Eager fans who rushed to the theater to see #GuardiansoftheGalaxyVol2 on its Thursday preview night know that Sean Gunn enjoyed an expanded role in the sequel as Kraglin, the Ravager who is part of Yondu's crew. It's a much-deserved bump for Gunn, who fans know pulls double-duty on the Guardians team as both Kraglin and the on-set motion reference for Rocket Raccoon.
I had the chance to interview him earlier this week about the movie. The actor was in Scotland, having just experienced the annual Beltane Fire Festival ("Painted people dancing naked...it was really delightful") in Edinburgh and enjoying the recognition of fans on the street.
First, I had to ask: Did he always know he'd get an expanded role in the sequel? He just happens to be brother to director #JamesGunn, so if there were ever a moment to influence, that would be it.
He was quick to explain he never tries to influence his brother ("Partially because he wouldn't listen to me anyway"), being very respectful of his process. Still, James told him the story years ago, including his own bigger role, and Sean has had to sit on that knowledge ever since:
"It's funny 'cause he told me the whole plot of the second movie about two years ago. And yeah, he told me in July of 2015 and so I have been sitting on this knowledge that I had this much bigger role in this huge movie and I haven't been able to talk about it! It's nice for me to have the movie come out, not just because I am excited to get to share it with fans, but also because I get to speak a little more freely about my role."
That story he was told years ago remained "almost completely intact," and that's the script they shot, he revealed. That's saying something, considering James Gunn sat down to pen the first draft of the Guardians 2 script on the same day that the original movie came out ("Because he's, well, a maniac").
Shooting the sequel was more challenging for #SeanGunn in other ways, too. The actor was flipping back and forth between playing three characters at the same time—on opposite ends of the country:
I was also doing Kirk in the 'Gilmore Girls' reboot at the same time. So I was playing both Kraglin and Rocket in Atlanta and then flying back to LA when I had enough days off to play Kirk and so I was doing all three simultaneously.
With Kraglin's expanded role, that meant more scenes where he was interacting with the Guardians and that presented its own set of challenges. He loves playing both characters, but as it turns out, those Ravagers jumpsuits aren't quite as forgiving as you'd think:
"As far as Kraglin and Rocket go, it only gets super-tricky when they're in scenes together... That can get hard because we have to shoot around certain things and when I'm wearing the Kraglin jumpsuit, I don't have the physical mobility I need to play Rocket completely. If we're going back and forth between takes and it's not something where Rocket is just sitting totally still, then I have to do a wardrobe change and stuff like that. So it gets complicated."
The trick, he said, is that it's all about focus. "I think a very large percentage of good acting is focus," Gunn told me, "and it's no different for me."
Actors who initially step into an ensemble cast in a sequel often feel a bit like the new kid in school. The cast already has a bond from having done the previous film together, so it can be hard to find that initial chemistry. But Gunn, even though he had more scenes with the Guardians this time, felt comfortable because he was already part of the family. In fact, he had been rooting for one of his fellow cast members, Dave Bautista (Drax), even before the original auditions were over:
"Dave is so great. I think back at the time, because I knew how grueling his audition was, so I was so happy when he got cast. It was 100% merit and I think we all tried to make sure he knew that."
And by the way, fans who keep asking about #GuardiansoftheGalaxy3 (despite James Gunn's please to cease and desist) might want to adjust their expectations. While it's true his brother is already working on the treatment for the third script, Sean Gunn brought up a very good point when I asked him if he could tell me anything about the third film. What happens in #InfinityWar will impact the rest of the stories moving forward, so they have to build Vol. 3 around that:
"You would have to ask Kevin [Feige] or James about this, but I believe that James is—well, okay. We know now that the Guardians are going to overlap with the Avengers [in 'Infinity War'], so I think that before the real story process of 'Guardians 3' can happen, we need to know more about how that all ends. That's the amazing thing about being part of this whole interwoven series of movies is that each depends on the other a little bit."
With such a big ensemble cast and so many moving pieces, it's easy to imagine a group of five friends walking into the theater and coming out with five different perspectives. So I had one last question for Gunn: What does he hope people take away from the movie?
"I love the idea that people will see the elements of the movie that I think have a lot of heart and that they will hopefully identify with this idea of building a family with unconventional parts, putting a family together with the people that you love. I also think on some level that Guardians, particularly the sequel, is a super, super ambitious film in that it's trying to appeal to all different ages and all different types of people without being generic and without just catering to the least common denominator. It tries to be smart, and funny, and cool, but also have a huge audience. That's pretty ambitious. So I'm really happy with anything that people latch onto as something they love."
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in theaters today.