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Why The Actor Who Plays Andre The Giant In Young Rock Looks So Familiar

As the latest addition to NBC's ever-expanding library of sitcoms, Young Rock has already taken the television world by storm. The story goes that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is running for president, but wants to better connect with the people in hopes of securing their vote. To do so, he joins WandaVision's own Randall Park to shed some light on the man behind the myth — telling crazy stories from his childhood, sharing life lessons that got him through hard times, and showing there's more to him than meets the eye. With one episode released so far, there's no denying the former Scorpion King actor went through quite an unorthodox upbringing. 

Aside from being mistaken for an undercover cop at age 15, and "working the gimmick" as a football prodigy in his early 20s, The Rock's developmental years proved rather unconventional. His father, the late "Soul Man" Rocky Johnson (Joseph Lee Anderson), made ends meet by working as a professional wrestler and, as a consequence, kept his family on the road most of the year. As a byproduct of that lifestyle, the young Dwayne "Dewey" Johnson (Adrian Groulx) spent a lot of time around his dad's coworkers, including the likes of the Iron Sheik (Brett Azar), Junkyard Dog (Nate Jackson), and "The Eighth Wonder of the World" Andre the Giant.

Casting such a larger-than-life character for Young Rock surely wasn't easy, but Matthew Willig ultimately landed the role. Here's where else you may recognize the massive actor from.

Matthew Willig's career kicked off on the football field

Willig is definitely not one of the many celebs who can't stand the NFL.

Born and raised in La Mirada, California, Matthew Willig grew up on sports, particularly basketball and football. He carried this interest into his college years, where he played the latter at the University of Southern California and got the chance to play in and ultimately win the 1989 Rose Bowl alongside his teammates. This success didn't go unnoticed, inevitably leading to Willig joining the National Football League in 1993 as an offensive tackle for the New York Jets.

He played with the Jets until 1995, when he was scooped by the Atlanta Falcons who kept him around for two seasons. Afterwards, he signed with the Green Bay Packers in 1998, followed by the St. Louis Rams in 1999. He didn't actually see any playing time that season but his team did get the victory at Super Bowl XXXIV — earning himself a Super Bowl Ring. As the 2000s began, Willig found himself on the San Francisco 49ers' roster, staying with the team until 2002 when he jumped to the Carolina Panthers, the team that sent him back to the Super Bowl for the 38th Big Game. 

He wrapped up his NFL career after the 2005 season, once again as a member of the St. Louis Rams. It's an epic career in a position that boasts an average lifespan of about three-and-a-half years in the pros, but even after retirement Willig was just getting started.

Willig is one of Hollywood's go-to big guys

On the football field, being a six-foot eight-inch mountain of a man certainly has its benefits. When it comes to the bright lights of Hollywood, however, it also provides a kind of niche. Willig's big-screen tenure kicked off in 1993 in the movie Full Contact, playing the aptly-named character Hulk (not to be confused with Marvel's Jade Giant). From there, he popped up in the 2006 sports comedy Benchwarmers as an unnamed jock, establishing a trend of taking minor roles that play to his unique frame.

Willig returned to the comedy genre in 2009 for the Jack Black and Michael Cera project Year One, portraying the burly Marlak. His next most high-profile gig arrived in 2013, once again working in the comedic realm for We're the Millers, alongside the likes of Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston. In 2015, he tried his hand at a more dramatic fare, appearing as deceased football star Justin Strzelczyk in the biographical sports drama Concussion. Three years later, he teamed up with the Coen brothers for a segment in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs in which he played Cantina Scum.

His most recent cinematic works include heavy metal icon Rob Zombie's 2019 horror film, 3 From Hell, followed by a small part in 2020's Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Of course, these examples are only a small portion of his entire filmography, which also includes short films, direct-to-video movies, lesser-known releases, and more.

Willig has played lots of big things on TV

In addition to making a name for himself on the silver screen, Matthew Willig spends some time on the small one whenever possible. 2006 marked the beginning of his television work. That year he made one-off appearances on Malcolm in the Middle, The West Wing, and Everybody Hates Chris. In 2007, he had the chance to appear in two Dexter episodes, but the majority of his other roles didn't make him a recurring character. Thankfully, both NCIS and The Young and the Restless gave the retired football player a chance to shine, granting him four and three credited episodes, respectively.

With the 2010s in full-swing, Willig's TV workflow held strong, granting him opportunities to join programs like The High Fructose Adventures of the Annoying Orange, Grimm, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The biggest of all, however, was his tenure on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., on which he played the role of the inhuman Lash for six installments of the show's third season. As of this writing, the Marvel Cinematic Universe-set series is Willig's most prolific television part to date. Among his more recent credits are two episodes of Flaked and three of Blunt Talk, as well as a cameo on The Guest Book in 2018 and Charmed in 2019. The guy's clearly got the frame for genre.

According to Matthew Willig's IMDb page, he'll bring the Andre the Giant of Dwayne Johnson's childhood to life at least twice more on Young Rock season 1. Considering his lengthy résumé and his unique physicality, it's hard to imagine he'll drop off the radar. Perhaps his time as the legendary wrestler will open more doors for the former NFL star in the future, in any and every medium.