Interview with Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu and Adrian Groulx

TV Interview!

Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu and Adrian Groulx of "Young Rock" on NBC

Interview with Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu and Adrian Groulx of “Young Rock” on NBC Thane 3/9/22

Speaking with these three young men was almost like talking to “The Rock” himself! They were a lot of fun to chat with. I especially enjoyed hearing about Uli and Bradley’s workouts.  Don’t miss the Season 2 premiere 3/15!

Jamie: Bradley, I love the dynamics between teenage Duane and Ata. Talk about what we will be exploring in their relationship this season.

Bradley: Oh yeah. That’s– I will agree with you. I love that relationship just as much. Coming back this season, I was really hoping to have more scenes that would show that special dynamic between Dwayne and his mom because me and my mom are so close and she’s always been there for me and that’s always been kind of a staple in me becoming who I am, and this season, it really opens up a lot more in my timeline, especially, Dwayne really leaned on his mom. When things were really hard, she was always there for him. When he was lost, she always found them and kind of kept them moving forward and always staying positive. And this season, there’s a lot more of that.

Jamie: Uli, Stacy mentioned that she’ll be getting to work more with you this season as well because you’re more grown and you’re exploring the older aspects of Dwayne a lot as well. And she noted that 20-year-old Dwayne also butts heads a lot with hi mom as well. And it’s hard to parent from far away, you know, you’re in Miami at this time. What did Dwayne talk about with you about their relationship as far as mother and son being so loving and so close, yet being so far away at this point in their lives?

Uli: Yeah, we didn’t actually– Dwayne and I didn’t actually hit on anything with that for this season. But I always knew from the outset, from season one, that their relationship was really really close… is really, really close. The distance thing for me… it doesn’t matter where– Dwayne could be across, you know, the other side of the world and Ata could be on the other side, you know, as they are often at times. But they’re so close, they’ll be on the phone with each other. And that’s the same thing that happens now in our show. It’s like, they’re never far from each other at all. Ata is always checking in or, [saying] “Have you done this? We’ve done this, we’ve done this. Have you received this package?” or whatnot. And I think that’s how a mum is, you know? My mum was always checking up on me, or [asking] why wasn’t I at home at particular time. Um, let’s not get into that…

(Laughter)

Uli: But that’s what moms do. We’re their babies. So with Dwayne and Ata, it’s no different,

Stephanie: So, um, Adrian, one of my favorite parts of the show is the relationship between young Dewey and Andre the Giant. Is that something we’re going to get to continue to see more of in season two?

Adrian: I definitely agree with you. That is definitely one of my favorite aspects of my character’s scenes. And we will get to see a little bit more of Andre and Dewey having some fun.

Stephanie: And, Uli, you’re up to the point where The Rock becomes The Rock. Did you have to learn how to wrestle to play The Rock as he learned how to wrestle.

I did. And we don’t actually jump straight into Dwayne becoming the rock. Obviously he had a quite a bit of a transition from when he stopped playing football. So it was almost like it was parallel with my own learning of how to wrestle. In the storyline Dwayne is learning how to get everything down pat, and so was I, as an actor. So I learned, but I loved it. I grew up playing football, uh, Rugby Union here in Australia. So the contact was– I just felt in my element and, uh, and took to it pretty quickly. So… So, uh, you know, we’ll see… we’ll see if the wrestling fans agree.

Stephanie: We always hear stories from young wrestlers about when they took their first bump. So what was that like for you?

Uli: Oh my gosh. Let’s just say a few crash mats. It was, uh, yeah, it was tough. It’s not as easy, and I will say this, you know… I think the general perception outside of wrestling fans is that it’s all make believe, but I guarantee you, the hits are real. And your body.. We ended up shooting 13-hour days. And then at the end of those 13 hours, come and rehearse wrestling. So your body feels it, and full credit to everyone who gets into the squaredd circle, as they say.

Stephanie: And, Bradley (and for everyone), you guys all got to actually work together in the Christmas episode. Is that something you’d like to do more of in other, maybe special episodes?

Bradley: Oh, are you kidding me? I would love that. There’s so many, like, fun ideas you can think of. You could do, like, a Halloween episode. I would love to do a musical episode. We can all be in something like that. That’d be pretty cool.

Uli: Yeah.

Bradley: I know that the opportunities are endless. I’d love to do it.

Uli: We pitched it, by the way.

Bradley: Yeah, we pitched it.

Uli: So Joseph Lee Anderson and I (sorry, I don’t know if we have time for this, but) were singing backstage, and just fooling around. And then, uh, Brian Goatz, who’s the producer from Seven Bucks (Production) was there, and he started recording. And then sent it to DJ. So I dunno if that’s, you know, potentially, we could have a [musical] “Young Rock.”

Bradley: And they can both sing… just about everyone on this show can actually really sing. You know what? Let’s go for it.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Moderator: Okay. Next we have Thane with The TV MegaSite.

Uli: Hey, Thane.

Bradley: What’s up?

Thane: Bradley and Uli, do you spend a lot of time working out? How much time per week?

Uli: I’ll take this one. Uh, I train maybe five days, depending, five days a week. I really enjoy staying in shape and going to the gym and working out. It helps me quite a lot. Um, so yeah, so I mix up weight training with, um, Very little cardio. So that’s what I that’s what I like to do.

(Bradley laughs at his cardio comment)

Bradley: During filming, me and my buddy, Michael, we would.. we’d go to the gym every morning at 3:00 AM. And that was the first time I’ve ever been that religious about it. Like this season, it was probably the most I’ve ever worked out in my life. I really enjoyed it. And it’s, like, it’s followed me ever since. So it’s about six, seven days a week now. I’ll take off and do… I’ll do more cardio because I like it. (Laughs)

Uli: By the way, Bradley was up at 3:00 AM every morning. This is no word of a lie. And I would see him and another cast mate (who I can’t announce) at the gym every morning, 3:30, you know, so kudos to you, bruh.

Thane: Did you have to work hard to try to act like The Rock? And did he give you any pointers?

Bradley: Uli, you can go first, man.

Uli: Uh, yeah, “Don’t be terrible.” No, he didn’t say that.

(Laughter)

Uli: Uh, he really– Dwayne’s great. He gave us a lot of freedom, and basically, the number one thing for me through our conversations was — particularly in his younger years — he was very driven. He was very focused about achieving something. He wasn’t too sure about what that was or what that looked like. But he knew he was meant for something great. And he was willing to put in the work. And I think for me, Dwayne’s advice was, “Always keep that in the back of your mind, that I’m willing to do the work and get to where I want to get to,” with the two hands that he has.

Bradley: For me, he just told me to have belief in myself, you know, and also, that I was in good hands. And I really was, like having Uli around, having all over producers around… everyone. That’s a part of the “Young Rock” technical team. You know, they’ve got our backs and, you know, leaning into that. You don’t really have to copy anything, and everybody’s got you taken care of. I’m sure, Adrian, you can agree?

Adrian: Yeah, everyone is really, really amazing on, uh, on the cast and crew. I didn’t really get to talk to Duane too much about how to play and, Uh, portray the role. So I kind of.. while I was reading the script side, I had a little fun with it. Maybe, uh, improvised a couple of things. But I didn’t really think too hard about it ’cause I just didn’t want to overthink it. So I , you know, played around with it.

 

Watch our other “Young Rock” Interviews with Stacey Leilua and Joseph Lee Anderson and Ana Tuisila and Matthew Willig

MORE INFO:

Young Rock

Tuesdays on NBC (8-8:30 p.m. ET); Season Premiere: March 15

The second season of “Young Rock” delves back into Dwayne Johnson’s life, continuing the storylines from season one while also introducing new chapters we haven’t yet seen. As Dwayne and his loving, resilient family face new challenges and meet new wild characters of professional wrestling, Dwayne contemplates embracing the grind of professional wrestling himself. The show will explore the crazy rollercoaster that has shaped Dwayne into the man he is today and the larger-than-life people he’s met along the way.

Dwayne Johnson, Joseph Lee Anderson, Stacey Leilua, Ana Tuisila, Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu, Fasitua Amosa, John Tui and Matthew Willig star.

Created by Nahnatchka Khan and Jeff Chiang and inspired by Dwayne Johnson’s life. Nahnatchka Khan, Jeff Chiang, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Jennifer Carreras, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Jeffrey Walker serve as executive producers.

“Young Rock” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, Seven Bucks Productions and Fierce Baby Productions.

Bradley Constant

Dwayne Johnson (15 years old), “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: Bradley Constant as Dwayne Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Bradley Constant plays 15-year-old Dwayne Johnson in the new NBC comedy “Young Rock.” Alabama-born Constant began pursuing acting at 12 and convinced his mom to move him to New York City where he would study and begin to gain experience in the industry. The tough environment and fast-paced productivity of the city prepared him for an even bigger move to Los Angeles, where he is now based. Constant previously appeared in the 2018 film “Following Phil” and has had roles in several shorts before landing the part in “Young Rock.” Constant is a die-hard sports fan who also enjoys gaming, bass fishing and golfing.

 

 

 

 

Uli Latukefu

Dwayne Johnson (age 18-20), “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: Uli Latukefu as Dwayne Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Uli Latukefu plays 18-20-year-old Dwayne Johnson on the new NBC comedy “Young Rock.” Latukefu will next be seen in Taika Waititi’s feature “Next Goal Wins,” opposite Michael Fassbender and Elizabeth Moss, and was most recently seen in Kriv Stenders’ feature “Danger Close” as well as the new Foxtel drama series “The End.” He also starred in the comedy series “Sando,” the third season of the Nine Network’s “Doctor Doctor” and the drama series “Harrow.” Other screen credits include Ridley Scott’s feature “Alien: Covenant” and Netflix’s epic drama “Marco Polo.” Latukefu was previously featured in Chris Lilley’s “Jonah From Tonga” and the critically acclaimed Foxtel series “Devil’s Playground,” which was awarded the 2015 Silver Logie for Most Outstanding Telemovie and the 2015 AACTA Award for Best Telefeature or Miniseries. He made his Broadway debut in “Peter Pan” at New York’s New Victory Theatre, graduated from Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 2012 and was a 2016 Heath Ledger Scholarship finalist.

 

Adrian Groulx

Dwayne Johnson (age 10), “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: Adrian Groulx as Dwayne Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Adrian Groulx plays 10-year-old Dwayne Johnson on the new NBC comedy “Young Rock.” Groulx is a Toronto-based actor who will next be seen on the Apple+ series “See,” starring Jason Momoa. Previously, he was a series regular on the CBC series “The Adventures of Napkin Man” and also appeared in the Hallmark Channel movie “The Christmas Cure.” In his free time, Groulx enjoys playing sports and spending time with his family.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu and Adrian Groulx of "Young Rock" on NBC

Interview with Ana Tuisila and Matthew Willig

TV Interview!

Ana Tuisila and Matthew Willig of "Young Rock" on NBC

Interview with Ana Tuisila and Matthew Willig of “Young Rock” on NBC  on Lifetime by Thane 3/9/22

Willig plays family friend “André the Giant” and Tuisila plays Lia, the feisty grandma of young Dewey. It was quite a treat to speak with them. They do a great job on the show. I was especially interested to hear from Tuisila because we’re both from New Zealand! I was looking forward to asking Willig about how they got him a similar height to Andre the great, and his answer didn’t disappoint.

Question: Hi, Matthew, did you have any trepidation about playing a legend like Andre the Giant? Because you know, wrestling fans like me, we take Andre pretty seriously.

Matthew: [Laughs] You know, I didn’t…I think I was so into it right away and so excited about doing it that by the time, you know — literally as I booked the job, I was already watching videos and starting the voice process of it all. There’s no question that every now and then I will pause and say, “God, I hope to God that I am giving it some justice,” because that is so important to me.

After season one, I did have some really nice feedback, which is important. Number one, from Dwayne; and number two, from some people who either knew of Andre or knew him back in the day. So I’m not going to be perfect. I know it’s my interpretation. But yes, there’s obviously some trepidation.

It can be…there has been a few moments where I said, “God, am I even close?” You know, to this. But again, it’s my interpretation. I’m always bringing the love, trying to be honest as I can with it. And I’m hoping that’s kind of getting through.

Question: I just love the friendship between young Dewey and Andre. It’s probably my favorite thing about the show. And I’m wondering how we will see that continue to develop in season 2?

Matthew: Thank you. It’s obviously it’s my favorite part as well. And it’s something that I think, you know, people were not only shocked that there was that relationship, but number two, that it was close like that.

Yes, season two, you will see some more of Big Andre imposing his knowledge on little Dewey as he moves forward in life. The stakes are getting higher. The things that little Dewey is worrying about — girls, things like that, you know, love… Andre has some things to say and kind of, you know, as we go along, we see him sort of setting him straight. I’m looking forward to your guys seeing him, at least.

Question: Ana, we saw last season that your character was fighting to keep her wrestlers on her payroll. How will we see her handling her employees this season? And what kind of obstacles will she be facing as the promoter?

Ana: Thank you for the question. I couldn’t wait to answer your question because I’m so excited about season two, because you’re going to see more of Lia, in terms of answering that question. So just wait for season two because all will be revealed. There’s so there’s going to be more of her and her relationship with the so-called promoters in the wrestling field, and how she copes with trying to maintain her own business. So it’ll all be revealed in season two, and it’s more fun and funnier…a lot of, un-PC things will be happening. but, yeah, she gets the business rolling. And yes, it’s going to be in season two. So it’d be more about that to come. Yeah.

Question: Matthew, what kind of insight Did Dwayne offer you into his relationship with Andre when he was a kid?

Matthew: You know, it started with the fact that he called him Uncle Andre. He was literally that sort of character for him. You know, he was someone that was around that period a lot, always in and out of Hawaii. So, at that age, he didn’t see as the scary Andre. He saw the loving Andre, who he was. He used to treat him like a jungle gym, you know? So there was sort of that part of it, and Duane said right away, number one, the man embodied respect, which he learned very early on. And number two, there was a lot of love that he felt for young people and people his age. And he kind of even felt that back then, that Andre was almost like a kid himself. And I think we can appreciate the fact that someone that large and sort of that, uh, scary to a certain degree, the fact that he has that other side of him that is this loving, genuinely caring sort of individual. And so those are the kinds of things that Dwayne told me right off the bat and what has kind of led me into the character that I portrayed in the last two seasons.

Thane: Matthew, you are shorter than the real Andre. Do they give you lifts for your shoes, or (did they) just (use) camera angles to make you look taller?

Matthew: (Laughs) I’m always rooting for camera angles, but I will say that, when we first started, especially, there were lifts in my wrestling boots and also in the boots that I wore for everyday dress, which was a pain in the ass. I gotta be honest. I had a whole new appreciation for women and when they wear heels because I was basically wearing heels on set. So, yeah, so there’s that. Listen, I’m never going to be seven-foot-whatever Andre was, but I think even being 6’7/ 6’8, you know, I think we’re able to play with that and have that sort of distinction between,the normal size person and what Andre was.

Thane: Ana, what preparation did you do, if any, to play the role, since it’s based on a real person?

Ana: Very little is known about Lia Maivia, so the only preparation I had was help from, Dwayne Johnson, and his mother, Ata. So I asked for any dialogue or any tapes of…Well, they don’t call them tapes these days… Anything that could give me some idea of how she spoke. So, it was more information from Ata and Dwayne Johnson, and my own experience as a Samoan woman and mother sort of helped the role a bit because it’s very similar in terms of how strong and fearless she is. I mean, my own mother and mother-in-law are of the same ilk. So, in terms of that it wasn’t so hard. From knowing who Lia was, just feedback and information and advice from Dwayne and his mother, Ata.

Question: Ana, Lia is such a fun over-the-top character. Did you get notes from the family about how far you could take her?

Ana: Thank you. That’s a great question, but, no, I didn’t get any… limitation from the parents as how far. But from those that knew Lia, like Jeff Chiang, the writer… he grew up with knowing who Lia was. And Brian Gewirtz from Seven Bucks. They knew Lia, and they would say to me, “She was a hard case woman.” and “She had a great sense of humor and, you know, some of us were quite scared of it.” So it was all information from people who knew – and are part of the production team – who she was. So, it was just that information. And from, as I said before, Ata and Dwayne of who their mother was, and no, I just went with how it was written, from my own experience. And then, you know, from the producers and the writers (who would sometimes say, “Stop, I never got that.” So I think it’s more around experience and how the writers wanted it, and how the direction… so, and the family said, you know, they didn’t give me any, “don’t go too far because she’s–” I know from my own experiences.. (sound garbled here) But I must say she was a very un-PC woman, you know, if there’s such a word… she would just let fly. And that was wonderful. That’s the wonderful thing about her, that you can just say things, that you can wear slapping gloves and slap the wrestlers around. I love that. and it’s how she was and a lot of fun. Yeah.

Question: I love the relationship between Lia and Ata… she’s kind of overbearing, but also very loving and supportive. What kind of relationship, or at least, what kind of dialogue do they tell you about the relationship that the two of them shared?

Ana: Well, there’d be more of that in season two. There’ll be a lot of revelation around that relationship between Ata and Lia, in terms of passing on the business. And so, there are some twists and turns…but in terms of dialogue around their relationship, again, it’s about experience between mother and daughter, being a mother and a daughter of a similar age. So, I guess it’s the same with how I answered Stephanie’s question as a lot of feedback from the writers, from the production team who knew the relationship between these two. So there’s a lot of direction, a lot of advice and feedback, but also, from personal experience… and it’s also between Stacy and I, like, “Hmm, I don’t feel comfortable about that. Can we change?” So there was also some, Some vehicle for both Stacy and I to ask the writers if we could change a little bit so that it made it a bit more comfortable and a bit more real.

So there was a lot of talking behind the scenes before we filmed. So, I guess that’s what came across, which is really, really good to hear that it’s portrayed that way. And that’s how it was — a lot of work, but. you know, a lot of good personal experiences. Yes.

 

Watch our other “Young Rock” Interviews with Stacey Leilua and Joseph Lee Anderson and Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu and Adrian Groulx

MORE INFO:

Young Rock

Tuesdays on NBC (8-8:30 p.m. ET); Season Premiere: March 15

The second season of “Young Rock” delves back into Dwayne Johnson’s life, continuing the storylines from season one while also introducing new chapters we haven’t yet seen. As Dwayne and his loving, resilient family face new challenges and meet new wild characters of professional wrestling, Dwayne contemplates embracing the grind of professional wrestling himself. The show will explore the crazy rollercoaster that has shaped Dwayne into the man he is today and the larger-than-life people he’s met along the way.

Dwayne Johnson, Joseph Lee Anderson, Stacey Leilua, Ana Tuisila, Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu, Fasitua Amosa, John Tui and Matthew Willig star.

Created by Nahnatchka Khan and Jeff Chiang and inspired by Dwayne Johnson’s life. Nahnatchka Khan, Jeff Chiang, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Jennifer Carreras, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Jeffrey Walker serve as executive producers.

“Young Rock” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, Seven Bucks Productions and Fierce Baby Productions.

Ana Tuisila

Lia Maivia, “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: Ana Tuisila as Lia Maivia -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Ana Tuisila stars as Lia Maivia on NBC’s new comedy “Young Rock.” Tuisila’s career spans over two decades in film, television and theater. Her most memorable performance is in “The Songmaker’s Chair,” a stage production written by esteemed international author, poet and playwright Albert Wendt, and directed by Nathaniel Lees and Nancy Brunning. Following a successful season, the show later participated in the International Arts Festival at Te Papa Museum in New Zealand. Tuisila has starred in two short films on location in Samoa, Vai and Liliu, which have both been recognized throughout film festivals globally. She speaks fluent Samoan as well as having familiarity with other Pacific languages.
YOUNG ROCK -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Willig as Andre The Giant, Adrian Groulx as Dwayne Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)Matthew Joseph Willig (born January 21, 1969) is an American actor and former American football offensive tackle in the National Football League.

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Ana Tuisila and Matthew Willig of "Young Rock" on NBC

Interview with Stacey Leilua and Joseph Lee Anderson

TV Interview!

Stacey Leilua and Joseph Lee Anderson of "Young Roung" on NBC

Interview with Stacey Leilua and Joseph Lee Anderson of “Young Rock” on NBC by Thane 3/9/22

It was wonderful to talk to these two actors. They clearly have a great time playing young Dewey’s parents.

 

The transcript will be up soon. Enjoy the video!

Watch our other “Young Rock” Interviews with Ana Tuisila and Matthew Willig and Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu and Adrian Groulx

MORE INFO:

Young Rock

Tuesdays on NBC (8-8:30 p.m. ET); Season Premiere: March 15

The second season of “Young Rock” delves back into Dwayne Johnson’s life, continuing the storylines from season one while also introducing new chapters we haven’t yet seen. As Dwayne and his loving, resilient family face new challenges and meet new wild characters of professional wrestling, Dwayne contemplates embracing the grind of professional wrestling himself. The show will explore the crazy rollercoaster that has shaped Dwayne into the man he is today and the larger-than-life people he’s met along the way.

Dwayne Johnson, Joseph Lee Anderson, Stacey Leilua, Ana Tuisila, Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu, Fasitua Amosa, John Tui and Matthew Willig star.

Created by Nahnatchka Khan and Jeff Chiang and inspired by Dwayne Johnson’s life. Nahnatchka Khan, Jeff Chiang, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Jennifer Carreras, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Jeffrey Walker serve as executive producers.

“Young Rock” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, Seven Bucks Productions and Fierce Baby Productions.

Joseph Lee Anderson

Rocky Johnson, “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Joseph Lee Anderson plays Rocky Johnson in the NBC comedy series “Young Rock.” Anderson has appeared in the Oscar-nominated film “Harriet,” recurred on “S.W.A.T.” and has guest starred on “Timeless,” “American Soul” and others. He also directed and starred in the critically acclaimed short film “The Jog,” which premiered at South By Southwest. A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacey Leilua

Ata Johnson, “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK -- Season: 2 -- Pictured: Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Stacey Leilua plays Ata Johnson on the new NBC comedy “Young Rock.” Leilua is of Samoan, Maori and English heritage and based in New Zealand. She graduated from one of New Zealand’s leading drama schools: UNITEC School of Performing & Screen Arts, where she majored in acting. Leilua has worked on a variety of productions, including New Zealand’s longest-running series, Shortland Street.” Other credits of note are the UK/NZ feature film ”Love Birds” and the highly acclaimed web series “The Factory,” which she also co-executive produced alongside Kila Kokonut Krew under the mentorship of Robin Scholes, one of New Zealand’s most well-known producers. Leilua has also worked as a presenter (“Homai Te Paki Paki”) and director with the South Auckland-based theatre company Kila Kokonut Krew. Most recently she performed in Tusiata Avia’s ”Wild Dogs Under My Skirt,” which won Production of the Year at the 2018 Wellington Theatre Awards. The production was picked up for a season at the Soho Playhouse in New York in January 2020 where it played to full houses every night.

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Stacey Leilua and Joseph Lee Anderson of "Young Roung" on NBC

Interview with “Young Rock” actors

TV Interview!

Stacey Leilua and Ana Tuisila

Interview with actors of “Young Rock” on NBC by Suzanne 3/23/21

There are two short interviews here with the actors from “Young Rock.” One is with Stacey Leilua, who plays Ata; and with Ana Tuisila, who plays her mother, Lia. The other is with Joseph Lee Anderson, who plays Ata’s husband, Rocky, and with Matt Willig, who plays Andre the Giant.  This is a fun little show, and I enjoy watching it.

Here’s the first interview, with the women.

Suzanne:   My first question is for Stacy: what has the fan reaction been like so far that you’ve seen?

Stacey:   It’s mostly just been, I guess, in the way of messages through social media, because it’s not screening in New Zealand yet. So, I get messages from people – like the stuff I love is Pacific Islanders around the world saying how awesome it is to turn the TV’s on and see, you know, their mums and the grandmas sort of represented, their uncles. So, they’re seeing their culture on primetime US TV, and they’re loving it. So, that’s awesome for me to be able to be a part of that representation.

Suzanne:   Yeah, that’s great about the show. I didn’t even realize that he had lived in Hawaii, and I spent three years in Honolulu, and I miss it so much. I was happy to see that. And, Anna, are you on social media at all?

Ana:   Yes, I am.

Suzanne:   What is the reaction that you’ve gotten?

Ana:   Well, like Stacey, my family in New Zealand hasn’t seen the series at all, and so they’re putting on these promotions and “watch this,” and they are coming back to me sort of, “Watch what? We haven’t haven’t seen [it].” So, it’s a bit disappointing that they’re not keeping up with the excitement that I’m feeling as well. But we’re really lucky that I’ve got a link that was sent, so I’m able to watch it at the same time, but for the rest of New Zealand and Australia, it’s a shame that they’re not feeling the same as we all are.

Suzanne:   Yeah. It’s too bad you can’t get a copy to send to your family at least.

Stacey:   It’s coming soon, I think.

Suzanne:   Oh, good. I can’t imagine.

Question:   This is a male fronted comedy, but what I really like about it is that the women are a really big part of it, and you guys get to not just be background players; you’re really in the narrative of it. I was just curious how you feel about that, and how you feel about this show? It’s a success. Did you feel more pressure before it was a success, or do you feel more pressure now to keep it a success?

Stacey:   I think when you get the original audition, and you can see who’s attached to it, and you see Dwayne Johnson, that already is an indication of the success of what it [is] most likely going to be like. It’s pretty hard to imagine that something that he’s attached to is…not going to work or whatever. He’s just incredible like that. So, he finds a way to make everything work.

And I was excited about the fact that he will very often and publicly speak about his mother and his grandmother and the influence that these women had on his life. I mean, to this day, his mother, I think she she lives with him, or she’s pretty close to physically where he is. So, it’s kind of like at the end of this long journey that they’ve been through and the ups and downs. It’s the two of them still there looking after each other.

I quite often say that playing a real character, a real person, Ata Johnson, I don’t like to think of it as pressure, because I feel like that sort of has negative connotations. I think there’s definitely a huge responsibility in there.

I guess, if we’re talking about the success of a show, for me, what I really cared about the most was that I was going to do this character justice and that Dwayne and Ata were going to be watching this and going, “Yes,” and that has happened.

So, for me, I think, like, we talk about the ratings or more seasons and things like that, and I’m like, as long as I’m bringing this truth to that character – Just, I think in light of what a life they’ve had, and, you know, like we were saying, the ups and downs, we only see a sort of snippet of it in the show. It was so important to me; that was the priority for me, really being able to do the family justice and make them proud of the representation on the screen, for me, anyway.

Ana, do you want to speak to that?

Ana:   You ask about being the only woman in a very male dominated cast. Well, you know, it just helped me play the role even more diligently, because, Lia, the grandmother, is obviously a very strong character, and being the only woman and in with the wrestlers and the football team, it just makes – you know, I’m even sitting up straight now just thinking about it. It just makes the role that I play so much more physical [and] mentally and emotionally more dominant to just get there and make sure that I play this character the way it should be. So, being in a very male dominated, as you say, cast, and the storyline, it just just helps me portray this character even better.

There isn’t much known about it, but after listening to Dwayne and Ata describe her, I thought, “Oh, that’s great.” It’s just great putting the women up here. So, it wasn’t too difficult. I guess, as Stacey said, the pressure was ensuring that the character and the role was played with integrity and honesty, and making sure that I play the role the way it should be.

Question:   …What role did your mothers and grandmother play in your life?…Was there something that you brought on from your mother and grandmothers on to this show?

Stacey:   Yeah, I think I’ve mentioned before in interviews, my grandfather was actually a boxing champion here in New Zealand, and he held the light heavyweight title in, I want to say, early 1960s, I think. So [it] was my grandmother at home looking after the babies and holding the fort while her athlete sort of superstar husband, as much as he could be back then in New Zealand, was out traveling and on the road and everything that came with that. So, for me, in the early portrayals of Ata, that was something that was on my mind as well, and just kind of channeling a little bit of that and what that might have been like.

Like Ata, my grandmother is a very… strong matriarch of the family and really led with love and care for her children. I think that that was really, [and] after speaking with Dwayne and Ata, we’ve been saying sort of the character is really the heart and soul of the storytelling, and she brings that love and the nurturing. I mean, she’s a fighter, and she’s fierce, but it’s always done with the integrity and love for her son first and foremost, and then the family that wraps around him and guides him through his life journey. So, I was really holding on to, I guess, a lot of those aspects that I had seen myself in my grandmother growing up. Yeah, on a personal note for me.

Ana:   I didn’t know my maternal and paternal grandparents, grandmothers, but when I read the script, that was just truly my mother, my own mother, and, I guess, for myself, as well. She was also the matriarch of the eldest of 13 children. So, even though we had high chiefs, and there were five girls and eight boys, she just dominated. Whatever she says, goes.

When I read the script, I thought, “It sounds just like my mother,” and, I guess, it’s just passed down to the way I have parented. So, it was quite easy for me to step into Lia’s shoes, and even more so that Lia’s Samoan, and I’m Samoan. I guess, the connection there was really easy, and the cultural terms.

So, you asked, were my mother and my grandmother, or people who I knew – Yes, they were great inspiration, and it’s just passed down to how we are. Women are very strong. Even though they talk about the patriarchal system in Samoan, the [unintelligible], it’s the women that run the household. So, they are very strong, and, I guess, for Lia, which is different being in a white male’s institutional sport, that would have been [unintelligible]. Yes. So, the inspiration for me was my mother, which made it easy for me to play the character.

You can see the video here!

Joseph Lee Anderson and Matt Willig

Here’s the transcript of the call with the two men.

Question:   Hey, guys, thank you so much for taking the time and congratulations on on this fantastic journey. So, let me just ask, and I’m sure you’ve been asked, but I’m really curious, what was the biggest challenge for both of you in portraying your characters, especially because they’re based on real people? And what’s the most surprising thing you think you learned in the process of preparing for the characters?

Joseph:   Yeah, the biggest thing for me was the weight. I was at about 220 pounds when I first got the role, and then got a call and said they wanted me to be about 250 pounds. So, I had about two months to put all that weight on and make it as much muscle as possible…The opposite of what Matt did.

…And I was shocked to learn that Rocky, he fell so far from grace. He worked so hard to get to that moment, and he was on top of the world, and it just didn’t end the way I’m sure he wanted it to end.

Matthew:   Yeah, a lot like Joseph, you know, it starts with the weight. I knew I needed to have a certain look, and I normally kind of am more much more diligent about my diet and exercise and stuff. So, I just ate whatever I wanted for a couple months, and I gained about 35 pounds myself, but it was bad weight. So, it was fun for a while, and then it got old after a little bit, but that was important to kind of have that feel of having that girth that André had. I knew I wasn’t gonna be 7’4’’ or, you know, a seven footer, but I could have the dimensions that would be important. So, that was the first thing, and then, getting the sort of the Frenchisms and the French accent down was important [and] not easy. So, just kind of working with a French dialect coach first and then sort of making it my own sort of mumbled André speak was important to have. I had to be very careful about making it understandable for television so that people can understand me, but at the same time, sort of keeping authentic to André in the way that he spoke. So, that was hard.

And the surprising stuff, I guess, it’s just the fact that he was so close to Rocky, their family, and Dwayne. I wasn’t aware of that. So, that was a big revelation and sort of immediately sort of made my character André of all these crazy wrestlers, specifically having André in his life as uncle Andre, so that was pretty cool.

Suzanne:   Hi, guys. For Matt, what research have you done? What did you do before you got the role playing André the Giant?

Matthew:   Well, it started with watching documentaries and going from the documentaries to interviews, listening to him speak, trying to do as much research as possible. What else? You know, like I said, getting the speak down, his accent. Things like that were important, because I knew that when you’re dealing with someone that’s a real person, there is a sense of being true to him. You have to do a lot of work to get to that point before you even put your own spin on it. So, that was important. …Just watching him, watching his videos, watching his interviews was really important. Again, speaking to Dwayne and getting his take on it and finding out what was real in his life, in that relationship, how it was real, and what was going to be explored sort of for the show, as opposed to being in real life. Like I said, it was really nice to hear that that was a real relationship that was really, really important to him. So, that kind of made it nice so that we could be talking to Dwayne and getting the history of where André came into their lives with Peter Maivia, his grandfather, and kind of working into to being uncle André with him as a kid and beyond.

Suzanne:   Okay, great. And Joseph, I watched the four episodes last night on demand. You have such great energy on there. Have you gotten a lot of fan feedback so far?

Joseph:   Yeah, everyone’s been very kind saying they love what I’m doing with Rocky. People that have met him have been awesome with the feedback. So, that was great. Then, most importantly, Dwayne is beyond happy.

Suzanne:   Oh, that’s good.

Joseph:   That’s really the person I wanted to make happy.

Question:   …Joseph, I’ll start with you…Talk to us a little bit about how involved – and Matthew, you can also speak to this – how involved has Dwayne been throughout this process of helping you guys create and build on these characters who are real characters and real people that he lived with? [unintelligible] Like with Joseph, you play his dad. Talk to us a little bit about how involved Dwayne has been throughout this process.

Joseph:   He was insanely involved. Anytime there was a question, anything, it was a text away. He made himself open to me at any time. Anything I needed, it was just, he was there, and that was amazing since we were in different countries. So, yeah, hopefully, once COVID is over, we can all get in the same set, same room. It’d be nice to talk.

Question:   Definitely. Matthew, what about you?

Matthew:   Yeah, you know, it’s obviously a little different being that I’m not playing his dad. So, I come and go, but I think the biggest thing was just, number one, Dwayne being accessible. Like Joe said, from the first zoom call that we had on the first table read, he said, “Anytime any of you want to get with me -“ You know, he kind of apologized for not being able to be with us, but, “Anytime you guys want any information, have any questions, ask us.” And I did. So, him giving me a really detailed, honest account of his relationship with André and what he meant…He actually kind of commented what I think he meant, to me, but he really felt like André had a sense of being uncle André with him, and that was really important to him, especially early on in his life. So, Dwayne was really, really detailed about that relationship, and so, that was really cool. And again, he kind of left with, “If you ever need anything, any questions about anything, please let me know.” So, he’s been great.

Question:   Definitely. Joe, let me ask you this. You play Rocky, Dwayne’s father. Did you study him before Dwayne was assessable in helping you with the character, but did you study him on your own to learn a different side of him than what Dwayne told you? Did you study him and research him yourself?

Joseph:   Well, I think my research on Rocky was a lot of watching matches, a lot of trying to emulate how he moves in the ring and his signature moves, because Dwayne, he really gets the, you know, I’m not gonna learn about the man better than from Dwayne, so that was great. Yeah, I watched any interview I could find, every match I could find. There was a lot of that.

Question:   Why do you think people love the show so much? I mean, the fans are on Twitter; they’re in the comments on Instagram. People love the show. I think it gets better each week. It’s like, “Okay, oh, it was cute.” Then, each week it gets better, and then, you get an inside look into Dwayne’s life. Why do you think viewers love the show so much?

Joseph:   It’s such a heartwarming show. It’s nice; it’s loving. It’s a loving show. It’s about family. There’s so much that this show brings. We go in the 80s with the wrestlers, as, you know, the older generation loves wrestlers. And people who love Dwayne get more of an inside look at Dwayne that they probably would have never known if he wouldn’t have done this. There’s a lot that this show brings.

Question:   Definitely. Matthew, why do you think [that]?

Matthew:   Yeah, I think, just to piggyback Joe a little bit, it is that sense of – it appeals to many different audiences. People that want to see the wrestling and those iconic wrestlers are getting that. People that want to see more about Dwayne’s life are getting that. In today’s age where you can stream any sort of violence and sex and drugs and all that stuff, I think just to have a good heartwarming family type story, where you can sit down with your kids and know that for at least a half hour, they’re not going to be overwhelmed with some sort of sex or violence, it’s kind of a nice change. And I think that people are responding to that and really appreciate [it]. And, again, you’re really getting like four different stories in one show, which is pretty amazing that we’re able to do that. So, people come in and out, and they enjoy different aspects of it. So that’s, I think, contributing to the popularity of it all.

Here is the video of this call!

Interviews Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com

MORE INFO:

“Young Rock” focuses on different chapters of Dwayne Johnson’s life. From growing up in a strong and resilient family, to being surrounded by the wild characters of his professional wrestling family, to playing football at the University of Miami, the show will explore the crazy rollercoaster that has shaped Dwayne into the man he is today and the larger-than-life characters he’s met along the way.

Dwayne Johnson, Joseph Lee Anderson, Stacey Leilua, Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant, Uli Latukefu, Ana Tuisila, Fasitua Amosa and John Tui star.

Nahnatchka Khan, Dwayne Johnson, Jeff Chiang, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Jennifer Carreras serve as executive producers.

“Young Rock” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, Seven Bucks Productions and Fierce Baby Productions.

Stacey Leilua

Ata Johnson, “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK --  Season: 1 -- Pictured: Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Stacey Leilua plays Ata Johnson on the new NBC comedy “Young Rock.” Leilua is of Samoan, Maori and English heritage and based in New Zealand. She graduated from one of New Zealand’s leading drama schools: UNITEC School of Performing & Screen Arts, where she majored in acting. Leilua has worked on a variety of productions, including New Zealand’s longest-running series, Shortland Street.” Other credits of note are the UK/NZ feature film ”Love Birds” and the highly acclaimed web series “The Factory,” which she also co-executive produced alongside Kila Kokonut Krew under the mentorship of Robin Scholes, one of New Zealand’s most well-known producers. Leilua has also worked as a presenter (“Homai Te Paki Paki”) and director with the South Auckland-based theatre company Kila Kokonut Krew. Most recently she performed in Tusiata Avia’s ”Wild Dogs Under My Skirt,” which won Production of the Year at the 2018 Wellington Theatre Awards. The production was picked up for a season at the Soho Playhouse in New York in January 2020 where it played to full houses every night.

Ana Tuisila

Lia Maivia, “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK --  Season: 1 -- Pictured: Ana Tuisila as Lia -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Ana Tuisila stars as Lia Maivia on NBC’s new comedy “Young Rock.” Tuisila’s career spans over two decades in film, television and theater. Her most memorable performance is in “The Songmaker’s Chair,” a stage production written by esteemed international author, poet and playwright Albert Wendt, and directed by Nathaniel Lees and Nancy Brunning. Following a successful season, the show later participated in the International Arts Festival at Te Papa Museum in New Zealand. Tuisila has starred in two short films on location in Samoa, Vai and Liliu, which have both been recognized throughout film festivals globally. She speaks fluent Samoan as well as having familiarity with other Pacific languages.

Joseph Lee Anderson

Rocky Johnson, “Young Rock”

YOUNG ROCK --  Season: 1 -- Pictured: Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson -- (Photo by: Mark Taylor/NBC)
Joseph Lee Anderson plays Rocky Johnson in the NBC comedy series “Young Rock.” Anderson has appeared in the Oscar-nominated film “Harriet,” recurred on “S.W.A.T.” and has guest starred on “Timeless,” “American Soul” and others. He also directed and starred in the critically acclaimed short film “The Jog,” which premiered at South By Southwest. Anderson is a Kansas City native currently living in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

Matthew Willig retired from the NFL after 14 seasons. He played for 6 teams (New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers and the Carolina Panthers). He went to 2 Super Bowls, winning 1 and losing the other. He is steadily rising up the acting ladder and receiving acclaim as his roles get bigger and better.

Proofread and Edited by Brenda

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Young Rock cast members