Michael Rooker has been a journeyman actor for almost 30 years, appearing in a variety of TV shows and films. None of that work has brought Rooker a 10th of the attention the 59-year-old actor has received since joining the cast of "The Walking Dead."
That attention will likely get ramped up even more with his role in the latest comic book-inspired movie "Guardians of the Galaxy."
It's hard to know which group is more rabid: "Dead" fans or comic book movie lovers. Either way, the combination is huge.
As for being part of another big franchise, Rooker smiles and says: "Why not?! Why not?!"
He wasn't looking to legions of fans when he took on the role of Yondu in "Guardians." He just liked the character — an interstellar bandit with a love/hate relationship with the Guardians, especially Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Rooker doesn't even think about how big a project it will be until he has landed the role.
"You do what you do best. The chips will fall where they may. People dig it. They don't dig it. They get it. They don't get it. It doesn't matter to me. I just do the job the best I can," Rooker says.
Just like "The Walking Dead," "Guardians of the Galaxy" is based on a series of comic books. In both cases, the comics didn't provide a lot of help in playing the role. His "Dead" character was created for the TV series and Yondu has gone through multiple changes during the various runs of "Guardians.
Both franchises have put Rooker through makeup challenges. It took three hours daily to transform Rooker into the blue-skinned Yondu. The makeup work he went through to play the zombie Merle Dixon wasn't quite as time consuming.
The death of Merle upset and surprised a lot of "Walking Dead" fans. It was also a surprise to Rooker when he was told three weeks before the episode filmed that Merle would be a walking dead. Rooker believes there's a lot more Merle could have added to the story, but he is happy with the way the character met his end.
"My only big thing was that Merle came in an ass kicker and he should go out an ass kicker," Rooker says. "That made a great arc."
Back to work
Meredith Vieira came to the TV critics tour to talk about her new daytime series, "The Meredith Vieira Show." The daily chat show is the latest TV job in Vieira's career that goes back to 1975. Whether it was "The View" or "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," Vieira has always been a class act. You wouldn't guess she has a wild side.
She had cut back on working in recent years to be home with her 66-year-old husband who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 25.
"It's secondary progressive, so it's a decline. There's nothing that can stop it, but you do whatever you can. He had a massive blood clot in March, and we actually almost lost him, but we didn't. He is a tough cookie," Vieira says. "And he's rebounding, but it's hard because when you have autoimmune illnesses, anything can kick in symptoms. So he's having a little more difficulty walking these days.
"Sanjay Gupta just had a documentary about weed, marijuana, and what's being done to help people with MS. And I think Richard would love the thought of smoking grass, so I'm sure we'll be doing that soon."
She pauses, laughs and then adds: "Or he will. He will. I won't. I'll be drinking."
Jumping the sharks
Tara Reid and Ian Ziering thought they would be working on a rather typical low-budget science fiction movie when they got the script for a film called "Dark Skies." It was only a week later that they learned the name of the low-budget production had been changed to "Sharknado."
"I really thought I shouldn't be doing this. I told them to get me off the movie and change my name," Ziering says.
Reid adds that every member of the cast thought making a movie called "Sharknado" was not a good career move.
"We couldn't put 'Sharknado' on our résumé. It was going to ruin everything," Reid says. This coming from someone who starred in the live version of "Josie and the Pussycats."
Ziering pressed on with "Sharknado" because his wife, Erin, reminded him that they had a second child on the way and he needed to work so they could have insurance.
He, and Reid, ended up making the movie, which ended up being one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons in the last two years. Not only did "Sharknado" get record ratings for Syfy, it spawned a line of merchandise and a sequel, "Sharknado 2: The Second One," which debuted last week.
It's easy to understand why the actors would agree to make a sequel — it is one of the biggest hits of their careers.
"It was impossible to predict what was going to happen," Ziering says. "If movie studios could predict this was going to happen, they wouldn't spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make movies."
The budget for "Sharknado" was about $2 million and the sequel was made for just slightly more.