Young Rock Actor Talks Andre The Giant's Emotional Episode And Learning From Dwayne Johnson

young rock andre the giant matt willig nbc
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the latest episode of Young Rock Season 1, called "My Day with Andre."

Young Rock took viewers back to 1982 Hawaii for "My Day with André," and a story that started with Dewey's entertaining efforts to get somebody to take him to go see E.T. turned into a heartwarming and emotional episode that shone a spotlight on the late André the Giant and his relationship with the kid who would go on to become The Rock. Former pro football player and memorable Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Matt Willig is responsible for bringing the beloved André to life on TV, and he opened up about "My Day with Andre" and what he learned from Dwayne Johnson.

Matt Willig spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets about Young Rock recently, and he cited "My Day with Andre" as a standout when I asked how he approached playing the larger emotional beats of Young Rock on top of the comedy, saying:

With 'My Day with André,' that's where, I think, for me, getting a relationship with little Adrian [Groulz] early on and having the real life sort of friendship with him, lent itself on screen as well. Whereas I'm kind of the one-liner André coming in and giving a few things and making people laugh a little bit, that this particular episode where I get to have that, those moments of figuring where I am at in the world is something that I'm, being 6'8" myself, you have those thoughts in real life and you do walk around the world, sort of understanding that you're taller than most people and you get stares and stuff like that. So I had that sort of mental image already. And so that coupled with the fact that Adrian and I really got along really well, it lent itself really to being able to get on screen and just kind of just do it. Just really do it and mean it and have the words kind of come across. It's preparation, and then you take out a little bit of your own life experiences and use those.

"My Day with Andre" featured Matt Willig as André the Giant and Adrian Groulx as the 10-year-old version of Dwayne Johnson. What young Dewey initially thought would be a trip to see E.T. turned into feeding birds and swinging on swings with the Eighth Wonder Of The World, with Andre making the point that everybody has a story to tell, perspective is important, and shunning can happen when somebody doesn't fit the norm.

Matt Willig still got the funny one-liners, including comparing Rocky's look to Columbo, but Andre got to impart some life lessons on Dewey that clearly stuck as well. Standing at 6'8", Willig was able to relate to the emotional storyline between Andre and Dewey, and the ending with André and Dewey going to see E.T. after all was a poignant capper to the episode. It was also funny, as everybody in the theater had to move when André moved to be able to see the screen. It was an example of Young Rock blending comedy with heart.

That blend undoubtedly works as well as it does partly due to Dwayne Johnson's real-life experiences with André the Giant as a kid. When I noted to Matt Willig that his performance as André in Young Rock sheds some light on the real man behind the Eighth Wonder Of The World as a wrestler and the iconic Fezzik from The Princess Bride, the actor shared:

I agree. I agree. And Andre specifically had a really good relationship with kids, which is something that Dwayne [Johnson] told me before we started shooting was that [Andre] loved kids, because kids sort of don't have any reservations like most adults would. They just want to jump on you. They want to play, they want to just have you be their friend. So I think that came across. So I'm glad that that you said that.

Young Rock shedding light on deeper aspects of André the Giant's personality in "My Day with Andre" delivered heart as well as humor, and I'm sure I'm not the only one interested in seeing more episodes that feature Matt Willig as André and Adrian Groulz as Dewey interacting. Young Rock jumps around in the timeline of Dwayne Johnson's life (sometimes tweaking real-life stories for the sitcom), so it's hard to predict what's to come, but the new show didn't take long to become a hit on NBC, which is especially encouraging in light of the recent end of another comedy.

Check out NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET to see new episodes of Young Rock, featuring portrayals of wrestling legends like The Iron Sheik, The Junkyard Dog, and more as well as Matt Willig's André the Giant.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.