New sitcom ‘Young Rock’ traces the early years of wrestling legend and top actor Dwayne Johnson, now showing on Showmax.
Dwayne Johnson might be the nicest guy ever to beat people up for a living. With his cocksure charm, killer smile and willingness to be the butt of the joke, the wrestling phenomenon we all know as The Rock is the consummate showman.
But even the world’s biggest star started out small. Dwayne’s latest TV offering, Young Rock, now on Showmax, is a sitcom based on his own life. The 11-part first season goes back to Dwayne’s roots as a 10-year-old in Hawaii, his high school years in Pennsylvania, and his university years in Miami, all within the (as yet) fictional framework of the actor and former pro-wrestler running as a candidate in the 2032 US Presidential Election.
Already renewed for a second season, the series has a 90% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus says: “Anchored by a winsome ensemble, Young Rock is an endearing peek behind the curtain of both Dwayne Johnson’s childhood and the wild world of wrestling.” The series is currently at #32 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best TV Shows of 2021 So Far.
Young Rock stars Joseph Lee Anderson as Dwayne’s dad; Stacey Leilua as Dwayne’s mom in his childhood years (his real mom, Ata Johnson, also makes a cameo appearance in the series); Ana Tuisila as Dwayne’s grandmother; Adrian Groulx as kid Dwayne; Bradley Constant as teen Dwayne; and Uli Latufeku as Dwayne the young adult; with former NFL footballer Matthew Willig as the legendary André the Giant and PEN15’s Sam, Taj Cross, as his high school best buddy. And of course, Dwayne Johnson himself… as Dwayne.
Dwayne is a 10-time world champion wrestler, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s made the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list, twice, and he’s the third most-followed person on Instagram, with 256 million followers. Over the course of his now-20-year acting career (since making his movie debut in 2001’s The Mummy Returns), Dwayne has won two People’s Choice Awards, three Teen Choice Awards, and three Kids’ Choice Awards. His movies, like the Fast & Furious and Jumanji franchises, have grossed over $10.5 billion worldwide, and he was the highest paid actor in the world in 2016… And in 2019…. And in 2020, earning a little over $87 million last year.
Dwayne is always busy, and always up for a new challenge. But all his roles have one thing in common. As he says of Young Rock, “The goal is always to entertain. That’s the driving force behind what I do.”
Here are three fun facts Young Rock has brought to light:
Dwayne was born and raised on wrestling. His father was, as Dwayne calls him, “The Soulman”: Canadian professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, who, along with his tag-team partner Tony Atlas, became the first black champion in WWE history. Dwayne’s grandad on his mom’s side was the legendary Samoan wrestler High Chief Peter Maivia (the inspiration for Maui in Moana, according to this tweet), while his grandmother Lia Maivia was the first female wrestling promoter.
Dwayne’s mom, Ata Johnson, was a talented singer (how do you think Dwayne pulled out Maui’s show-stopping musical number in Moana?), and she and Dwayne spent his childhood following Rocky around the world to be ringside. Family gatherings included legends from the wrestling world, like André the Giant.
In 2016, Dwayne was voted People‘s “Sexiest Man Alive” but back in high school, Dwayne had a hard time getting a date.
Thanks to his dad’s career, the young Dwayne had moved and changed schools several times. The family struggled financially, so cool clothes weren’t in the budget. And, by 15, Dwayne was bigger than his father, with a full moustache. As a result, his schoolmates thought he was an undercover cop – “like Johnny Depp from 21 Jump Street,” as his friend Gabe explains in the series.
To be fair, he did know the cops better than most kids. By age 17, Dwayne had been arrested for stealing, fighting, and cheque fraud.
In Young Rock, the stories of Dwayne’s youth are the flashbacks of a “fictional” future Dwayne, who happens to be running for president in the 2032 US elections, which is hilariously in sync with the big-ego persona Dwayne loves to roll out for the crowd.
But Dwayne has actually hinted at a possible foray into politics, saying in 2016 that a presidential bid was “a real possibility”. And when USA Today asked in an interview earlier this year if he would consider taking inspiration from his character in Young Rock, Dwayne responded with a straight face: “I would consider a presidential run in the future if that’s what the people wanted. Truly I mean that, and I’m not flippant in any way with my answer. That would be up to the people. … So I would wait, and I would listen. I would have my finger on the pulse; my ear to the ground.”
Reacting on Instagram to a recent poll that suggested 46% of Americans would support a presidential bid by the actor, Dwayne wrote, “Humbling ???????????? I don’t think our Founding Fathers EVER envisioned a six-four, bald, tattooed, half-Black, half-Samoan, tequila drinking, pick up truck driving, fanny pack-wearing guy joining their club – but if it ever happens it’d be my honour to serve you, the people.”
He wouldn’t be the first President Johnson, and there’s also precedent that says actors, bodybuilders, and even reality show hosts can grow up to be the President of America, or at least the Governor of California…
The Age (Australia) may have nailed it when they said, “As a TV series, Young Rock is enjoyable enough. But as a campaign launch, it is close to genius. All that’s missing is the disclaimer.”
Watch Young Rock on Showmax.