Dwayne Johnson Interview

Be ready for lots of coverage of the release of Disney Moana this week. With the movie coming out just in time for Thanksgiving, there’s no better way to prepare your appetite than devouring this Dwayne Johnson Interview. During my recent trip to LA for the #MoanaEvent,


Dwayne Johnson is one busy man. Recently named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, I think I like that hardworking adds to his sex appeal. He has worked hard the last several years, with eight new films coming out over the next few years, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

In Disney’s Moana, Dwayne plays Maui, shape-shifter, demigod of the wind and sea, who steals the heart of Te Fiti, unleashing a terrible darkness that threatens the life and habitat of islanders throughout the region. Maui is confronted by Te Kā, a demon of earth and fire, and ultimately loses the heart of Te Fiti to the sea. He is on his own journey of self-discovery and reluctantly guides Moana in her quest to become a wayfinder and save her people. During their adventure, Maui helps Moana discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. 


Dwayne Johnson Interview

We always applaud the talent when then walk in the room. He graciously thanks us for the warm welcome and he instantly can see that the next 20 minutes were going to be fun.

Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com
Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com

Why was it important for you to do this role?

He starts off joking.

What’s that thing? Money.

Ha, we all know it was more than that.

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. I wasn’t too sure that I was ever going to get the opportunity again to showcase our culture. It’s very rich, and we’re very proud of it, so it was the opportunity to share that, and it was also an opportunity to work with Disney in this capacity, in a classic animated capacity with the element of music. I’ve done two Disney movies in the past, live action movies, but this, it’s a different machine. It’s still the same umbrella, but it’s a different machine. The opportunity to hopefully make a movie that was not only good, but you have a real good shot at creating something that was like a classic. And that’s what I wanted to do.

Did you have any challenges voicing Maui?

Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com
Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com

It’s just a different muscle to exercise; it was almost like a baptism by fire. I had a lot of help from me which was nice, and what I mean by the help is, finding ways to really add real zest and life to words. And making sure that the words that I spoke had life and the correct energy, the correct temperament and tone, and intonation. It was a real fascinating experience for me.

You’re so much more versatile than people give you credit. For example, you rap as Maui!

Thank you. Yes. Let me talk a little bit about that – yes! Of course. So I used the word opportunity before; it was a great opportunity to push myself, and to sing! You know, the bar’s set very high in a Disney movie when there’s 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.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Actor Dwayne Johnson (L) and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda perform onstage at The World Premiere of Disney’s "MOANA" at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, November 14, 2016 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Lin-Manuel Miranda; Dwayne Johnson
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)  Lin-Manuel Miranda; Dwayne Johnson

Also, I was , surrounded with really amazing collaborators. Lin-Manuel Opetaia, and Mark Mancina, it’s special. So I was excited to sing a song, and to Lin’s credit, he did a lot of deep dive research. I’ve sung in the past, but for fun. Like I would go on a talk show – Ellen, or something – and I would break out a guitar and sing, and just make it kind of fun and silly. But he did his research, and he found a comfortable range that I could sing in, and then he also pushed me a little bit, and… I had a real, real, real good time. And rapping too and the whole thing, so… I’m a rapper.

With Moana being so Polynesian culturally infused, what are you hoping people take away from the movie?

I think there are a few messages that people can take away. I also think a wonderful thing I think about entertainment, and movies, and books that we read, we all have different interpretations of them. 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. At first, there was a little bit of hesitance from all of us by the way. 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, and all the villages and trying to understand the cultures, which comes out in the authenticity, I think, of the writing. So the takeaway would be, showcasing our culture, and seeing that there’s a wonderful quality of our culture, and there’s a fierceness to our culture too. And a tremendous pride.

Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com
Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com

Also too I think a great takeaway that speaks to all cultures, ages, religions, and everything else that our world has, is we have this little voice inside of us. We’ve got to follow that voice. Listen to the voice – a gut intuition, and have that kind of faith, not necessarily religious faith, but faith that there is more. And you can be more. Kind of relevant today, right? So… I would say that.

Which accomplishment in your life would you like for that tattoo to represent?

Being a father.

He grins. He knows his audience.

Speaking of that, you have performed as Pikachu at home – does Maui perform at home, as well?

So interesting – so we have Maui, action figures and they’re kind of big but have we have separated Maui at home. So Maui kind of sounds like Daddy. But Maui is just Maui. I just didn’t want to confuse her right because when she watches the videos all the time, it’s all about Maui, but now Pikachu, however… So, for those of you who don’t know, I dressed up as Pikachu for my daughter Jasmine, she’s eleven months old. We were in Hawaii shooting, and she went to a pumpkin patch three weeks ago and she saw Pikachu. Someone dressed up as Pikachu and she freaked out. She loved it. So Lauren and I thought, ‘Well you know, what if Pikachu came for Halloween.’  So I became Pikachu. So the challenge was finding a Pikachu costume that was big enough. We did find one. It’s was so hot in that thing. And so since then, Pikachu makes weekly visits. It’s a whole thing, right? Like Pikachu… he goes to get dressed in another room and he has to walk out back and around the house; he has to ring the doorbell, and then he has his fun with Jasmine, and it’s very funny.

Usually, Lauren is there or my mom is there, and they mess with me ‘cause I can’t talk. Pikachu just doesn’t speak for obvious reasons and it’s so hot, and after fifteen minutes, I’m like, oh— you know I can’t say anything, so I’m getting ready to say goodbye, and Lauren goes, “Oh, uh, Pikachu wants to dance? He wants to dance?”  And she puts on music and… another twenty minutes. But it’s the best.

Being a father and then being as busy as you are with all that you do, how do you balance it all?

Oh boy. Yeah, what a great question, right? Yes, I understand. It’s a constant management of trying to figure out the balance. Lauren and I are consistently checking in with ourselves on where can we improve? What kind of support do we need? How can we improve our time? What can we do and find the balance?

I think it’s just, for us, it’s just been a consistent management of time. Check-in and ask, 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, ‘cause we find that there’s a lot of people around in our families and friends, our circle, who are willing to say, “I got you! What do you need?”, and then so often, especially with Lauren, especially with you moms, it’s, “I can do it. I got it. No no no, I’ll get it. I’ll get it.”  So for us, it’s been just a consistent check-in.

MOANA - (Pictured) Maui. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
MOANA – (Pictured) Maui. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Those eyebrows on Maui give you away. What else do you see in Maui that is all you?

There was a good amount that was infused in Maui. I think that there’s a part of Maui that I can appreciate because it’s my DNA (being Samoan), there’s that. And there’s a fun side to Maui, and a need and a desire to keep things fun, keep them a little bit on the lighter side. And not quick to show the vulnerability, and not quick to go down that route. So, I would say that. Yeah. And some bravado, a lot of bravadoes, because you can mask a lot with bravado.

Can you share a little about the process of bringing ‘you’ to the character?

Yeah, so it’s a cool process for those of you who don’t know. There are multiple cameras in the room as you’re sitting in the studio and you’re going through these lines, and your facial expressions will then inform the animators on the facial expressions of Maui.

This was when my dear friend Leanette asked some questions about the body movements, specifically his pectoral muscles. I don’t know if she embarrassed herself or Dwayne more, but the conversation was hysterical. Not easy really transcribable, but put it this way…I don’t think he will ever forget us and that conversation.

Does being a father affect the roles that you take?

Yes. I think that there’s a responsibility there. I have an eleven-month-old baby; here name is Jasmine, a fifteen-year-old daughter, Samoan

He looks over at Leanette

You have me sweating after that.

We are all hysterically laughing.

I’m literally sweating.

He gets up and gets himself and Leanette cloth napkins to wipe off that sweat. He laughs and resets.

We have bonded. Alright. What was the question?

Roles you take…

Yes. Oh! Responsibilities. I think with every role there’s that added responsibility. It’s not necessarily is it appropriate for her or them to watch, but more so, are there qualities there that we look for that are important and is the takeaway there. That’s important. The messaging is important, even within the context of something. So I have to check those boxes.

Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com
Photo by Louise Bishop momstart.com

Oh, this is what I was going to say;  what’s interesting is, when I had my first daughter, I was probably twenty-nine or thirty, and like a lot of us, especially guys, it takes us a very long time, like, ‘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, those boxes are still there, and the wonderful part is now there’s a lot of new other boxes that are there too.

What are you hoping children will take away from this film?

To have fun, number one, and enjoy it. I’ve seen the movie with an audience, and unbeknownst to them that I was there, and it was really cool and special when all the kids were leaving, and there was just this energetic thing that happened in the theater where they kind of leave floating.

And I think when you accomplish that, it’s just such a cool thing, ‘cause it stays with us for life. So to create magic like that for our kids, and adults is awesome. And I think the takeaway would be a few things. I think number one that comes, is having the confidence in yourself, and you are good enough, and you can do this. There’s a saying that we have in Polynesian culture, it’s like, ‘Don’t go beyond the reef.’ 

And we showcase that in the movie. Well, you can go beyond the reef. And going back to listening to the little voice inside of you. Life is so noisy, and there’s so much noise, and how important that is to listen. You always want to revert to the little voice that you have inside of you, saying you are good enough and you can do things.

Favorite Disney movie?

Favorite Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast.

MOANA (11/23/16)

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*I was invited by Disney to attend the Moana Event to share my experiences with my readers. All opinions are my own.


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