It’s always a gamble for an actor, playing the stuff of nightmares for your first film role—just ask Linda Blair. Fortunately for Michael Rooker, the gamble paid off. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was controversial, earning a dreaded X rating, but it also wowed the critics, as did Rooker’s performance. Henry is one of the few lead characters Rooker has played, but he’s stayed busy in the three decades since. Then in 2010, Rooker gambled and won again, signing on with a new TV series, The Walking Dead—and he did it again in 2014, when he accepted the part of Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy, which became an instant classic. Its sequel, Vol. 2, opens May 5.