That, Johnson hopes, will inject the forthcoming sitcom about his life with an authenticity that audiences will appreciate.
“My life — you know, we use these terms ‘wild’ and ‘crazy’ and those are great sizzle words that we use as we promote this thing — but it was incredibly complicated, and it was incredibly tough growing up,” Johnson told reporters Tuesday in a virtual news conference. “And, you know, we specifically went with these timelines in my life that were very defining times.”
“Young Rock” focuses on three time periods — when Johnson was 10, 15 and 18 — as well as an alternate reality version of Johnson in 2032, when he is campaigning for president. Young actors Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant and Uli Latukefu play Johnson — known by his family as “Dewey” — at those ages and are tasked with bringing to life stories from the superstar’s past.
A larger-than-life figure in real life and portrayed as such on screen by Joseph Lee Anderson, the WWE Hall of Famer died suddenly in January 2020 at age 75.
“I think really when I look back on this and I can reflect, the series has really allowed, in a way, me to appreciate those hard times that much more,” Johnson said. “Because through the brilliance of (executive producers) Nahnatchka (Kahn) and Jeff (Chiang), they were able to craft something that still made audiences — I hope and I think and fingers crossed — feel a certain way and know that we all go through these tough times.”
Balance was key, he said. For all the “complications,” as he calls them, there was “so much good stuff” about his past. Like a childhood with lots of travel and being surrounded by big personalities, formidable female figures and wrestling greats (many of whom are portrayed on the show).
What Johnson is sure of, he said, is that his late father would have relished seeing the world of professional wrestling portrayed in a “positive” light.
“He would have loved this and he would have been so proud because for the first time, certainly in prime time, we are showcasing this world that he and all of his brothers of the ring, so to speak … gave their life to,” Johnson said. “I know it would meant a lot to my dad.”
“Young Rock” premieres Tuesday, February 16, on NBC.