The actor also says being able to do 'Young Rock' continues to be 'the most surreal experience' of his care.
Dwayne Johnson looks back on the relationship he had with his late father and admits it had its share of complications. And even though Rocky Johnson died a little over two years ago, the 49-year-old actor says they've never been closer.
The Ballers star opened up to ET's Kevin Frazier about the life lessons his late father parted on him and how they resonated with him after his father passed away in January 2020. Johnson conjured up those memories while discussing his father's role (portrayed by Joseph Lee Anderson) in season 2 of Young Rock, which premieres Tuesday night on NBC.
"I was an only child and I had a complicated relationship with my dad, though he was my hero when I was a little boy," Johnson says. "And I have a loving, supportive relationship with my mom, but all the lessons that my mom was able to teach me over the years I didn't realize because I was running around getting arrested and being an idiot at some points in my life."
Johnson, who had lived in 13 different states by the time he was 13, said his father getting kicked out of his home at just 13 years old and becoming homeless proved to be a hardship that ultimately shaped the man who raised him with tough love.
"But some of the things and the lessons that I learned from my old man I didn't realize how critical those lessons were until years later," Johnson said. "And, to be honest with you, I didn't realize how important they were until he passed away."
Rocky Johnson, an iconic wrestling star himself, had what's called a deep vein thrombosis, his son would later reveal, which is essentially a blood clot in the leg. Rocky died quickly following a massive heart attack.
Johnson said he never got the chance to say goodbye to him and would have given "anything right now to give him a big ole hug and a big ole kiss before he crossed over and just say thank you and I love you and I respect you."
Looking back now on their relationship, Johnson takes solace in that their bond's never been stronger.
"You know, when we lose loved ones like that we have to go through our own process," Johnson explained. "But when my dad passed away you look back -- and I know a lot of people feel this way too -- it's that wild thing that happens where in life if you have a complicated, loving relationship like I did with my dad, then in death and in passing -- in this wild way -- you actually become closer."
It's no wonder Johnson feels a roller coaster of emotions while watching Young Rock.
"Young Rock continues to be the most surreal experience I have ever had in my very lucky and fortunate career," he says. "And I watch these scenes, after watching episodes and getting ready for tonight's premiere and I laugh. I get shook. I get teary eyed as I'm watching these experience that I have lived and now I get a chance to share them with the world."
With so much of his past being relived via a sitcom on network television, it's worth wondering if his wife, Lauren Hashian, has learned anything new about his tough upbringing and checkered past.
"I mean, she shakes her head all the time and, you know, these are all stories that we have talked about over the years," Johnson says. "It's one thing when we talk about them but it's another thing when you actually watch them play out on TV by other actors whom she knows and is very close to with my family. I met my wife back in 2007, but so much has happened in the 80s and 90s. So, there's so much for us to relive together."
And it's not just Johnson's wife traveling down memory lane with the sitcom based on Johnson's life. His three daughters are also glued to the TV, as is Johnson's mom, Ata. So, what does mom think of the show?
"She'll watch it and she'll laugh, she'll cry," Johnson says. "And she'll constantly say, 'You know, I really think J. Lo should have played me.' I was like, 'Uh. She's a little busy mom."
For the record, New Zealand actress Stacey Leilua portrays Ata in the sitcom.