Brian Gewirtz on Young Rock Season 2, Uli Latukefu's Potential as a WWE Star, Recreating The Attitude Era in Future Seasons

Brian Gewirtz, former WWE head writer and the executive producer of NBC’s hit series Young Rock, sat down with ComicBook this week ahead of the Season 2 premiere on Tuesday night. While the show’s first season successfully recapped various stories from different eras of Dwayne Johnson‘s upbringing, Season 2 appears to be digging a bit deeper into those time periods. That will nclude Johnson living in Hawaii while his dad, Rocky Johnson, was the WWF World Tag Team Champion, when he was a teenager living in Nashville in 1987 and in 1996 where his football dreams fall short and he decides to start his career in professional wrestling.

Johnson’s wrestling career was only slightly hinted at back in the first season and Gewirtz noted that the showrunners felt there were too many stories to cover for the series to jump headfirst into his success with the WWF until Season 2.

“It’s now become a two year tradition and now hopefully become even more than that, and that’s meeting with Dwayne at the beginning before the writing process starts myself, our creators of the show Nahnatchka Khan, and Jeff Chiang, along with Jen Carreras, and Hiram [Garcia],” Gewirtz said. “[We] basically meet in a hotel room, Dwayne’s usually on location as we did last year when he was shooting Black Adam and just basically hear all these stories from DJ’s past. Some of we know, some of them are new to us. When we first started there was such a rich tapestry of stories coming from the college years and the Bethlehem years when he was first introduced to football. Obviously, as a kid in Hawaii and everything, the jump into wrestling from the beginning, right from the get-go wasn’t necessary because there was a lot of interesting stuff and a lot of growth and learning and pretty hilarious situations as well before he even got to that.”

Check out the full interview with Gewirtz below! Young Rock Season 2 premiers on at 8 p.m. ET on March 15 on NBC.

If the show gets a third season, would you guys want to dive into Dwayne’s time in the Attitude Era?

Oh, definitely. We strategically put just a quick little second of a clip in there in the new trailer, kind of like Princess Leia in The Force Awakens trailer. We just wanted to give a quick, “Oh my God, what was that?” moment of seeing Rocky Maivia making his grand entrance at Survivor Series ’96. We get to that and potentially more stuff this season without really giving anything away. Hopefully Season Three and beyond, at least in that timeline with Uli (Latukefu), we could really explore that. Uli, who plays 23-year-old Dwayne, he’s really just an athletic freak. He took to wrestling so quickly that if Vince [McMahon] wanted to take a look at him and bring him into WWE, I’m sure he would achieve success really quickly. I don’t think he’s going to do that. But if he wanted to, he probably could.

It looks like the show is going to dive further into the complex relationship Dwayne had with his father. How was that approached?

It all starts with Dwayne himself and wanting to be truthful about the situation and the truth is Rocky wasn’t immediately into the idea of Dwayne entering the business, the wrestling business, for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, his mindset was, “Well, if I can’t stop you, I’m sure as hell not going to have someone else train you. We’re going to do this together and we’re going to do it my way.” Yeah, obviously too for the purposes of the television show, that real life conflict creates a lot of drama, creates stories and creates some pretty humorous situations as well. You’ll see. Joe [Lee] Anderson who plays Rocky, is so innately charming and likable. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing on paper to have Rocky be so combative and almost like an antagonist, but we want to stay true to the real story.

The show goes to great lengths to recreate classic wrestling moments from 1983. What’s that been like?

It’s so much fun to basically step into a time capsule and every time I’m on set, I just start picturing the Land of a Thousand Dances music video [from] the WWF: The Wrestling Album [from]1985, which I had on vinyl. These guys, the actors themselves, they take such pride in emulating the characters and really doing deep dives and research, reaching out to the real life people when that’s possible. In Season One, they almost universally, not only the actors, but the crew as well became gigantic wrestling fans. It’s hard not to when you’re embodying these characters and on the set every day. And obviously working side by side with Chavo Guerrero, our wrestling coordinator, he’s really best in the world at this as far as putting these scenes together and his work on GLOW and various other projects.

They start hanging out. It almost was like being in the locker room again, seeing these bonds forming and everything. It’s tough when we shoot in Australia, it’s not like there’s a ton of wrestlers on speed dial that we could bring in. Fortunately Chavo forged some relationships and we were able to bring in some local Australian wrestlers to play local Hawaiian wrestlers or wrestlers in Hawaii and able take bumps and do that sort of thing. Mostly, the actual actors are taking the bumps. Obviously we’re doing it safe on a crash pad and everything else at various angles, but Joe Anderson is learning how to dropkick. He could do a natural kip-up too.

Andre the Giant, Matt Willig, he’s slamming people. Kevin Makely is Randy Savage, he’s doing an elbow drop off the top rope… All these guys really, really take pride in it and have become essentially huge fans. That’s always, personally, and I think I’m not alone in this on the Young Rock set, when we shoot the wrestling days, especially with the 80s group and all those people together, it’s always the most fun.

Do you miss being on the road and writing for WWE?

No, I don’t miss the weekly grind of it. I definitely am still a fan of wrestling and always still keep in touch with a lot of the writers. WWE is a partner on Young Rock, producing partner, and it’s always good to go back and work with them, whether it’s on a television project or on occasion when I’ve gone in to Stanford again to do the Ruthless Aggression series or anything like that, it’s always super cool. I wasn’t around to go to the last live event at [Madison Square] Garden, but I did go right before the one in September, I believe, before I left for Young Rock. Everyone always comments how relaxed I look. Of course, I don’t have to run around with a stopwatch and timing pre-tapes and promos and getting scripts approved or anything like that. It’s all the fun of going to a show without any of the stress. I definitely enjoy that, but yeah it was a really cool period of time, but I’m glad to be with everything evolving and moving forward.

From what you’ve gotten to see, what jumps off the page with WWE’s current product?

Let’s see, I finished up WWE in 2015 and I’m not sure where Roman [Reigns] was at the time. I do remember when Roman was just doing the overall “he’s the company man babyface,” in that period texting my friends on the creative team and being like, “Guys, you’re turning him at some point. Right?”

I know the model back in the day with John Cena was don’t do it, you’re going to regret it. He’s the man. [There’s] no one to step into those shoes and everything. Ultimately, they pulled the trigger on Roman and between all the storytelling with Roman and Paul Haman and the Usos, and obviously now Brock [Lesnar]. Obviously that’s been tremendous and really, really compelling. Roman’s obviously really, really feeling it. You could tell. Between cutting the types of promos he’s cutting and cutting the the infamous “suffering succotash” promo from his baby face days — there’s [an] obvious difference not only in the performance, but you could just tell when someone’s truly feeling it and sinking their teeth into it and is truly in command of the character, the storyline, the entire persona and presence and everything. I think that’s great.

I thought it was really gutsy for Becky Lynch to come back and go and be a heel because the easiest thing in the world for her to do was just to come back and expand upon the babyface character that she had done so successfully and so well. I thought it was really truly a ballsy move to come back and become a heel and was the audience going to buy this and everything. But she’s so talented that she was able to do it. I always look forward to, I think it’s a nice bookend with her and Bianca [Belair} to have her essentially beat Bianca in a ‘fluke’ victory and now have them have that rematch all the way, months, months later at WrestleMania. I think those are really cool.

There have been rumors for a while of Dwayne coming back for a match with Roman at WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles. Do you think that’s possible?

Anything is possible. I think if it happened, it would be tremendous. If it doesn’t happen, you don’t miss what you never have in the first place. It all depends on a number of factors including ultimately what Dwayne wants to do. I have no insight into whether something is happening or not. If it did happen at WrestleMania 39 obviously in Los Angeles and the storytelling and everything else, it could be truly, truly special. We’ll just have to wait and see. Who knows? I’m certainly not one to say impossible never is going to happen nor can I say pencil it in.


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