By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Art & Culture Reporter
Season 2 of “Young Rock” started back up last week. The show follows 2032 presidential candidate Dwayne Johnson and three versions of his younger self.
Season 2 began with presidential candidate Johnson reflecting on fatherhood in 1984 when the young Dewey (Adrien Groulx) is attempting to get more quality time with his father, the teenage 1987 Dwayne (Bradley Constant) arriving in Nashville and the adult Dwayne (Uli Latukefu ) struggling to figure out the rules of the Canadian Football League. What can we expect from the rest of Season 2?
While the Rock himself wasn’t made available for interviews with AsAm News, the cast members who play his three younger selves spoke to AsAmNews during round table Zoom interviews. The three younger Dwayne’s did just meet in the reality of the TV series during the holiday special, “A Christmas Peril,” which is a parody of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Groulx confessed he had so much fun working on the special.
“I never really felt tired shooting that episode If I could, I would shoot that episode again a million times,” he said in an interview with AsAmNews.
Latukefu echoed Groulx’s comments.
“It was really special. We shoot entirely separately. To be together was really something. Outside of filming, we hang out anyway,” Latukefu told AsAmNews.
The three really don’t collaborate on their portrayal.
“We don’t really get together and talk about how we are going to get them to flow together,” Latukefu said.
What we see is a result of “really great casting” because the casting has “chosen three people who are really quite similar.”
“Our creators are always on set, giving us notes,” Latukefu said.
Groulx said that it was pretty easy and very fun being the youngest and he got to try out new things with the role and have some fun with it.
What we can look forward to in Season 2 is for Latukefu, as the adult Dwayne, to jump from CFL to wrestling (WWE).
“Wrestling fans are really, really going to be excited,” Latukefu said. “It was a real revelation for me.”
He hadn’t been aware of all that the real Johnson did. Even though his family had been involved in wrestling, he still had his successes and failures.
Latukefu said Johnson is a “keen” learner.
“He really is a student of the game. He studied a lot of the wrestlers,” he said.
For the teenaged Dwayne (Constant), there’s going to be more theft. Season 1 already illustrated how a desperate-to-impress-his-classmates Dwayne stole and hid the fashionable clothes he was wearing at school. But for Constant, Season 2 was a welcome return. Some of the filming took place in Nashville. He grew up visiting the area and still has relatives living there. His character also becomes more involved with wrestling and Rocky (the father who is played by Joseph Lee Anderson).
Anderson noted that during Season 2, Rocky’s glory days in wrestling are mostly over, but he’s desperately trying to cling to the last bits of fame. Anderson also stated with a groan and a smile that he “got banged up pretty bad” for this season, but you’ll have to watch to see why.
Don’t worry though. So far, no broken bones. Anderson keeps in shape through healthy eating and lifting weights.
Ana Tuisila, who plays Dwayne’s grandmother, Lia Maivia, noted that her character becomes “more vocal and became more part of wrestling” which makes this a more exciting than Season 1. She also does some legal wrangling.
Dwayne’s mother, Ata (Stacey Leilua) had, in Season 1, been trying to create her own path, but now becomes more involved in the wrestling world. Leilua confessed to doing a lot of research through web searches and Wikipedia on wrestling to prepare. Both have been drawn into the wrestling world in real life as fans.
Anderson, who had to perform some wrestling scenes during Season 1, had already done a lot of that research and confesses to being a fan of The Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff Hardy), The Undertaker (Mark Calaway), Stone Cold (Steve Austin), John Cena, and, of course, The Rock.
Leilua demurred on revealing the wrestler whose story and journey she particularly liked because he’ll be one of the people featured in Season 2. Otherwise, of course, she recalls her uncles watching wrestling and loved wrestlers like The Rock. She added with a giggle, that she enjoyed The Ultimate Warrior (James Hellwig). She said liked Hellwig “mostly because of his costume.”
Constant enjoys watching the shooting of the wrestling scene and hinted, with a big smile and a laugh, that Latukefu’s wrestling scenes included some fun stuff.
Filming took place during the real holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cast couldn’t always be with their families due to COVID-19 protocols, but they were able to celebrate together. For the non-US cast members, that meant an introduction to Thanksgiving foods. Some cast members had time to cook and bake. Leilua whose days often run long said she brought the drinks, but they all had a beautiful time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Anderson also pulls long days, but he likes to lighten the mood.
“I’m always pulling some prank on set,” he said.
And for some cast members, like Latukefu, there were some dark personal moments. Although Latukefu was born in Australia, he is Tongan. In January, an undersea volcano eruption set off a tsunami that caused significant damage to Tonga. Latukefu had family who were affected, but it was “mostly property damage.” Although the Tongans face a big cleanup process, Latukefu was touched because “people have been incredibly generous all across the world.”
The show “Young Rock” has brought Pacific Islanders to international attention, too. Latukefu said,
“This show is such a huge celebration of cultural diversity, in such a warm and inviting way. I am so honored and proud,” Latukefu said.
He added that Johnson positively represents Pacific Islanders on TV in America and Australia. Constant agreed.
“It’s so special to be able to have that representation, and it’s not a show geared toward those demographics. It’s a show about real people with real experiences and you also get that cultural influences at the same time,” Constant added.
He also loves that “people come up and say they love the show and they can be of any race or any demographics.”
Leilua noted that she could literally count on one hand the faces of Pacific Islander representation when she was in high school.
“I’m proud of the fact that we have younger Pacific Islanders growing up and watching the show,” she said.
New episodes of “Young Rock” airs on NBC, Tuesdays, 8/7c.
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