To read more from EW’s Summer Movie Preview, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
Chris Sullivan is most recognizable for playing Toby on the hit NBC drama This is Us. And his portrayal of the alien character Taserface in superhero sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is unlikely to change that, given Sullivan performs the role under a thick layer of prosthetics and makeup.
“The makeup process started off at about three-and-a-half hours and we whittled it down to about two-and-a-half, as the makeup team got more and more practiced at it,” says the actor. “It was quite involved. But every morning, bright and early, I shared a makeup trailer with Michael Rooker. So, it was he and I sitting next to each other, getting ready for work, and sharing stories of our lives! Michael Rooker is like the Merle Haggard of the acting world. Never a dull moment. Never a dull story. I’ve been a huge fan of his since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. I don’t think there’s anyone like him. I think he’s singular. I would pay money to sit next to him and get into makeup. Don’t tell Marvel that!”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about Taserface.
CHRIS SULLIVAN: Yeah! [Chuckles] Talk about a swing in character type. Taserface is an intergalactic space pirate, who is in the service of Yondu, and a member of the Ravagers.
Ravagers are generally not the nicest of people. How would you characterize the personality of Taserface?
Taserface is loud. [Chuckles] Taserface is the defensive lineman on your high school football team. He’s a very loud individual who enjoys pushing people around.
What was the audition process like?
The audition process was fairly concise. I guess they had been having a hard time finding somebody to play the role and Simon Hatt, the associate producer, had been a fan of The Knick, a TV show I did on Cinemax. I put myself on tape and that was the end of the story.
What was James Gunn like to work with?
James Gunn runs his set like a 12-year-old’s birthday party. Every day, he is so excited to come to work. He almost appears surprised that someone is still allowing him to live out his childhood fantasies. It’s kind of infectious. It makes the days fly by. So, there’s a lot of music, and there’s a lot of energy, and it just makes for a really enjoyable experience.
I read that he wanted to introduce Taserface in the first movie, but Marvel was not so keen.
I didn’t actually know that. That’s fascinating. Taserface has some interesting origins in the comics, so we shall see what his fate holds.
Did they give you the whole script to read?
I did receive the script once I arrived in Atlanta. I don’t want to make any promises, but I think it’s better than the first one. I would say it’s more fleshed out, just simply by the fact there was a first one. There’s no need to establish characters, so we get to jump right into the storylines of the main characters at a deeper level. But it’s equally funny, equally as full of amazing music, and, of course, that cast — the Guardians of the Galaxy are pretty hard to match.
For more on this week’s cover story, watch EW The Show, available now, on the new PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.
Did you get to spend any time with Kurt Russell?
I did, actually. The first time I met him, he happened to come on set for his first costume test one of the days I was shooting. [Laughs] It was a bit surreal. Snake Plissken walks in the room, any young actor is going to be a bit speechless.
He seems like someone who puts people at their ease.
Oh, unbelievably charming, and yeah, that’s exactly what he did. He actually approached me, and we started talking about the makeup process, and everything that was going into it, and he made it very easy to speak to a hero.
What was it like the first time you looked in the mirror and saw Taserface staring back?
I said, “Holy sh–, I guess I’m going to have to talk differently!” The voice that I had prepared was not quite alien enough to match the makeup, so I made a couple of adjustments.
What is the biggest difference between your character in Guardians and your character in This is Us?
[On This is Us], I have a much better complexion.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters on May 5.