LOS ANGELES – When Dwayne Johnson sold the idea for a TV comedy about his colorful and uplifting youth to NBC a year ago, he was thrilled to tell his parents that a version of their family was intended for the small screen .
A few days later, her father was shot dead by a heart attack caused by a blood clot at the age of 75. His loss inevitably changed “Young Rock,” said Johnson, who himself stars in the series that began on Tuesday. A trio of actors portray the young iterations of Johnson.
“I get emotional when I talk about this, when I talk about my dad and think about it,” Johnson said. “I had a complex relationship with my father, and he was a complex man.”
The series aimed to include the ups and downs of the elder Johnson, but after his death his son decided to look more fully into his “really weird ability to make everyone feel good.”
With a smile, he recited happy greetings from daddy Rocky Johnson, including a favorite: “Did you exercise?”
Dwayne Johnson, introduced during the dazzling wrestling era as The Rock, likely got some of his skills and ambition from his Nova Scotia-born father, who held National Wrestling Alliance titles and was among the first black champions in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment.
But he also owes his father the charm and warmth that make Dwayne Johnson endearing, despite his massive build and box office star status with credits in the “Fast and Furious” and “Jumanji” franchises.
He’s the real deal, “generous and charming,” said Nahnatchka Khan, an executive producer for “Young Rock” with Johnson. “He’s collaborative, funny and willing to take risks. A lot of the comedy is trust… and I totally trust him.
Bradley Constant, who plays teenage Johnson who longs for daughters, cool sons and a car, took on his first major role with his guidance.
“He reassured me to be myself. He’s a very genuine, normal guy who’s lived an amazing life, of course, ”said Constant, who saw the family’s financial struggles as a way to help solidify him in this role.
“Young Rock” is structured around Johnson’s portrayal as the 2032 presidential candidate – a move less secure than independent politics have envisioned. Is he preparing America for its next chapter?
“I think people will prepare me. I can say that, ”he laughed.
In the first episode, he is interviewed by Randall Park, also playing himself but as an actor turned television journalist. Park starred in “Fresh Off the Boat”.
As Johnson remembers the past, there are flashbacks to scenes of him as a child, played by Adrian Groulx; a high school student (Constant); and young adult, played by Australian actor Uli Latukefu. Joseph Lee Anderson and Stacey Leilua co-starred as parents Rocky and Ata Johnson.
Matthew Willig stands as the late Andre the Giant, one of the wrestling figures presented as a running part of Johnson’s unusual childhood and youth, marred by setbacks he took. is beaten to overcome.
“He really wanted to go out there and show the fight, that it hasn’t been a straight up for him,” Khan said. “He was upset a lot and he had to leave what he thought was his dream and find a new dream, a new path. Being able to explore those kinds of moments in a comedy is really important. “
Johnson has proven “down to earth for everything.” It was just that he wanted to portray the people who affected his life in a real way, ”she said, adding that what was portrayed in the show either happened or was inspired by the events.
Reflecting on the past, Johnson said, he came to realize that challenges have provided the impetus for real growth.
“It became an anchoring factor in my struggle and my determination to, quite frankly, not to be a victim when, again, we were evicted (from housing) when I was 13 or 14 years old,” did he declare. As he worked with Khan to find the right approach to the show, “I knew in my heart that the most important thing was to be genuine and to be okay with tearing up some stories and opening up some of the past.
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