Young Rock’s Matthew Willig talks about Andre the Giant, this week’s Really Sweet playdate with Dewey
Some actors are born to play the roles they live in. And that’s certainly the case with Matthew Willig, who as Andre the Giant on NBC’s Young Rock (Tuesday, 8 / 7c) brings depth and tenderness.
Fans of the show got a taste of the range of the former NFL offensive devices in the episode this week with the title “My Day with Andre”.
In it, the wrestling star hangs out with a 10-year-old Dwayne (Adrian Groulx), aka Dewey, and takes him to the movies when his parents can’t. But first they stop in the park and feed the pigeons so that both Andre and Dwayne can teach each other wisdom. For example, Dewey tries to scare away a stocky pigeon that he finds greedy. But Andre prefers and defends the bird. Dewey later explains that like this pigeon Andre is not too big; The world is just too small.
“Since I’m so tall, there are of course only a few roles in which I can say, ‘That’s right in my wheelhouse,” says Willig with a laugh to TVLine. (His earlier roles include Birds of Prey and Charmed.) “You add plus I’m gaining weight and learning some French, and I’ve definitely made a commitment, but you never know how people will perceive it. “
The response to Willig’s performance was very positive. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on whose life the NBC sitcom is based, publicly praised him.
“I’m humble and grateful that Dwayne gave me the chance to play this role,” adds Willig. “It was the right fit and I knew it would fit well, although I’ve said that many times in my career. To have that and have Dwayne believe in me and even post about it on social media means the world. “
To fill Andre’s considerable shoes, Willig packed 35 pounds and wore a curly wig. “I wish I had that much hair,” he admits. He even worked with a dialect coach. And while the Southern Californian isn’t quite as tall as the late, great Andre – the wrestler was 7 feet tall and Willig 6’8 “- he knows what it’s like to be a big man in a small world.
“People keep asking me how not to bump my head against doors,” says Willig. “I’ve learned to just adapt. It’s the same when I go to the cinema. I know, or I am very aware, that I will only lie down if I am sitting in front of someone who has to see. “
Andre doesn’t duck into the movies on Young Rock, and the people behind him have to wiggle and weave for a comedic effect.
“It’s just one of those things that I do automatically,” he continues. “I’m always very aware of my surroundings, as far as I can … I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s automatic. Getting a little bit recognized and really big just walking around a Las Vegas casino for example there are tons of people and you can see and feel them looking at you and talking about you as you walk by. Especially after getting into this business I realized how big I really am because the smaller you are, the easier it is for production and camera teams and all that stuff. I sometimes feel like a big man in a small world. “
With regard to “My Day with Andre”, Willig credits his young film partner Groulx for being such a consummate professional.
“It was a really sweet episode, and it was a highlight that little Adrian and I had a nice relationship and that we built it up in the few months before filming,” says Willig, the father of two daughters. “I think the child is great. I love this kid. He’s so talented. When we sit there and talk, it’s really kind of a nice chat. I got to see the episode for myself and am really happy with how it came out and how it feels. He teaches me and I teach him and it’s a beautiful moment. “