Major spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follow.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 set out to be different from its predecessor in a number of ways. While the first film was beloved by fans worldwide, it achieved such adoration by telling the story of a bunch of cosmic misfits making all of the right mistakes in an effort to save the galaxy.
Three years later, the team is together again taking on a much more personal threat to the universe but it was a surprising star who stole the show, offering a huge (and surprising) amount of heart: Michael Rooker in his portrayal of Yondu Udonta.
Rooker debuted as Yondu, the leader of a pack of Ravagers in 2014's original Guardians of the Galaxy. Having snatched Chris Pratt's Peter Quill from Earth back in the 80s and raising him rather than delivering to his father, the character of Yondu never earned the rightful amount of depth in the first outing of the Guardians as the film's balance did not organically allow it. Sure, he looked cool painted blue and had a fun, witty attitude and powerful arrow controlled by a whistle, but he never had the chance to stand out like the worldwide breakout star Pratt.
Then comes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Rooker's Yondu is all but the centerpiece of the film which, at times, felt like a Michael Rooker movie that the rest of the cast happened to be a part of. This isn't because the other characters didn't have compelling and important arcs. This is because Rooker poured a genius portrayal of a anti-hero space outlaw onto the screen, which is largely thanks to what James Gunn's genius script offered the part.
Following Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, one thing is clear for Hollywood: it's time to start taking Michael Rooker seriously.
Through his iconic delivery of the "I'm Mary Poppins, y'all!" line in the film's third act, his monologue with Rocket which culminated to, "I am you!" and the emotional sendoff he provided for the film's finale, Rooker walked up behind Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and even Kurt Russell to steal the movie from right under their noses.
This is hardly the first time Rooker lent his impressive, scene stealing ability to a project.
In 2010, Rooker debuted on AMC's The Walking Dead as the racist, arrogant redneck character of Merle Dixon.
Merle quickly became on of the most despised characters on the AMC series. In fact, he earned as a similar disdain from the smaller-at-the-time fanbase as Jeffrey Dean Morgan is seeing right now for his portrayal of Negan.
From the moment Merle was handcuffed on the rooftop and left in Atlanta to die when zombies were trying to barge through a locked door to devour him, fans thought they were ready to watch him die. With a couple of appearances sporadically in the next couple of seasons related to his character's brother Daryl Dixon (played by the now mega-star Norman Reedus) and fans were still adamant about their feelings for Merle.
When fans hate a character the writers want them to, an actor is doing their job.
Flash forward to Season 3 of the AMC series and Merle is finding redemption among fans when he realizes the Governor is evil and he shares a touching moment with Daryl in the woods...Suddenly the fans love Merle and, in turn, Michael Rooker!
For some reason, though, Rooker hasn't landed himself a leading man role since bowing out of The Walking Dead. Following the pair of major roles, it's time for Hollywood to start opening the check book for Rooker and offering the veteran actor some leading rolls. The talent is certainly there.
It's no secret that Gunn and Rooker are close friends. Really, the two are the only ones who won't admit it publicly. Gunn is constantly sharing screenshots of evil text messages the two share and describing how annoying Rooker is on set but it is all in good fun. It's really one of the best Hollywood bro-mances going on right now.
This might be why it almost feels as though Gunn wrote Yondu's part in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to give his good friend a moment to shine after having worked together years ago in Slither and recently on The Belko Experiment.
Rooker's resume extends well beyond work with Gunn and The Walking Dead. In fact, he has actually appeared in films with Sylvestor Stallone well ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The two share dthe screen in 1993's Cliffhanger, where Rooker played Hal Tucker for one of his best known roles.
Then there are his appearances in Jumper and The Bone Collector many fans will remember, for now, but looking at his resume, the actor is beginning to earn roles he deserves. With dozens of one-off TV gigs under his belt, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 proves Rooker is ready for the prime time leading man gig and his loyal fans will be waiting in the front row.
MORE WALKING DEAD: Negan's Backstory Reveals Completely Different Character / TWD Star Quits Social Media After Death Threats / TWD Showrunner Joins FTWD / TWD F-Take Clips With Rick And Daryl / Major Criticism Fixed For Season 8 / TWD Casting Two New Characters
The Walking Dead will return for its eighth season in October of 2017. The first trailer is expected to arrive at San Diego Comic Con in July. For complete coverage and insider info all off-season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.