Dwayne Johnson's upbringing was a lot tougher than the new sugar-coated sitcom based on his early life suggests

Dwayne Johnson’s upbringing was a lot tougher than the new sugar-coated sitcom based on his early life suggests

With an upbeat soundtrack featuring Kool & The Gang, cheesy ’80s fashion and funny scenes that see him trying to order tequila in a restaurant aged 10, new sitcom The Young Rock shows a sugar-coated version of Dwayne Johnson’s childhood, but the reality was certainly a lot darker.

The star of Holywood hits such as The Scorpion King and the Fast and the Furious franchise, now 48, had a tough upbringing and an ‘incredibly complicated’ relationship with his ‘bad dude’ father, professional wrestler Rocky ‘Soul Man’ Johnson, which he says was ‘fuelled by tough love.’

Johnson worked with series creator Nahnatchka Khan to depict his ‘wildly Forrest Gump-ian life’, but the actor himself has admitted that the warm family comedy is ‘a PG version’ of events, including one scene in last night’s opening episode where 10-year-old Dwayne offends a group of wrestlers by calling the sport ‘fake’.

 

It prompts André to lift him up by the shoulders to eye level to tell him ‘never to use the F word’, with the scene ending in a hug, however the reality was a lot more brutal with the youngster taking physical beatings from his dad’s wrestling pals.

‘Honestly, what would happen is when I stepped out of line like that, I would be brought into the ring,’ Johnson said. ‘Their way of discipline was to take me in the ring. And beat my a** in a way that I learned actually how not fake wrestling is.’

Another scene, played for laughs, shows him buying his first car for $103 from a guy he meets at the pizza shop where he works, only for one of the guy’s friends, Waffle, to pop up in the back as he drives down the freeway.

It descends into farce when, after partying together, Waffle inexplicably dies in the back seat and the young Dwayne has to dump the car and report the death anonymously to the cops.

While the latter part of the story didn’t really happen, the tale is somewhat true and rather more alarming with The Rock revealing he bought the car ‘from a crackhead’.

‘I had to swerve off into the shoulder because another crackhead popped up from the back. And then I pulled over and I had to kick him out, and I said, “This is my car now”.’

Dwayne’s life took a turn for the better when he decided he wanted to follow in his father Rocky ‘Soul Man’ Johnson’s footsteps – who had made history as a professional wrestler. Pictured, as a child with his dad

Young Rock: Many of the Young Rock cast snaps released on Tuesday featured Adrian Groulx, who portrays Dwayne’s 10-year-old self; Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson, Adrian Groulx as Dwayne 10yrs, Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson pictured

Dwayne Johnson (pictured, aged 15) told how he started to go off the rails aged 13, and started getting arrested for fighting, theft and ‘all kinds of stupid [stuff]’

While the show is family friendly, the nuances of the real-life relationships between father and son at its heart are rather more complicated.

Dwayne’s father passed away suddenly in January 2020 at the age of 75, and he’s admitted that his father’s passing made him want to show more of ‘the good stuff’.

‘It was incredibly complicated and it was incredibly tough,’ he said. ‘Growing up, and you know we specifically went with these timelines in my life that were very defining times at 10 years old, 15 and 18.

‘There’s a lot of things in between those years that took place … but it was complicated and the relationship that I had with my dad was incredibly complicated — that was fueled by tough love.’

Those complications stemmed from his father’s unconventional upbringing, with Rocky’s father kicking him out of the house at 13.

‘My dad was kicked out of his house at 13 and he was homeless, so that then shaped the man who then raised me,’ Johnson said.

In last night’s episode, 10-year-old Dwayne offended a group of wrestlers by calling the sport ‘fake,’ prompting André The Giant to lift him up by the shoulders to eye level to tell him ‘never to use the F word.’ Pictured: (l-r) Adrian Groulx as Dwayne, Matthew Willig as André

Another scene, played for laughs, shows him buying his first car for $103 from a guy he meets at the pizza shop where he works, only for one of the guy’s friends, Waffle, to pop up in the back as he drives down the freeway (pictured)

The Rock’s childhood home in Hawaii (pictured). The family were evicted from this first floor apartment as they couldn’t afford the rent

In the show, a young Dwayne Johnson can be seen sitting in a small room in a one-bedroom apartment, while his family gather around the table in the tiny living room

Sharing a throwback snap to promote ‘Young Rock,’ Dwayne Johnson penned: ‘…A little bucked tooth, afro’d 10 year old ‘Dewey’ played by the lovable @AdrianGroulx. Taking Hawaii by storm and trying to sneak a nip of tequila at the dinner table whenever I could This is where my wild life all began..excited to share @NBCYoungRock with you all in TWO WEEKS on @NBC!!’

Dwayne (pictured as a young boy), who was born on May 2, 1972, in Hayward, California, has spoken of his ‘bad dude’ father and his upbringing

Dwayne Johnson also shared this snap alongside the caption: ‘* swipe left to see the world’s first 15yr old who looks 48 and was constantly mistaken as an high school undercover cop. True story. The awesome @BradleyConstant takes on my wild, unpredictable and DEFIANT high school years – redefining the rules of puberty for generations to come @NBCYoungRock premieres in TWO WEEKS on @NBC!!!’

The Ballers star described himself as ‘a kid who had some anger issues, but also thought he was really cool.’

Johnson said he ‘clearly had an identity crisis’ as he was growing up.

‘I didn’t want to be known as Dwayne when I moved from high school to high school. I called myself Tomas. Girls used to call the house and ask for Tomas and my mom would go, ‘I’m sorry. There’s no Tomas here.”

The series also depicts his dad’s career as a professional wrestler in the territory systems of the 1970s and 80s, before Vince McMahon and Wrestlemania brought a high-profile toward the form of entertainment.

‘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, also lived in New Zealand,’ Johnson added.

Catalyst: The superstar dealt with depression when he was 23, after getting passed up for the NFL and after being cut from Canadian Football League team the Calgary Stampeders (pictured at practice for the Stampeders)

The Scorpion King is a 2002 American action-adventure fantasy film directed by Chuck Russell, starring The Rock (pictured)

 

Career-defining: His success as ‘The Rock’ led him to host Saturday Night Live, release a best-selling autobiography, and launch his wildly successful film career; here he is seen in 2012

In the sitcom, the wrestlers of his father’s era are depicted as glamorous in the ring, but rather mundane back at home – which was true of Dwayne’s experience growing up.

Dwayne recalled how stars were ‘adored and celebrated’ as they wrestled in 5, 000-seat arena and left in extravagant cars, which he cited as part of ‘working the gimmick’ – and Rocky Johnson’s efforts to put on a show can be seen to overshadow his responsibilities as a husband and dad in Young Rock.

But Dwayne told how wrestlers would shortly return to their ‘small apartments’ – just like the one-bed flat documented in the series – and would live paycheck to paycheck.

The sitcom also manages to find a balance between offering a candid depiction of the family’s hardships and avoiding delving into dark territory.

Dwayne’s hardworking mother Ata would focus on getting the bills paid once Rocky’s gigs in the ring start to falter and the second episode follows her to her job cleaning house for a boozy divorceé.

She can also be seen considering a small carton of half-and-half for her coffee a splurge and dreaming of her ambitions away from motherhood, while Johnson admits he would steal clothes to make his classmates think his family were well-off.

 

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