Having portrayed so many varied roles, Rooker can’t think of one character in particular that he would consider his favourite. “The reason I’m doing the film is because I like the character. I like the project. So I like them all and when I get into the movie, that particular one that I’m playing at that moment in time is my favourite.” As Guardians of the Galaxy was his most recent film, Yondu is in the forefront of Rooker’s mind. “In fact we’re going to be doing another one,” he says, referring to the recent announcement of a sequel to this summer’s box office hit. “Yondu is one of my favourites, and Merle Dixon, Rowdy Burns [from Days of Thunder], and Chick Gandil from Eight Men Out,” Rooker says as he eventually decides on a few roles highlighted in his memory.
Reprising the role of Yondu for Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Rooker will once again be working with good friend and frequent collaborator, director James Gunn and he’s excited about the opportunity. “We’re good friends, we have alike humour, and so we get each other. Not only get each other, but we get each other when we’re on set. He likes it when I come up with stuff and gives me the freedom to do so. That’s the best, when you’re in a work situation like that, it’s just an awesome great time had by all.”
When it comes to giving a performance on screen, Rooker likes to leave them thinking. “What I enjoy is for the audience members to leave the theatre with more questions than answers, that’s how I tend to want to do things. I don’t like spoon feeding the audience all the answers. I want them to come away maybe not knowing everything, so that they can discuss it and talk about it.” This is what Rooker has in mind for all his roles, including his next project, Bolden!, where he will portray Pat McMurphy in a bio pic about Buddy Bolden, whom many consider the father of Jazz.
The characters Michael Rooker plays are frequently intense, intimidating, and even downright terrifying, quite the opposite from his real life laid back, casual demeanor. He is drawn to these roles because he finds them most challenging. “The more challenging the role is, the better I like it. If I see something that anybody can do it, then really, why do it? I like choosing the roles that when I look at the role, I read the script, I don’t see anybody else playing this role but me. Sometimes when I read it, I don’t even know how I’m gonna do it! That’s cool and challenging to me, that’s what I like.”
We keep coming back to Yondu and Merle Dixon, the latter being a character that has been gone from The Walking Dead for an entire season now. We had to get Rooker’s take on what the enduring appeal of that character is. “If I could bottle that answer I would, and I’d have a sip of it every day!” He laughs as he tries to think of a response. “It’s just those roles man, sometimes they just come out special.”