Getty Image / Marvel
When researching Sean Gunn before this interview, something about where he grew up seemed a bit too familiar. Not just that he’s originally from the St. Louis area – St. Louis and the county that surrounds it is a pretty sprawling area – but he seemed to live very close to where I lived as a child. Then I checked his age, and it turns out Sean Gunn and I are the exact same age, like within seven days of each other. Of course this interview began with us talking about where exactly we grew up because I couldn’t help myself (don’t worry, I cut out all of this to spare you), but it does end with a really weird sort of twist ending. (I’m not promising an exciting twist to anyone but Sean Gunn and myself, but it is a twist, which has probably been given away by the headline anyway.)
Gunn, of course, plays Kraglin in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – which is a much more prominent role in this second installment than it was in the first. This is a fact his brother James Gunn (who directed both films) told him would happen two years ago, and now Sean Gunn is excited he finally gets to tell the world.
Yes, before he started on the first film he was worried there might be cries of nepotism over his casting, but take a look down his filmography and he’s been in a lot. (Most notably, of course, his role as Kirk Gleason on Gilmore Girls). He was even in an episode of The Michael Richards Show, which comes up here for some reason. (It’s my fault.) But, more importantly, Gunn fills us in on what it’s like to play both Karglin and Rocket (he’s the one on set doing the motions) and what his role will be in Avengers: Infinity War. Oh, and also he played Thanos in the first movie; Gunn has some opinions about Thanos.
Kraglin plays a big role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
My brother told me the whole plot of this movie about two years ago. I’d known that my role was bigger and that I had all this cool stuff to do in this movie, but haven’t been able to talk about it for two years. So, I’m very happy to finally share it with an audience. It’s nice to know that people now know how much cool stuff I get to do.
There’s a funny scene where you may have killed Drax. He might not be back now.
[Laughs.] I think Drax is fine. I really think that was a flesh wound.
Do you even care about Kraglin in the comics? Or is that a completely different character?
You mean the Kraglin that’s just that weird monster creature or whatever? You’d have to ask my brother this, but I think that’s just where he got the name. I think that he likes to name characters from these weird sort of segments of the Marvel Comics Universe, so I think he just snagged that name somewhere from that character. I don’t think there’s supposed to be any overlap. But I do worry sometimes about how fans of the comic book are going to react to the movie, and wonder where this character who doesn’t even exist in the comics kind of came from.
Does it annoy you when people call you Rocket’s “stand-in’?
You know, it’s not like it makes me angry, but I always try to correct people when they use the word “stand-in.”
Is it full-on motion capture work?
Well, I’m doing motion reference work, which is just technically a little different from motion capture. Essentially, when you do motion capture for a CGI character, the character has to be humanoid enough for the algorithm to really work. But a raccoon’s face is too different from a human face, so they have to use visual imagery of real raccoons – creating Rocket is just immensely difficult for the animators.
This is not the first time you’ve been in a movie directed by your brother, but is that ever weird? Is it always like, man, who are you telling me what to do?
You know, this question is becoming interesting to me – because I think that it shows how close my brother and I really are, because I don’t really look at it like that. I think a lot of people have these sort of adversarial relationships with their siblings.
I don’t have any siblings, so I have no idea what I’m talking about here…
Got it. Yeah, but the truth is that there’s no one I’d rather work with in the world than my brother. With my brother, it’s the easiest thing in the world. We both respect each other’s work and we have a shorthand for communicating that other people don’t normally have.
See, if it were me I’d be worried the other actors were going to think I was getting special treatment…
Honestly, I was worried about it, too, when we started. Because I came into the first movie, I got hired like seven days before I had to go to London for six weeks. And I got hired to play both Kraglin and I knew I was doing something with Rocket and maybe a couple of the other characters, but I didn’t really know what. So when I arrived on set, I didn’t know – I’m always a little worried that people are going to think that there’s more nepotism involved than I’m comfortable with. It’s important to me that people know that I had an established acting career before I showed up on set, that I wasn’t just the director’s deadbeat brother.
You could bring a Gilmore Girls DVD set with you.
No, I don’t go that far. I don’t say anything about it; I’m just sort of aware of it when I go to set. But this, it just wasn’t like that. The first day of work was doing a table read, and then we jump right into rehearsals. Then I just become a member of the ensemble.
Other than maybe Michael Rooker, you’ve been in more stuff than anyone. I bet no one else was on The Michael Richards Show.
Oh, gosh. You know, I think I did the final episode that they shot, or the second to last one. But they aired it right away. Like we finished shooting that thing and it was on television a few days later, because they bumped up when they aired it because they liked it. But I think the ratings were still tanking.
That was Michael Richards’ first big post-Seinfeld project.
You know, I heard a rumor. I hesitate to say this, because it may not be true. But somebody connected with the show told me that if the show had stayed, that they were planning on trying to keep me on to do more episodes because they liked my dynamic with Michael. But the show went under anyway, and like I said, that’s not verified.
Things worked out.
Yeah, but years later. I mean, at the time, I would have loved it then.
You also did kind of the same thing with Rocket with Thanos in the first movie?
Yeah, I mean vaguely, but it was way different. Because with Rocket, they’re actually shooting me. With Thanos, Thanos is so sort of big and just sitting in a throne, so all I really did was stand on a forklift and deliver the lines.
I mean, just to get the sightline right for the other actor.
Thanos needs to get his act together.
Yeah, he’s kind of a jerk.
He’s a jerk and he doesn’t even have any stones that we keep hearing about.
I don’t want to say anything too incendiary, but I think some of Thanos’ behavior is downright rude.
You’re definitely doing Avengers: Infinity War?
Yes, I can confirm that the same work that I do to assist the creation of Rocket in the Guardians movies, I am doing that same work presently for Avengers: Infinity War.
But you can’t say if we’ll see Kraglin or not?
All I can say is what I’ve said.
I do hope we see Kraglin.
If you wanted to start some sort of online campaign, I wouldn’t oppose.
Sorry I peppered you with St. Louis questions…
No, man, it’s cool you’re from the same place and we’re born at the same time.
Yeah, St. John’s hospital…
Wait! Were you born at St. John’s Mercy?
So was I! I was in the hospital for a little while after I was born.
Wait, this is weird. We were in the recovery room together.
I was definitely there when you were born. That’s so weird. Well, nice to meet you.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.