When the COVID shutdown began, it was important to be nice to grocery-store workers.
They were essential, after all. And one of them was waiting patiently to be a movie star … or, at least, to play one on TV.
That’s Bradley Constant (shown here), one of three people playing early versions of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on “Young Rock,” at 8 p.m. Tuesdays (starting Feb. 16) on NBC. Landing the role was a big break … followed by a long COVID delay.
His reaction? “I went back to working at the grocery store,” he said.
No one knew that the young guy stocking shelves had big things ahead. And no one knew why he had the early hints of a mustache. “Fortunately, they couldn’t see it when I had my mask on.”
That mustache was one step in the tenuous transition of the real-life Johnson.
Constant plays him at 15, shortly after the family had moved from Hawaii to Pennsylvania, by way of Nashville. It was a time of groping for a cool-guy image.
“I was still stealing,” the real-life Johnson recalled, “because I wanted to present myself in a way that truly wasn’t me. (I) clearly had an identity crisis.”
He even changed his name. “Girls used to call the house and ask for Tomas and my mom would go, ‘I’m sorry, there’s no Tomas here.’ And I would run: ‘No, no, no, no, that’s me.’”
That image came with a mustache and an attitude. “He had the confidence to pull it off,” Constant said.
The actor can relate to some of that; at 15, he also went against the grain: “There were not a lot of people leaving Tuscaloosa, Ala.,” he said.
He liked the college-town vibe, he said, but his original passion (sports) faded after he had shoulder surgery. He switched to acting, moving to New York at 15 (with his mother) and Los Angeles at 18.,
The odds are against any actor; Constant did a few shorts and a small movie, kept auditioning – and then landed a big break:
In January of 2020, NBC had ordered “Young Rock” directly to series, without needing a pilot film; Johnson would appear in it briefly, as a sort of on-camera narrator for three phases of his life – age 10 (Adrian Groulx), 15 (Constant) and 18 (Uli Latukefu).
It would be a dream role … eventually. Constant, 22, went back to grocery work, without telling co-workers what was ahead … or why there was a mustache lurking. He also worked out. “I was always super-big on fitness,” but now he could aim for the early stages of a Rock-like physique.
Filming finally started in November in Australia; that’s when all the young Rocks could be in the same room. “We were in a two-week quarantine and hadn’t met each other,” Constant said.
Now they could bond – two Americans and an Aussie (Latukefu), playing the same guy. Constant and Groulx played Fortnite on X-Box; they found ways to make their Rocks seem similar.
“We formed this bond,” Groulx said, “to sort of talk to each other about how we were going to play the role …. And Dwayne did a really good job of coaching us.”
That’s a long-distance Dwayne, in our current Zoom world. At latest notice, they still hadn’t met the guy in person … even though they’re busy inhabiting his life