Bradley Constant as Dwayne in YOUNG ROCK - Season 1 |©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

Bradley Constant as Dwayne in YOUNG ROCK – Season 1 |©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

YOUNG ROCK is NBC’s new half-hour Tuesday night comedy, based on the real life of Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock. By now, everybody who hasn’t been dwelling under a rock knows Johnson as a star wrestler turned star movie actor. YOUNG ROCK explores Johnson’s less-famous formative years.

Johnson appears as himself in flashforwards to 2032, when he’s being interviewed, by Randall Park (also playing himself) during a presidential run. Johnson serves as narrator, while three different actors portray him at younger ages: Adrian Groulx is ten-year-old Dwayne, Uli Latukefu plays him at eighteen, and Bradley Constant plays Johnson at age fifteen.

Alabama native Constant is currently twenty-two in real life, but make a convincing teen who (like the real Johnson) looks older than his years. YOUNG ROCK is Constant’s first major television role.

In a phone interview, Constant talks about playing Young Rock.

ASSIGNMENT X: You’ve been a marathon runner for quite a while. Did running in any way get you into wanting to act, or are those two completely different things?

BRADLEY CONSTANT: They’re two completely different things, but in some way, I feel like they go hand in hand. I feel like my journey as an actor has been a marathon as well [laughs]. One reason I run marathons, I’m not the fastest, obviously, but every time I run one, no matter how good a shape I’m in, I always hit a wall. It’ll be around Mile Sixteen, and I’ve got ten more miles to go. I always end up finishing the marathon regardless. And there have been points in my career where I felt like I’ve been going forever, but I still wasn’t at the end, and still hadn’t met that goal. I always have to remember to remind myself to keep pushing – it’s going to work out, and I’m going to finish it. In that way, I think they go hand in hand [in terms of] determination.

Bradley Constant as Dwayne 15 yrs in YOUNG ROCK - Season 1 |©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

Bradley Constant as Dwayne 15 yrs in YOUNG ROCK – Season 1 |©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

AX: When you went auditioned for YOUNG ROCK, how familiar were you with Dwayne Johnson?

CONSTANT: Oh, completely familiar, I’ve known about him my whole life – his movies, and his wrestling, everything.

AX: Did anyone else help you figure out his fifteen-year-old essence, or was that something you worked out on your own?

CONSTANT: I think that the information I got was from him directly. We’d always have someone while we were shooting who knew him personally, and knew all the background info, who was always one text away if I needed any other info. We [as the general public] don’t really know who he was as a teenager. He’s a celebrity now – we’ve known about his movies and all of that. As a teenager, his family had struggled. There are different things that he dealt with as a fifteen-year-old that people everywhere can relate with. For me, it was just holding onto those things, going forward.

AX: Dwayne is fifteen in 1987. You weren’t even born in the ‘80s, so how do you feel about playing someone in that era?

CONSTANT: You know what, that’s my mom’s era. That is her thing. With me booking this, she’s just excited to see all the clothes and everything like that. It’s pretty funky. It takes some time to get used to the jeans I was wearing all the time [laughs], but I love it. The music, everything, it’s a pretty exciting era to be acting in.

AX: Since you’re a few years older than that now, did you have to do anything in particular to play a fifteen-year-old?

CONSTANT: Yeah. I think for me, when I was on set, it was just reminding myself to keep the energy up, be younger. All this stuff that’s happened to me in my real life, now that I’ve become twenty-two, forget all that [laughs]. Go back and replay your fifteen. My character has a best friend named Gabe on the show, played by Taj Cross, and he’s actually sixteen in real life. So, we spend a lot of time hanging out. He’s very mature, but it brought me back to being a teenager around fifteen, sixteen, because that energy of, we would sing songs before our takes started, and do all kinds of stuff like that, and just keep that childlike energy about us before we started everything.

AX: Do the three of you who play young Rock, the ten-year-old and the college-age Rock, all get together and work together, so that you seem like you’re progressing on the same timeline?

Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson, Bradley Constant as Dwayne 15yrs, Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson in YOUNG ROCK - Season 1 | ©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson, Bradley Constant as Dwayne 15yrs, Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson in YOUNG ROCK – Season 1 | ©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

CONSTANT: We never sat down and specifically aimed to do that, but we all got along so well, and I think it’s a testament to the casting. I think that they knew what they were doing right away. And the writing is all there for us. There’s not a whole lot that we had to do on our own to let that come across. And we hung out outside of shooting all the time. We went on bike rides, and played Xbox, and went out to eat. I think the more we got to know each other, the more seamless that became.

AX: Your version of Dwayne has got a little bit of a gimmick, as the show would say. Do you like that aspect of the character, when he’s telling people his name is Tomas, where he’s role-playing in his real life?

CONSTANT: That’s my favorite part [laughs]. Every time I got to come on and put on the charm and roll with it, that was definitely the most fun part of the show.

AX: Do you know which parts of the story are true, and which parts are the writers going, “Well, this would be fun”?

CONSTANT: Everything is generally true. Now, certain aspects were changed. In real life, he didn’t get the car in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. But these things, on a general basis, did happen. They didn’t just add stuff in for the sake of being funny. This is real stuff. He lived a pretty wild life, and it’s funny, but there are a lot of genuine moments that happen in between that are realistic as well, between him and his mom. Like he’s said, that was a tough time. At fifteen, that was really a dramatic changing point. He was becoming the man that he wanted to be, or thought he wanted to be.

AX: Do you to wrestle as Dwayne?

CONSTANT: No, I don’t wrestle in this season. We will see, though [laughs].

AX: Before you got involved in YOUNG ROCK, what was your opinion of professional wrestling?

CONSTANT: Oh, I loved it, it’s awesome. Some of my earliest memories are with my dad, watching Dwayne wrestle on TV. I was always a fan of wrestling, and my friends used to pretend that we’d wrestle – we’d wrestle in our rooms and fight each other and all that for fun [laughs].

AX: How would you describe the different stages of Dwayne that we see in the show, and how would you describe the different stages that your fifteen-year-old Dwayne is going through?

CONSTANT: That’s tough. I think when he was younger, when he was ten years old, his dad was traveling and wrestling. He was making the money. It was a completely different kind of lifestyle that his family was living. He was still in Hawaii, and he was really imitating his dad in a lot of ways. And then you come around to where he’s fifteen, and things are not quite like that anymore. His family is struggling financially, and there’s a tough relationship between Dwayne and his dad at fifteen. And you see it in the show. He still loves and admires his dad, but there are some faults that come up, and it’s a tough dynamic. Then you get to him being older, with Uli [playing him], and going to the college, and that dynamic grows even further, and it really progresses. You see that he starts to accept his dad, and he knows how his dad is.

Bradley Constant as Dwayne 15 yrs in YOUNG ROCK - Season 1 |©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

Bradley Constant as Dwayne 15 yrs in YOUNG ROCK – Season 1 |©2021 NBC/Mark Taylor

AX: And he has a very close relationship with his mom throughout …

CONSTANT: Yes. Some of my favorite scenes are with the actress Stacey Leilua, who plays [Johnson’s mother] Ata on the show. There are moments where I cry real tears, and the crew is crying real tears, and really good scenes where I’m acting up. I’m stealing clothes, and it’s not making life easy on my mom. She’s out there working extra jobs, she’s barely paying the rent, and I’m making it really difficult for her. And we have really good moments where she brings me back to reality, and points out the fact that family is more important. And Dwayne, even at that age, even though he was a kid and wanted to have fun, he loved his mom to death, and nothing was more important than being a good son to her. And that comes up a lot in my era.

AX: What kinds of notes does Dwayne Johnson give you, and does the real Ata Johnson give you any notes?

CONSTANT: Well, I haven’t spoken with his mom specifically yet, although I’d love to see her watch the show [laughs] – I know it’s got to be crazy for all of them. The main thing Dwayne said was to be yourself. We’re not trying to imitate the Rock or anything like that. There’s a real, awesome human that absolutely anyone can relate with, and I really gravitated to that, and I felt very comfortable once I realized that.

AX: How is working with the COVID protocols?

CONSTANT: We were able to shoot in Australia during all of that. And first off, before I could get into it, I worked in a grocery store throughout most of the whole year after I booked it in L.A. And it was a tough year for everyone.

AX: Thank you for your service.

CONSTANT: It was some long days. But I had some great co-workers, so I enjoyed [the job]. But yeah, to be able to shoot something like this in Queensland, Australia, and to be there for months – and they hadn’t had any cases when we were there. We felt so safe. You could go out to eat wherever you wanted, no masks, you felt very normal living out there. And even while we were shooting, it made things a lot easier. We weren’t in fear of getting shut down and stopping. Of course, we took some necessary COVID precautions while we were shooting, but everything went so smoothly, it was really nice. We carried disposable masks around, leading up to when we shot, being responsible in that case. But I’ve heard some stories about shooting here in L.A., and they’re in a bubble, and they’re almost Saran-wrapped. We were really lucky to have everything go so smoothly over there.

AX: How was Australia?

CONSTANT: Incredible. I think my favorite part was holding a koala. That’s when I realized I was really in Australia [laughs]. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The friends that I made, the cast, all the wrestlers, everyone – some of the coolest people ever. And outside of shooting, we were able to go to the zoo, go to the beach, and do all kinds of fun Australian-type things, and pet wild kangaroos and whatnot.

AX: Is YOUNG ROCK multi-cam or single-cam?

CONSTANT: Single-cam.

AX: So, how is working on a half-hour single-cam comedy?

CONSTANT: Incredible. I felt extremely excited to do something like this, and super-grateful, but I was really nervous, going out there and shooting it. I didn’t know what to expect. But I learned everything I could, I picked up on everything as fast as I could. I had a stand-in, but I’d tell my stand-in, “Just hang back,” so I could stand around and [watch] how they set up the shot, and just listen to what they’re doing. After a couple weeks, I really got in a groove, and like I said, everyone is so sweet, so kind. Our creators, Nahnatchka Khan and Jeff Chiang, they were always there, and made everything feel so comfortable. It was a really easy experience for me, and I loved it.

AX: How is it going for a laugh, playing with comedic timing?

CONSTANT: Well, like I said, our writers are really funny. But part of it was, once you’ve shot maybe a week or two, you really are feeling it for the character. And your comedic timing strength, I guess, is high. So, we’d step up to a scene, and they may have a couple alternates that day for a line. So, maybe if we say something, and it doesn’t work, they’re like, “Oh, try this line.” And you do it again, and then you get laughs, they’re like, “Yeah, that’s the one.” So, there are always options to things. The biggest part is to have fun. The goal is, of course you want it to be funny, but you don’t want to try to be super-funny. You’re telling a real story, and there are just a lot of natural funny moments that happen throughout, even some unscripted things that turned out to be funny.

[In the premiere episode], where Waffle leans forward, and I swerve the car to the side, and we both hop out, there’s a moment where Gabe hops out as well, but he slips and trips. He absolutely, genuinely slipped and tripped and fell, and was freaking out afterward, thinking he’d ruined a take. They were like, “No, that was perfect. We’re going to use you slipping and falling.” [laughs]

AX: And what would you most like people to know about YOUNG ROCK?

CONSTANT: I cannot wait for this show to come out. I would like people to know that it’s a funny show, but it’s so much bigger than just being a show starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s telling people in such an open way very real and vulnerable situations that have happened between real people that he’s crossed paths with in his lifetime, about his relationship with his parents. And people are going to be able to relate to this show, they’re going to laugh, and they’re also going to feel some emotion.

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Article: Exclusive Interview with actor Bradley Constant on NBC comedy series YOUNG ROCK

 

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