Dwayne Johnson has won the backing of former “John Henry” actor Roger Aaron Brown for his planned movie about the African-American folk hero, after facing criticism over his casting.
The former wrestler-turned-actor, a.k.a. The Rock, has Samoan heritage from his mother’s side of the family, and African ancestry from his father, fellow wrestling legend Rocky Johnson, but many fans were disappointed to learn Johnson would be tackling the part of Henry on the big screen, because they didn’t think his appearance would be an accurate portrayal of the railroad worker who worked himself to death.
However, Brown, who played Henry in 1995 film “Tall Tale”, insists the criticism surrounding Johnson’s movie plans are “ridiculous,” because he embodies the spirit of the fabled hero in so many other ways.
“John Henry is an iconic character… and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has paid his dues as an actor and as a human being (to play him),” Brown tells TMZ. “I happen to like the guy, and the one thing about his energy is the compassion along with the physical stature, and these days… you don’t (see that very often)…”
“There’s an old phrase that we used to have in the ’60s…,” he continues. “It said, ‘There’s more to being black than meets the eye,’ and Dwayne Johnson is a classic example of that. If he’s not dark enough for you, (he can) just put some suntan (lotion) on and stay out in the sun a little longer!”
Brown also applauds Johnson’s longtime admiration of Henry, after learning about his “childhood hero” from his dad as a kid.
“If Dwayne Johnson has enough moxie, enough guts, enough balls to put his money behind it (the film), god bless him,” he adds. “He simply has to be mindful of telling the truth to himself. He grew up, like he said, with his father talking about this character and that’s more than enough for me.”
“Whose right is it… to play god and say, ‘Dwayne, you’re not dark enough to play John Henry’? That’s just ridiculous!”
Dwayne announced his plans for “John Henry and The Statesmen” via Instagram last week, ends October 12, and shared his excitement at the project, which he will also produce for his Seven Bucks Productions company for streaming service Netflix.
“The legend of JOHN HENRY’S strength, endurance, dignity and cultural pride was instilled in my DNA at a very young age. My dad would sing (folklore song) ‘Big John’ to me every time he would put me to bed. At bedtime most children get loving nursery rhyme songs – I got this,” Dwayne shared. “Gonna be a lot of fun bringing these legends to life. My childhood hero.”
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