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Dwayne Johnson was born to play Roadblock. The actor’s connection to G.I. Joe goes back to his childhood. Believe it or not, Johnson was an action figure nerd, who loved everything about the franchise. Therefore, when he got the call for Retaliation, he jumped at the chance. ScreenCrave recently spoke to Johnson about G.I. Joe’s wrestling connection, and how he went from playing with their action figures to becoming one!

Since you’re doing back to back projects, do you constantly have to maintain your physique? Do you get days off?

Dwayne Johnson: I certainly don’t get months off, or weeks off just because of the consistent work. Depending on the role will dictate what type of training that I do. So for G.I Joe it was anywhere between an 11 to 14 week diet, conditioning, and training. That type of prep. It’s also including fight choreography, stunt planning things like that. I’m preparing now for Hercules, which is an additional 14 week, I think, diet and conditioning prep.

I went into it committed and stepped my game up for G.I. Joe. It’s already an established brand and already an established character. This character Roadblock — in the cartoons and in the series — no one looked like Roadblock. So you’ve gotta look the part. In terms of Hercules, you want to pay attention and respect the mythology of Hercules and there’s a certain look a demigod has to have.

G.I. Joe is tied in to the wrestling world due to Sgt. Slaughter. Did you get to talk to him about carrying on that legacy?

Dwayne Johnson: It’s an honored legacy. It’s an honored tradition. It goes two-fold with me. Did I actually speak to Sergeant? Yes. He’s a great guy, Bob. When I was a kid, when I was 11 and 12 years old it’s all I played with was G.I. Joes and my Star Wars. I had a mass collection of both. At that time the WWE, which was known as the WWF didn’t have dolls come out yet. They were about a year later when they had their first dolls created. I was a massive fan then. G.I. Joes, Star Wars and of course WWF because my dad was wrestling at that time for WWF.

Then I was a massive fan of Sergeant Slaughter… I remember meeting backstage and my biggest thing with him was I always just wanted to see his riding crop. He had a crop that he used to beat guys with in the world of wrestling. He was always so nice and so gracious so when he was G.I. Joe that then took it to a whole other level. Then you tap into my turbo-nerd phase when that happened… I love the fact that to this day, he has these awesome 8x10s of him as G.I. Joe, one of which he signed to me about three weeks ago.

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You’re no stranger to franchises. How do you come into an established series and add to it without stepping on any toes?

Dwayne Johnson: With G.I. Joe, I got the phone call about a year and a half ago, ‘Here’s what we’d like to do. We’d like to essentially reboot in a way. We’re still making a sequel but sequels can be tricky. But we would like to reboot, reignite, relaunch the franchise.’ The franchise’s first movie made a lot of money but there was room for improvement. There was a better movie to be made. By that time they had already done their work in terms of understanding what I was gonna bring to the table and to the franchise. Then I get on the phone with them and I think ‘OK, can I help elevate this? Can I help elevate the franchise and can I bring something special and unique to it? Can we create a character that people will like?’ [That] we were able to do for example with The Fast and the Furious, it started with that. And then Journey 2: Mysterious Island. So I think it’s a meeting in the middle.

The witty banter between you and Channing Tatum’s Duke was so natural. How much was scripted and how much was improvised?

Dwayne Johnson: The dialogue between Channing and I, it was all ad-libbed. In that scene where we were playing Call of Duty, I wasn’t quite too sure how I was going to play anyway and how good I was gonna be in it and him too. Clearly he sucked at it. I was trying not to suck so bad but trying to give him shit at the same time. That chemistry between Channing and I, not only did it jump off onscreen, but we need that. It needed to be nice and genuine and authentic and real. We’re like brothers now, so you can imagine what it was like on set. We needed that to go where we were going in the movie.

You’ve had action figures before, but now you have a G.I. Joe. What was it like when you got the prototype?

Dwayne Johnson: I played with the Roadblocks and the Snake Eyes when I was a kid, so to get these models in from Hasbro was a lot of fun and very surreal. All actors and everyone involved in movies make movies for very different reasons and [are] inspired by different things. In this case, it’s a cool connection that I had. I’ve had action figures in the past whether they were The Rock or The Scorpion King or some other characters that I’ve played. They’ve all been cool and great, but to get my own G.I. Joe is extra cool. If you guys don’t know, the very first action figure ever made was a G.I. Joe action figure after the war. That’s a big deal and what it represented. So for me to get the images first from Hasbro and the scales of them… Then the fun part is my quads gotta be a little bit bigger than this. Or you gotta make my arms a little bit bigger. Where’s the tattoos? We have tattoos on this one by the way, it’s very cool.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation opens in theaters March 28.