One of the more enjoyable aspects of NBC’s sitcom Young Rock was the glimpses into Dwayne Johnson’s childhood, when his father Rocky Johnson hung out with fellow WWF performers including the Iron Sheik, Randy Savage, Junkyard Dog, and Andre the Giant.
In real life, Andre was good friends with Johnson’s grandfather, “High Chief” Peter Maivia, and spent a lot of time with his family. That meant hanging around 10-year-old Dwayne Johnson, becoming the kid’s “Uncle Andre.” Portrayed by Matthew Willig, Andre appears in several episodes of Young Rock‘s first season and that role will grow in the show’s second season.
As reported by Deadline, Willig has been promoted to a series regular, meaning we’ll apparently see more flashbacks to Johnson’s childhood and young Dewey’s friendship with “Uncle Andre.”
(Whether or not we’ll continue to see Andre’s fellow wrestlers remains to be seen, but those scenes are so entertaining that it’s difficult to imagine they won’t still be part of the show.)
One of Season 1’s more memorable storylines involves Dewey wanting to see E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the blockbuster film of 1982. But his parents are too busy, so Andre takes him to the movies — much to the neck-straining inconvenience of those sitting behind the 7-foot-4 behemoth.
Related: ‘Young Rock’ pilot episode includes appearance by young Ed Orgeron
In real life, Andre was good friends with Johnson’s grandfather, “High Chief” Peter Maivia, and spent a lot of time with his family. That meant hanging around young Dwayne Johnson, becoming the kid’s “Uncle Andre” and a mentor figure.
The 8th Wonder of the World & the punk scrub known as lil’ Dewey.
Andre was a hero of mine.
And for some reason he took a liking to me too & always treated me like his own son. Maybe because we both had afros✊??
Very special #YoungRock TONIGHT-@NBC 8/7c.#MyDayWithAndre? pic.twitter.com/uxXWNRhdMe
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) March 30, 2021
Related: HBO’s ‘Andre The Giant’ is a nostalgic home run that leaves us wanting more
Andre the Giant (Andrew Roussimoff) was a legendary figure in professional wrestling, becoming an international icon for the World Wrestling Federation, teaming up with and later feuding with Hulk Hogan. He also gained popularity outside of wrestling with his role in 1987’s The Princess Bride. During his career, Andre won the WWF Heavyweight Championship and a tag-team title. In 1993, he was inducted as an inaugural member of the WWF Hall of Fame.
For Willig, becoming a series regular on Young Rock is the best opportunity yet in an acting career that began after retiring from the NFL. To this point, he’s mostly had smaller roles in movies including Birds of Prey and We Are the Millers, and recurring parts on TV series including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and NCIS.
Maybe his work on Young Rock can get him the starring role in the Andre the Giant feature film that’s been in development since 2016.
Willig had a 14-year career as an offensive tackle, playing for the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, and St. Louis Rams. He was on Super Bowl teams with the Panthers and Rams, winning the Lombardi Trophy with St. Louis in 1999.