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Meet the KCK native who plays Dwayne Johnson's father on NBC's Young Rock

Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson on NBC's Young Rock
Posted at 3:58 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 19:21:15-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — You've seen him as Dwayne Johnson's father on NBC's Young Rock, but now we're getting to know the man behind the character.

Kansas City, Kansas, native Joseph Lee Anderson, 28, plays Rocky Johnson, the charismatic and sometimes overzealous father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

He sat down with 41 Action News senior producer SyKnese Fields to discuss the role and his journey to the opportunity.

SyKnese: Let's start from the beginning, how did you get involved in acting?

Joseph: I was in college, not sure of what to do with my life. They were making a movie in town and looking for extras so I went and they ended up giving me a line. Ever since then, I've been in love with it.

SyKnese: Talk to me about your journey after college and to this point.

Joseph: It just started there. I moved to Kansas, did a lot of commercials, and a couple independent movies. I finally moved to California around 2014 and I've just been auditioning, auditioning, auditioning. It took me about 500 auditions to get the series regular.

SyKnese: How did you feel when you learned you got the role of Rocky Johnson?

Joseph: It was a great feeling. For any actor doing this, a series regular is where you want to be at. So it was all the feels.

SyKnese: How did you prepare mentally and physically for the role?

Joseph: There wasn't much to prepare for as far as mentally goes. It's a comedy, so that took a lot of pressure off, but physically I had to gain about 30 lbs. Rocky was a big dude, who was 6'2" and 250 lbs. so I had about two months to get to 250 lbs. It was a lot of food. I was eating about 5,000 calories a day, working out. My trainer, Tim Hamilton, he just kind of killed me in the gym, but yeah it was tough.

SyKnese: Often we see older actors play younger characters, like in many teen dramas. How did you prepare to play someone much older than you and a fatherly figure?

Joseph: Rocky was such a very charismatic person that I just looked at my kids as younger brothers. It wasn't really a paternal thing, but yeah, I'm always playing somebody's dad on TV. I guess I look older than what I am.

SyKnese: You describe yourself as a shy person. How do you come out of your shell when it's time for the cameras to roll?

Joseph: The money, that's the only reason. The money.

SyKnese: It appears that the characters on Young Rock have a lot of chemistry. Was it instant or did you all have to manufacture it a bit?

Joseph: I think it was very instant. We stayed in communication when we all, you know, found out we got the roles through Instagram, texting and things like that. But the good thing about this show is that none of the cast mates had any egos. We were all just really there to make a great show.

SyKnese: What was it like to meet "The Rock?"

Joseph: I mean it was something that I never thought would happen. I can never, you know, never thought I could just talk to the biggest movie star in the world, let alone play his father, but yes insane. Like yeah, I watched The Rock growing up as a wrestler myself too so that's The Rock. But he's a dope dude, super humble, very kind and giving person.

SyKnese: When did you all film the show?

Joseph: We filmed September of last year and we wrapped in February.

SyKnese: What was it like filming during the pandemic?

Joseph: So when we were on set, we had to wear masks all the time, we were getting tested three times a week, but Australia, in the state we were in, Brisbane - it had zero cases so when we got off the set, we could, you know, just go back to normal life.

SyKnese: There are plenty of actors from the KC area: Janelle Monae, Paul Rudd and Eric Stonestreet to name a few. What is it like to be named among them now as an actor from KC?

Joseph: It's wild. It's a great list. I actually worked with Janelle Monae once on Harriet so that was kind of neat, but yeah, I don't consider myself to be at their level yet. Yeah, I don't know.

SyKnese: Have you ever been star struck? Have you met someone who left you in awe?

Joseph: I did when I first started acting and it was my first big movie. I had one line, but that one line was with Jack Black, and so I was like... He comes up to me and he was like, "Hey man, how you doing? I'm Jack" and I was just like, "I know who you are." But now, I know how to like, you know, interact with those people now.

SyKnese: What message do you have for young actors and actresses coming up in KC now?

Joseph: If it's something you want, you just got to do it. The only way you're gonna fail is if you stop. It took me since back to 2011, took me over 500 auditions to get, you know, this one role, and it probably looks like an overnight success to a lot of people, but it's just a lot of years of hard work.

SyKnese: So what's next for you? What are you working on now?

Joseph: Now I am enjoying vacation, being back home in Kansas City and just waiting to hear if we're getting a second season or not. I mean, it was fun for the first month, but now I'm ready to get back to work. So, just waiting. Waiting for the phone to ring.

SyKnese: You produce and direct as well, right?

Joseph: I do. I have done that. I wrote and directed a short film called, The Jog, which went through South by Southwest Festival. It did well. It got a lot of great feedback, a lot of response. It was a great experience to be a part of that.

SyKnese: What's your overall goal? Where do you want to end up?

Joseph: I want to do a comedy that goes for 10 seasons and then I just want to disappear. That's, that's fine, that's what I want. I think it can go for 10 seasons, then it get syndicated and then I can just relax.

You can catch NBC's Young Rock every Tuesday at 7 p.m. right after 41 Action News at 6:30.