My Interview with THE ROCK: Dwayne Johnson Talks About Being Maui, Parenting + MORE!
Disclosure: This event and trip to LA was an all expense paid journey sponsored by Disney. All thoughts, opinions and experiences are 100% my own!
Just last week I was in LA for the red (blue) carpet world premiere of Disney’s MOANA. I shared with my my review of MOANA here, and as you will read, one of the (many) things that I love about this film is how the character personalities so strongly represent the actors who voice them.
One such character that you will love is Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I was very excited about this interview, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He is definitely bigger than life when he enters the room (his biceps are INSANELY huge) … but I was so pleased to find that on a personal level, he’s very … well… personable.
He is very well spoken and thoughtful with his answers and also, very passionate about two things: his culture and fatherhood. I think you will enjoy our conversation and I know that will enjoy getting to know more about Maui Demigod of the South Pacific legend.
First of all, let me tell you that Johnson is all smiles, clearly thrilled with this role and his work on this film.
What’s that thing? Money.
It was important for me to do the role because it was a great opportunity to showcase our Polynesian culture to the world. I’m half Samoan and half black, so it was an opportunity for me. I wasn’t too sure that I was ever going to get the opportunity again to showcase culture, and our culture is very rich and we’re very proud of it, so it was the opportunity.
Also the opportunity to work with Disney in this capacity with the element of music. I’ve done two Disney movies in the past, live action movies, but this…it’s a different. It’s still the same umbrella, but it’s a different machine. It was the opportunity to hopefully make a movie that was not only good, but you have a real good shot at creating something that was a classic. And that’s what I wanted to do.
This role of voicing Maui was a change of pace for Johnson, and of course there were challenges:
It’s just a different muscle to exercise. It was almost like a baptism by fire and I had a lot of help around me which was nice, and what I mean by the help is, finding ways to really add real zest and life to words…to sentences. As you’re articulating things and in conversations with Moana, who’s played by Auli’i. So it was that, I’d say, that was the biggest challenge – making sure that the words that I spoke had life and the correct energy and the correct temperament and tone and intonation where it had to go to different places and pitch and things like that. It was a real fascinating experience for me.
He seems to have done it all … athlete, action … and now, a rapper?
I used the word opportunity before; it was a great opportunity to push myself to sing. The bar is set very high in a Disney movie when there is the element of music. I felt confident going in because I felt confident that I could prepare and do the things that I can control.
They also surrounded me with really amazing collaborators like, masterful musical people. Lin-Manuel, Opetaia, and Mark Mancina, there’s just— very, very special. I was excited to sing a song and to Lynn’s credit, he did a lot of deep dive research, and he found a comfortable range that I could sing in, and then he also pushed me a little bit. I had a real, real, real good time. And rapping too and the whole thing, so… I’m a rapper.
This film presents audiences with so many messages and the cultural messages are not only timely but educational and very enjoyable. Of course, the pride he holds for this role if very evident:
I think there are a few messages that people can take away from the movie. I think the cultural aspect is something that is very cool. I love that. And I also think that they did a tremendous job of representing our culture in a way that makes us proud. First there was a little bit of hesitance from all of us, but it was quickly quelled when I sat with John Lasseter and our filmmakers and they had taken me through their process.
So by the time the script got to me, they’d already done years of research in going to all the different islands, and speaking with the high chiefs in all of the villages and trying to understand the cultures, and that comes out in the authenticity of the writing. So the takeaway would be the showcasing our culture, and seeing the wonderful quality of our culture, and there is a fierceness to our culture too, as well, and a tremendous pride.
Kind of relevant today, right?
“…seeing the wonderful quality of our culture, and there is a fierceness to our culture too, as well, and a tremendous pride.” ~ Dwayne Johnson
As you will see in the film, Maui has a wide array of tattoos to represent meaningful moments in his life. When asked what accomplishment from his own life that Dwayne would most want a tattoo to represent, he gave a simple, but totally sweet answer:
Being a… being a father.
And just in case you needed proof… check out one of his recent Instagram posts:
Pikachu is baby Jasmine’s FAVORITE character. So, for Halloween me and @laurenhashianofficial decided the real life Pikachu was gonna come to the house for a visit. What Pikachu didn’t know was that Jazzy would start crying when he stopped dancing and demanded he continue to shake his tail with a loud “EH!”. So, Pikachu danced over.. and over.. and over.. and over… and over.. again. By the time I dropped my 197th JuJu, the heat of this costume was kickin’ my ass.😂 But, hey.. that’s what daddy’s do. #HappyHalloween #DaddyBlessedWithThatKnuckAndBuckStamina #NoLimitsWhenItComesToMakinEmHappy
Which of course led to more discussion about parenthood. About how he has been known to dress up in a Pikachu (above) to entertain his sweet little daughter. This is where all the moms went a little mushy, and I loved seeing his proud daddy personality come out.
It’s a constant management of trying trying to figure out the balance. Lauren and I are consistently checking in with ourselves asking, where can we improve? What kind of support do we need? How can we improve our time? What can we do to try to find the balance.
For us, it’s just been a consistent management of time check-in. Are we doing the right things at the right time. Are we checking our ego at the door and asking for help where we need it? Because we find that there are a lot of people around in our circle who are willing to say, “I got you! What do you need? What can I help you with?” So for us, it’s been just a consistent check-in.
Clearly Maui models Johnson’s physical and personality traits and I loved his thoughts of just how alike they really are. Especially the bravado part:
There was a good amount of me that was infused into Maui. There’s a part of Maui that I can appreciate, because it’s my DNA; I share that with him. There’s a fun side to Maui and a need to keep things fun, keep them a little bit on the lighter side. He’s not quick to show the vulnerability, he’s not quick to go down that route. So, I would say that. And some bravado, a lot of bravado, because you can mask a lot with bravado. Yes.
Going back to talking about fatherhood he chimed in again on his role as a father and how his work (and decisions) are influenced by his children. He was so passionate and thoughtful with his answers, and I think that adds even great dimension to who he is as an actor.
I think that there’s a responsibility there, and I think what’s interesting— I have an eleven month old baby, here name is Jasmine, a fifteen year old daughter who’s Samoan, and they’re both here and they’re going to go to the premiere. I think with every role, right, there’s that added responsibility. The messaging is important, even within the context of something more on the comedic side, those questions always still come up, and I always make sure that those boxes are checked.
What’s interesting is, when I had my first daughter, I was probably twenty-nine or thirty, you know, and like a lot of us, especially guys, it takes us a very long time to say ‘Oh, this is who I am. This is what I’m comfortable being.’ Even though I was checking boxes at that time, since then, as you get a little older in life, the boxes… those boxes are still there, and the wonderful part is now there’s a lot of new other boxes that are there too.
On this same note, these messages are not just for his children, but all children – and it was very clear that he is proud of these messages. Having seen the movie already, I can tell you, I’m proud to share these messages with my kids as well and I’m thrilled that this movie includes them. He recently attended a screening of the film with an audience who didn’t realize that he was among them, and here he explains seeing their reaction, and also the key points that he hopes that kids (and adults) can take away from this story:
I’ve seen the movie with an audience, unbeknownst to them that I was there, and it was really cool and special when all the kids were leaving. There was just this energetic thing that happened in the theater where they kind of leave floating. I think when you accomplish that, it’s just such a cool thing, because it stays with us for life, you know, as we get older. So to create some kind of magic like that for our kids, and adults, is awesome.
I think the takeaway would be a few things: having the confidence in yourself. You are good enough. You can do this. Like there’s a saying that we have in Polynesian culture, it’s like, ‘Don’t go beyond the reef.’ We showcase that in the movie. You can go beyond the reef. Also, going back to listening to the little voice inside of you. Life is so noisy, there’s so much noise, and how important that voice is to listen to. You always want to revert back to the little voice that you have inside of you, saying you are good enough and you can do things.
You always want to revert back to the little voice that you have inside of you, saying you are good enough and you can do things. ~ Dwayne Johnson (Maui)
And also. There’s this. Hot off the press, the November issue of People Magazine:
Photo credits: Disney and Louise Bishop / MomStart.com
Just in case you are wondering what MOANA is all about, here’s a peek at the trailer:
Moana hits theatres on November 23rd!