Sean Gunn Talks About Playing Rocket Raccoon and Kraglin in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

James Gunn and Sean Gunn Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Director James Gunn on set with Sean Gunn (Rocket Racoon performance capture) Photo by Jay Maidment © Marvel)

Sean Gunn did double-duty in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, portraying space-pirate Kraglin and doing the motion reference performance for Rocket Raccoon. He pointed out the difference between motion reference and motion capture.

“Motion capture uses balls or dots that you see on people’s faces because a computer can use an algorithm to change their face into a computer-generated face. In the case of a Rocket, a raccoon’s face is too different from a human’s face for that algorithm to work well enough … it doesn’t look good. You need a more humanoid face for it to work. It has to be done via reference, which means the animators watch and animate what they see. What they’re doing is filming my performance and interpreting my face and my movements the same way they would interpret Rocket’s face and movements. I think it’s one of the reasons Rocket works as well as he does because the other actors are looking at an actual person,” explained Gunn, 43, a DePaul University alumnus who recently appeared at the Motor City Comic Con in Novi, MI, alongside fellow GOTG actor Michael Rooker (Yondu).

When Kraglin and Rocket appear in the same scene, Gunn does double-duty.

“A scene like the one in the forest where Kraglin’s part of the group standing around Rocket who’s in the middle (was tricky) because these were shots they were both in together,” he said. “We had to shoot it multiple times. We had to a do a few extra takes to make sure we got everything in there. It’s a weird process. I’d never thought I’d find myself doing it – it just fell into my lap.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – directed by James Gunn, Sean’s older brother – is the 15th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a sequel to 2014’s sleeper hit Guardians of the Galaxy. GOTG2 was the No. 1 movie at the box office for two consecutive weeks, grossing more than approximately $733 million worldwide to date. It was barely edged out of the No. 1 slot in its third week of release during the weekend of May 22 by Alien: Covenant.

Gunn is reprising his role as Rocket – voiced by Bradley Cooper – in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, where the Avengers and Guardians join forces to battle Thanos (Josh Brolin), who’s been lurking in the background since 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers.

“I’ve worked with a lot of very cool actors so far,” he said. “I definitely feel privileged to be part of just such a large and impressive cast.”

Talk about working with your brother.

Sean Gunn: “I think it would be a more fun answer to say that I hate it and he picks on me all the time. The truth is there’s nobody else in the world I’d rather work with than my brother James because he’s so freakin’ good at what he does. He and I have an excellent working relationship because we communicate with each other so well. There’s so much history between us, that we communicate more efficiently and he’s a lot of fun; he’s a good guy to hang out with. When you add it all up, I love working for him. He still messes with me sometimes, but that’s to be expected.”

Are you amazed at how well Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is doing?

Sean Gunn: “Yes and no. You never can predict that kind of success. Knowing the success of the first movie and being on the inside of the second movie as I was from conception to release, I knew it was good and something I was proud of. Those of us who collaborated on it were proud to have put our hearts into it. I had a good feeling it’d have a good audience and be well-liked. That said, how can you predict how mammoth of a hit something’s gonna be? It’s certainly doing great and I think that’s awesome.”

Before the first movie, nobody knew who Rocket was. Nowadays, he’s a household name. In your words, what made the first movie such a blockbuster?

Sean Gunn: “It always goes back to story. The story is really strong and this idea you can build a family out of a group of misfits is one that resonates with a lot of people (who) see themselves as misfits and can relate. It’s a true family film not in the sense it was a kids’ film but people of all ages genuinely enjoyed it… If I can brag about my brother for a minute, I think he was perfectly suited for that material; it was right in his wheelhouse. In addition to being the right person, he also has a knack for collaborating with other creative minds at Marvel and Disney. I don’t think he runs away from the other creative minds involved in process the way some directors probably do. All those things put together made for a hit movie.”

In the movie, Kraglin accidentally shoots Drax (Dave Bautista) with an arrow. What happens to him?

Sean Gunn: “I don’t know but whatever it is, I hope he lives (laughter). I have no idea. I guess that’s where the story’s paused for right now.”

Your brother’s returning for a third movie. Are you?

Sean Gunn: “It’s so early in that process, I couldn’t comment on that one way or another.”

This is your first time at Motor City. What’s the best part of conventions for you?

Sean Gunn: “Really, just meeting fans. I’ve been a professional actor for 20 years now, but I’ve been wanting to be a professional actor my whole life. Living with the daily grind to build a career and get a career going, all you really want is an audience to like and appreciate your work. When you’re fortunate enough as I have been to be part of these great franchises and have all these great fans, I’m very grateful for it and I love meeting them, talking to them, seeing what they have to say, taking pictures and everything – that’s great! That’s my favorite part!”