Will ‘Ballers’ Prove Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Can Act?

Former professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is now more famous for his action star acting career than for his time with the WWE, but it seems Johnson is looking to be taken a bit more seriously than playing beefed up heroes and goofy objects of comedic relief. Johnson will star on the new HBO drama Ballers, where he’ll be doing more serious acting than we’ve seen from the action star in the past. When the show debuts on June 21 after the Season 2 debut of True Detective and the premiere of the new comedy The Brink, we’ll get to answer the question as to whether Johnson has actually learned to act from his decade-plus in the movie industry.

Johnson’s charismatic personality and huge muscles made him one of the most successful professional wrestlers of all time. During his wrestling career Johnson went by his nickname “The Rock.” He’s since tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to drop the moniker, though most people still refer to him by just that name.

Johnson’s first starring movie role came in the 2002 film The Scorpion King. He was such a huge star at that point from his wrestling career that he earned a $5.5 million paycheck for the film, which nabbed him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest pay ever for an actor in their first starring role, according to IMDb. The movie didn’t perform well with critics, earning a 41% rating consensus on Rotten Tomatoes and a summary that reads “action adventure doesn’t get much cheesier than The Scorpion King.” It was very successful at the box office however, earning $165 million worldwide on a budget of $60 million according to Box Office Mojo.

Johnson’s film career has continued to function along similar lines, making big-budget action or comedy films that get panned by critics though they reap cash at the box office. He’s also made appearances on a variety of TV shows including Hannah Montana, The Wizards of Waverly Place, and That ‘70s Show. The sketch “The Rock Obama” on Saturday Night Live was a hilarious mash-up of President Obama and The Hulk. Johnson can pull off cheesy comedy and cheesy action with much success.

Ballers will be a very different endeavor for the actor. The show is a drama that sees Johnson playing a retired football player named Spencer Strasmore who now has a career managing the finances of young athletes. He misses his time playing sports and lives vicariously through the stars he mentors. Set in what appears to be Miami, the show features lots of luxurious parties in mansions and on yachts as Strasmore socializes with the extremely wealthy athletes. Johnson executive produces the show with Mark Wahlberg, who co-starred with him on Pain and Gain.

It’s difficult to ascertain from the trailer whether Johnson is going to make a strong debut as a dramatic actor on the series. Ballers could end up leaning more towards the soap-y side of dramatic, in which case he won’t be called on to give a nuanced performance. Either way, fans of the actor and the industry in general will be watching to see how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson handles his first dramatic role.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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