“The Young Rock” has everything you would expect a weeknight comedy show from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to include: a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” origin story, an homage to the world of professional wrestling, and a tongue-in-cheek hint at his inevitable presidential run.
The premiere of the new series drew the largest audience for an NBC comedy in years. The show is set in the year 2032 during The Rock’s presidential campaign. In a series of sit-down interviews with actor Randall Park, who plays himself but as a future network news anchor, the candidate narrates as he weaves together stories from his childhood, teenage years, and college football days.
Just two episodes in, “The Young Rock” is funny but wholesome. The characters are corny but extremely likable and perfectly cast. Even though the tales of his childhood and gritty adolescence are carefully crafted, and seemingly written with a rose-colored-glasses nostalgia, it still feels honest. As if it’s exactly how The Rock would tell you stories over a beer about his high school crush or the complicated relationship with his wrestler dad, Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson.
Some of the stories seem surreal or exaggerated for television, but The Rock insists “everything happened,” if only a few edits to dates and cities. He told The New York Times how he and show creators Nahnatchka Khan and Jeff Chiang would use his stories to write scripts.
“It required a lot of hours of sitting down with Nahnatchka, just talking and sharing stories and then walking away, going back home, writing things down, meeting back again, going over more stories,” he said, admitting tequila was also involved in helping him recall memories.
Just like wrestler-turned-actor-turned-entrepreneur himself, there is so much to like about The Rock’s stories. Wrestling fans will appreciate the nod to legends like The Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant, and Vince McMahon. College football fans will smile at the appearance of a young Coach Orgeron and the legendary Hurricanes team of the early ’90s.
Although the presidential campaign framing of the show feels like The Rock is just teasing fans who want him to pursue a political career, it also conveniently doubles as an ingenious way to portray him in the minds of voters and get ahead of the stories should he ever want to run. After all, The Rock did once call the idea of him running for president “a real possibility.”
After Donald Trump paved the way for a serious celebrity presidential candidate in 2015, The Rock acknowledged that the idea of him as a viable candidate was being presented to him more and more. In 2017, someone filed to create a campaign committee with the Federal Elections Commission on behalf of The Rock called “Run the Rock 2020.”
“There was a real sense of earnestness, which made me go home and think, ‘Let me really rethink my answer and make sure I am giving an answer that is truthful and also respectful,'” he said at the time.
Although “The Fast and the Furious” star endorsed candidate Vice President Joe Biden in 2020, he’s not typically partisan. He doesn’t post woke PSAs or lectures on his Instagram, and he refused to endorse Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in 2016, although both campaigns asked. Some might consider him more in the Matthew McConaughey camp – no agency pledged to either Democrats or Republicans and a commitment to hearing out those he disagrees with.
“[If I didn’t agree with someone] on something, I wouldn’t shut them out. I would actually include them,” he said. “The first thing we’d do is we’d come and sit down and we’d talk about it. I [would] take responsibility for everyone. Especially when you disagree with me. If there’s a large number of people disagreeing, there might be something I’m not seeing, so let me see it. Let me understand it.”
When the internet mob tried to get everyone, including The Rock, to boycott Under Armour in 2017 after the company’s CEO made positive but innocuous comments about Trump, The Rock shut down the keyboard warriors with the perfect response. He invoked his responsibility to the company, directing respect to the “diverse group of hardworking men and women” who work on his successful Under Armour clothing line, adding “debate is healthy. But in a time of widespread disagreement, so is loyalty.”
Since he made those comments about running for president in 2017, he’s seemed far more occupied with his own business ventures. In just a few short years, he’s built a production company, an ever-expanding clothing line, a tequila brand, an energy drink company, and purchased the XFL football league for $15 million. And that’s on top of all the movies and television series he stars in each year.
The Rock is a product of the American dream, and clearly loves and respects the country that made him the wildly successful person he is today. Could the presidency really be next?
If only we could be so lucky. We are only episodes into the premiere season of “The Young Rock,” and will have to wait and see where the fictional 2032 campaign trail takes him, but he’s certainly not ruling it out.