From Gilmore Girls to horror to Guardians of the Galaxy 2, it’s safe to say Sean Gunn has a lot to look forward to in the coming months. Recently we had the chance to talk to Sean ahead of his appearance at London Comic Con about his life as an actor, the Gilmore Girls reunion and next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
Was acting something you always wanted to do or did the interest simply build up over time?
Sean: No, acting was something I pretty much always wanted to do. I’m the youngest of six and I always wanted to be an actor, I don’t really know why. I think I enjoyed being the center of attention as a kid and when I was old enough to know what a profession was I just always wanted to be an actor. My reasons for loving acting have sort of changed over the years, when I went to college I learned to love the craft of acting, not just love being the center of attention. It seems acting has always been a part of me, something that’s inside of me.
Now once you decided you wanted to make acting a career, how hard was it to break into the industry? Was there ever a time that you had second thoughts and started looking at other careers?
Sean: The only time I ever had second thoughts was when I was concerned that it just wasn’t going to work out but I never wanted to something more than acting. It didn’t feel insurmountable because I’d wanted it for so long that I was prepared for what the lifestyle meant so as my career progressed I kind of took baby steps. I went from acting in high school plays, to going to a theater conservatory for college, to starting a theater company just out of college, to commercials in Chicago, to moving to LA, to just starting to do little TV roles. So everything was really just a rung up the ladder over time, which made my career not feel so daunting. I have known it was acting since I was a kid, I remember at ten years old I told my parents I wanted to be an actor and they told me well, you know that isn’t going to be easy, it’s a tough business so I’ve always understood this wasn’t going to be easy, that I had to just chip away at it.
You’ve done work in television, movies and voice acting. Do you have a preferred medium to work in or do they all have their own individual charms?
Sean: I think the industry has changed so much in the last decade, it’s not like it was in the eighties and nineties where there was such a clear difference between working in different fields. Now I just want to choose good scripts and do good work and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s movies or television. I’m way more likely to be interested in a role because of the role itself, because of the script, because of the character than I am because it’s on television or on the big screen.
Being from Toronto I have to ask, I read that you did a fantasy baseball league with Geddy Lee from Rush. Do you still do that?
Sean: (Laughs) You did your homework, didn’t you? No, my brother Patrick and I had a team together and that was years ago, early 2000’s, and Geddy is really into it. Unfortunately, and I’ve had phone conversations with Geddy a number of times I’ve never actually met him in person. My brother Patrick was the one in New York and he would go to the draft days and things like that and actually be there while I would just be on speaker phone. Geddy was a super nice guy and we really enjoyed doing that be we dropped out because it was too much work, and there were two of us, it was just too time consuming and I remember Geddy beat us pretty good, he was the champion of that league.
The TV show Gilmore Girls had, and still has, a passionate and loyal core of fans. What was your experience like working on that show?
Sean: That show is certainly very close to me, even though I had been at it for a long time, Gilmore Girls is really sort of what built my career so I’m very grateful, too. It was kind of a grind, we worked incredibly long hours, obviously it wasn’t as bad for me as it was for the leads as I had a smaller supporting role but it was really long and grueling and kind of notorious for that at the time on television. All in all though, when I look back on the experience it was awesome, it made me feel like I had a career that was worth building on. Then going back and doing it again, the process of walking back on the set nine years later was really amazing. It was very surreal as well and what a joy for an actor like myself to have this relationship with this character for so many years then all of a sudden walk back in and resurrect it. I was a lot more grateful I think this time around, not that I wasn’t grateful the first time but I was a lot younger going in originally. I was grateful to be able to pick that character back up again and get under his skin, Kirk’s a very unusual character and to go back in revisit that, it was excellent. Unfortunately we were shooting Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at the same time so Gilmore Girls had to work around Guardians schedule which made it a little tricky but we were still able to find a couple of weeks in there where I could come back and of course, I’m doing two characters in Guardians so it was definitely the busiest time in my career.
When did you realize that Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be something special, not only the quality of the movie but the fan appeal as well?
Sean: I knew it was special when I read the script because I loved the script so much. I think in some ways I was less nervous about than just about anyone. I know my brother and Chris had these fears that they might have made this massive bomb. It’s such a strange concept, the tone is tricky, people don’t really know the characters but I just had this feeling in my gut from the beginning that my brother was exactly the right guy to direct that movie. I read the script and saw Marvel and Disney were going to be behind as well so chances are this movie was going to do ok. Of course, I didn’t think it was going to be as massively successful as it was but I did have pretty high hopes that it would find its audience. Obviously, by the premiere we had a pretty strong sense that audiences, test audiences were responding pretty positively and so yeah, I was all in pretty early. It was easier for me as well because I don’t have as much at stake as an actor, if the movie flops I can move on.
What is it like being directed by your brother and do you give him a hard time, simply because he’s your brother?
Sean: No, I don’t really bug him. We’ve been working together for so long, in one capacity or another, since we were kids really. The boring answer to your question is I like working with him mostly because he is so good at his job and I know he respects the job that I do. So really, even though we’re friends and yes, we joke around on set, for the most part he’s focused on what he’s doing and I’m focused on what I’m doing. We trust one another in those roles a great deal and I been fortunate to work with him and Amy Sherman-Palladino from Gilmore Girls who write great scripts and have a totally focused vision on what it is that they want, that’s what I care about. The fact that he’s my brother, I really don’t think about it that much. He’s kind of my boss on set and maybe when we were kids it was a little different but now I just think of him as being a really great director before my brother.
I can’t imagine what it was like being on the set of both Guardians movies. Can you tell me what a typical day was like, especially if Michael Rooker was involved?
Sean: Well, it’s never a typical day when Rooker is there. The funny thing is, as over the top as Rooker is, we do a lot of conventions together and I’ve got to know him pretty well, we’ve also done four movies together now, Rooker is really great to work with. He is super focused and a great actor and he doesn’t care about anything except getting the shot, getting the scene. As far as a typical day though, that’s tough because I play two different characters so depending on what I’m doing the day is very different. If I’m playing Kraglin then I’m doing an hour or so of makeup, I’m getting into wardrobe so I’d say I’m spending a little more time getting into character. When I’m doing Rocket it’s a different experience because there’s a team of people who are doing Rocket, I’m just one member of that team. I guess to your question a little bit more, there are a lot of days when we go to set where it would just be the Guardians, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, I’m doing Rocket and Rooker is there a lot, Karen Gillan, I do really think of that as a family of actors. My brother and Marvel did a great job at casting those people, people who are really nice and easy to work with. It’s weird, on this movie, the second movie, I was a bit worried that how things might be different because it was so special the first time around. Also, Chris is a much bigger star now, the movie was such a big hit, was there going to be more pressure, what is going to change, will it actually be harder? In fact, it was just the opposite, it was easier. I think it was like putting on a glove that fits perfectly, it was really special and I’m very, very excited to see the second one come out.
Fan expectations are obviously going to be huge for the upcoming sequel. Does that weigh on the actors in any way?
Sean: I don’t know if it weighs on the leads at all, I think if anything it’s just easier. Having some of that pressure relieved, as in is this movie going to be a flop, are people going to respond to these characters, that will definitely help the movie be a success. Even if some people don’t like it, the characters have struck a chord with the audience and many people will want to check it out, pretty much guaranteeing it won’t be a flop. I know from the filmmaker’s perspective it’s a lot easier to not have to focus on introducing the characters so much, you can basically jump right into the story which gives you a little more breathing room. I think in general we felt less pressure on the second film, I know James did.
Now that you have finished filming Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the return of the Gilmore Girls, what other projects do you have coming up?
Sean: Well right now I’m spending a lot of time promoting the things that I have coming up. I’ve got Gilmore Girls being released on November 25th and The Belko Experiment is a horror movie I did that is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, we’re hoping it will get a theatrical release but I’m not sure if they’ve chosen a date yet, probably the first few months of next year (we have now learned it will get a wide release on March 17th) and then Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming out May 5th. At the same time, I’m doing the actors thing, pounding the pavement and looking for work. I’m going to do a YouTube web series here in a few weeks, for a day or two, that’s a fun project and I’m just excited about all these projects coming out and hoping it gives me a few more opportunities.
I want to thank Sean for taking the time to talk with us