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Dwayne Johnson On Early “Tough Times” & Not Taking The Easy Route With His NBC Series ‘Young Rock’

Anthony D'Alessandro
·4 min read

When it came to mounting the NBC half hour series Young Rock, getting it real, and getting it right, warts and all, was key for Dwayne Johnson and the actors portraying the younger version of the wrestler-action star and his family.

Young Rock focuses on different chapters of Johnson’s life. From growing up in a strong and resilient family, to being surrounded by the zany characters of his professional wrestling family, to playing football at the University of Miami, the show explores the crazy rollercoaster that has shaped Johnson into the guy he is today and the larger-than-life characters he’s met along the way.

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Said Johnson today at NBC’s winter press tour, “When I first sat down with (EPs) Nahnatchka (Khan) as well as Jeff (Chiang), it was to really under understand why — what’s the real reason of why we’re going to do this? How can we create something for audiences that will hopefully entertain them but also allow them with a bit of takeaway afterwards? Once, we identified that, and I felt good and comfortable with that, then we moved forward. Let’s not take the easy route. We use these terms ‘wild’ and ‘crazy’ — those are great sizzle words we use as we promote this thing. But it was incredibly complicated and incredibly tough growing up, specifically with these timelines in my life of 10 years old, 15 and 18. Universe willing, if we’re lucking enough to come back for another round of this thing, there’s a lot of other things that took place in between.”

“The relationship I had with my dad was incredibly complicated and fueled by tough love. My dad was kicked out of his house when he was 13 and was homeless, so that then shaped the man who then raised me. And in that complication came an extraordinary life that was full of travel. I lived in 13 different states by the time I was 13 years old. I also lived in New Zealand. There was so much breadth to this life I had,” said Johnson.

It was key for Johnson in working with the EPs of Young Rock to “rip some things open, and vulnerability was one of those factors. The series has allowed me to appreciate those hard times so much more.”

“Let’s reveal things, but let’s also talk about the good stuff, because there was so much good stuff when I look back on it, in this wild world with these characters who were larger than life,” said Johnson referring to his grandmother, Lia Maivia, (the first female pro wrestling promoter), and other wrestling personalities portrayed on the show, i.e. Andre the Giant, The Iron Sheik, etc.

“All of these men, so successful in what they did, but they played that role 24 hours a day,” Johnson reflected.

When asked by a reporter what the roughest times in his life were, Johnson took a deep breath, and answered, “There’s a few layers to that answer…At 13, I veered off the tracks to do things I shouldn’t be doing. I got arrested at 13 in Hawaii,” said the actor. Johnson fought with his parents at the time. He didn’t want to move from Hawaii. In hindsight, they family was forced to movie, and it was meant to be, for ultimately, down the road, Johnson prospered.

Another bad patch Johnson remembered was when he was passed over for the NFL.

“That was a pretty big loss; when you’re done with your college career, you’re done. There was no NFL for me,” said the Hobbs and Shaw and Fast & Furious actor. In time, Johnson soon made it to the “seven bucks” phase of his life; this sublime turning point when he was broke following his release from the Canadian Football League in 1995 and before he signed with the World Wrestling Federation where he exploded into the phenomenon that we know.

Johnson, Joseph Lee Anderson, Stacey Leilua, Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu, Ana Tuisila, Fasitua Amosa and John Tui star in Young Rock. Khan, Johnson, Chiang, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Jennifer Carreras are EPs on the series. Young Rock is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, Seven Bucks Productions and Fierce Baby Productions.

Young Rock will premiere at 8PM on Tuesday Feb. 16. Check out the trailer which dropped today:

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