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'Young Rock' co-creator teases 'aftermath' of election, Dwayne Johnson's film career in Season 3

Nahnatchka Khan knows exactly what The Rock is cooking!

By Josh Weiss
Dwayne Johnson as Dwayne Johnson

Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?! If your answer was a third season of NBC's hit, semi-autobiographical comedy series Young Rock, then you'd be absolutely correct, dear reader. The show, which takes a retrospective look at the formative years of the one and only Dwayne Johnson, closed out its second season Tuesday evening with a two-part finale that wrapped up the 2032 future storyline in which Johnson runs for President of the United States.

While we won't give away any specific details on how the election turns out for the wrestler-turned-actor-turned-politican, there's nothing in the fine print about getting spoilers from one of the series' co-creators, Nahnatchka Khan. SYFY WIRE caught up with the executive producer Wednesday to discuss Season 2's jaw-dropper of an ending, what fans can expect from the next batch of episodes, and the rich potential of exploring The Rock's eventual foray into Hollywood.

***WARNING! The following contains major spoilers for the Season 2 finale of Young Rock!***

Can you talk about some of the stories you want to explore now that the show has been renewed for Season 3?

Based off of the finale last night, the first one is gonna be how Dwayne responds to the presidential election not going the way that he wanted and seeing the aftermath of that. That fits in with the theme of our overall show of life being a rollercoaster, even for somebody as successful as Dwayne and carrying that into the storyline in 2032 is gonna be really fun and unexpected. 

And then going to his life when he’s trying to break into the WWF and it didn’t go his way then either. There are so many twists and turns that Dwayne has told us about. Because everybody assumes, ‘Oh, he got in, he became The Rock, and that’s the end of the story.’

The path that it took him to get there is really fascinating, so we really want to explore that more and meet a lot of those guys that he encountered in the ‘90s era and then go back to his childhood — back to Hawaii — back to everything at the beginning, and kind of switch it up a bit in the middle too. We’ve been talking about different forms of storytelling that might be exciting for the new season.

Season 2 seemingly ends with Dwayne losing the presidential election in 2023. What else can you tease about where that story will go next season?

I’ll definitely say he lost. We’re not gonna walk that back in Season 3 and be like, ‘Just kidding! He actually won.’ We’re embracing that it didn’t go his way. It’s exciting for us storytelling-wise and I think [it is for] Dwayne, too. We talked about going this way when we initially got the Season 2 pick-up; about ending the season like this, and we’re all excited for the place that we’re set up for in Season 3 where [we ask], ‘How does he respond to this?’ Really wanting to feel the impact of it. He doesn’t wake up the next morning being like, ‘Ok, now what?’ Because you just wouldn’t do that. That doesn’t feel real. We haven’t had a chance yet to sit down for our first Season 3 story meeting, but I think we’re all coming to the table with a lot of ideas on that.

Is the election storyline Dwayne’s way of telling us he’ll be running for president in 10 years?

[laughs] I don’t think so because I don’t think he would be down to lose if that was true. I think he would be like, ‘I definitely have to win!’ So just the fact that he’s like, ‘I’m gonna lose,’ maybe not.

Dwayne's professional history is pretty well-documented. What’s been the approach to telling his life story in a way that feels fresh for both longtime fans and newcomers alike?

I think from the very beginning [my fellow co-creator] Jeff Chiang and I really wanted to look at the moments in between the Wikipedia posts. Look at the moments that aren’t as well-documented that you can’t just read about with a quick Google search of him. But acknowledging those big moments, knowing who Dwayne is now and who he has been for awhile and the journey in between those moments is what we’re interested in. So that when we do get to those [big] moments, when you do see like, ‘Oh my God, this is when this happened’ or ‘This is when he meets the Undertaker’ or whatever it is, it’s satisfying. But it’s not every episode. The story is really about this one person’s struggle to find his place and to find his calling.

What do you find to be the richest eras of his life to explore?

There are elements of all of the eras that I really personally connect with. I think the youngest era in the early ‘80s. That resonates so much with me because I used to watch wrestling back then when I was a kid with my family. I’ve spoken about how the Iron Sheik was big in my family because I’m Persian and my whole family’s from Iran. So that era is very nostalgic for me. I love seeing those wrestlers and I think the middle era has been so interesting for me because that’s been the real pieces that people don’t know that much about.

When he lived in Nashville, when he lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania [with his parents] and they were really struggling. His dad was just trying to get work and his mom was cleaning houses and working temp jobs. So that’s been illuminating for me and hopefully for audiences. And then his journey at the University of Miami and going to the CFL and that not working out and him trying to break into wrestling and the struggle there. 

That’s a really exciting path to explore in Season 3, too, because I think a lot of people just assume, ‘Oh, yeah — he got into the WWE and he became The Rock and that was it.’ There are so many twists on that road that I didn’t know about and I think aside from the uber fans, a lot of people don’t know. We’re gonna get a chance to look at those moments in Season 3, which is cool.

What pearls of wisdom does Dwayne bring to the table?

He’s been so involved and so collaborative. We have story sessions at the beginning of every season and in the middle and at the end. We’re constantly going back and forth [with him and] he’s amazing. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but he leaves these amazing voice memos on my phone that I’ve saved because it’s so incredibly detailed and nuanced and he’ll just pitch ideas. He just really keeps it real with us, but at the same time, he’s so excited for all the stuff that we bring to the table in terms of storytelling and how we want to dramatize the situation. It’s just been a great collaboration. It truly has.

The show has some really great cameos, whether it's actors playing themselves or dramatized versions of notable figures from Dwayne's wrestling career. Will we be seeing more of those guest appearances in Season 3?

I think whatever fits in with the story ... Because Dwayne is such a big presence we like peppering his world with people who feel right. It feels like he would have an annual lunch with Forrest Whitaker where they get real with each other and give each other life advice. I don’t know how many people you can say that about, except for Dwayne, so really embracing that element of him opens up a lot of fun cameos for us. We’ll definitely continue to go down that road and meeting people from his past that he’s encountered like The Undertaker and Mankind and Triple H and Steve Austin. All those guys were new for us in Season 2 of the show and I think we’ll keep that going as well.

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How long until we get to his film career? How far are we from the Scorpion King era?

That is all to come. We haven’t even scratched that. The fact that he becomes a movie star. He’s gotta become The Rock first and then that’s gotta be like, ‘Uh…hey, maybe I want to get into movies.’ The path to The Rock, to being the biggest wrestling super-star on the planet, and what happened then? Why did he decide, ‘Oh, I want to go into movies.’ What motivated that and how was that struggle for him? He’s talked about how he didn’t hit coming out of the gate with that and people were trying to give him all this advice of, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta lean down and look like this and be like this and do this.’ He was really getting pulled in a lot of different directions when he first tried to get into Hollywood and that’s all coming. That’s stuff we haven’t even touched on in the show, which is cool.

Is there a specific era of his film career you’re most excited to explore?

I think the beginnings are always interesting to me. Like how he gets in. And once he does, what is the directive? Is there a path he’s following? Is there a role model he has? Is he blazing his own trail? What’s the goal? He’s in comedies and he’s in action movies and I just think there are so many questions that I personally have for him about that time in his life. These ideas sort of crystallizing into episodes for the series is gonna be really fun.

You mentioned the idea of Dwayne blazing his own trail, which is a big part of the relationship with his father. Can you talk about crafting that important emotional cornerstone?

When we first got picked up for a series Dwayne’s dad was alive and we talked about meeting with Rocky and talking to him and hearing his version of the story. Unfortunately, his dad passed away and so, we never got a chance to do that. I think the tenor of everything kind of shifted and it became a very emotional season for Dwayne and it [included this] tribute to his dad at the end of the pilot with that picture and his message to his father. I think that’s always been one of the emotional underpinnings of the show, is Dwayne’s complicated relationship with his dad because his dad was not perfect like we’ve shown.

His dad had a lot of flaws, but he clearly was a huge influence on Dwayne’s life and I think a lot of us have complicated relationships with our parents and can relate to that. It’s like you love them and they drive you crazy at the same time. You want to be like them, but you don’t want to be anything like them at the same time. So really getting underneath that and Dwayne being open. Not just open, but pushing forward that idea of really wanting to explore that it wasn’t perfect. But he still very much was influential and loved him. If people are picking up any part of the series, I think that’s a big, big piece of it.

Do you see this show running for a specific amount of seasons?

I think one of the great things about being on network TV in an era which is so focused on streaming and limited series, is that we’re here for longevity [as] an old school network series. We want to keep telling these stories, we don’t want to do eight episodes and be done. I think because we’re looking at somebody like Dwayne, we have the stories to sustain it. We'll keep telling the stories for as long as people want to keep watching them.

All 12 episodes of Young Rock Season 2 are now streaming on Peacock.

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