The 44-year-old star says that on top of overcoming his wrestler persona — which he says was met with “skepticism and some cynicism” — there was nobody else like him in Hollywood.
“It was a little challenging because there wasn’t a blueprint for me to follow,” Johnson tells PEOPLE. “Because it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, there’s this half-Samoan, half-black wrestler and this is what he looks like and you just do it like him’ … I was kind of making my own way.”
Johnson recalls spending years trying to figure out his place in the industry and wondering if a long-term acting career was in the cards, until he realized having no predecessors was actually an advantage.
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“The aha moment was, ‘Well, it’s even better that no one did it before me. It’s even better that there’s not a blueprint. I’ve got to make up my own rules myself,’ ” he says.
Johnson continues, “And the aha moment came when I had a shift in my career and I was comfortable in who I was, comfortable that there wasn’t a blueprint and comfortable taking a swing and being cool with striking out.”