"I literally dreamed of having Spencer's life when I was playing football in high school and at the University of Miami," the star tells PEOPLE exclusively

By Melody Chiu
Updated June 10, 2015 05:50 PM
Advertisement
Jeff Daly/HBO

Dwayne Johnson is currently heating up the big screen as an LAFD search-and-rescue helicopter pilot in San Andreas, but fans of The Rock will have the chance to see the star on the small screen this summer as retired athlete Spencer Strasmore in his new HBO show Ballers.

Executive-produced by the actor’s production company Seven Bucks Productions with his co-founder Dany Garcia, his Pain & Gain co-star Mark Wahlberg and his frequent producing partner Steve Levinson, the half-hour show delves into the lives of a group of former and current football players.

PEOPLE chatted exclusively with Johnson, 43, about his latest project.

How did you decide to produce Ballers through your own company Seven Bucks Productions?
The impetus was the quality of script that came in. I read it, loved it and knew I wanted to make it. Plus, it was a phenomenal opportunity for myself and Seven Bucks Productions to align with great partners in [creator] Steve Levinson, my good bud Mark Wahlberg and certainly HBO.

What made it such a fun project to work on?
It all came down to the material. It’s a series about so many layers of life we all can relate to: drive, success, failure, love, love loss, indulgence, life lessons we all learn over time and the cherry on top is we also get to pull the curtain back to reveal the real-life hardships and achievements of some of the greatest athletes in the world.

What do you love most about playing your character Spencer?
Well, aside from the fact that Spencer dresses impeccably epic and on-point, what I truly love most about playing Spencer Strasmore is that it’s the greatest level of wish fulfillment I could’ve ever asked for.

How similar are you to Spencer?
I literally dreamed of having Spencer’s life when I was playing football in high school and at the University of Miami. One singular goal was to make it in the NFL, provide a great life for myself and my family and like all pro athletes who grew up struggling to make ends meet, I wanted to buy my mom her first house! I never made it to the NFL, not even close, so that’s why Spencer is so close to my heart. But I did eventually buy my mom her first house!

What was your favorite part about working with the cast?
Honestly, my favorite part about working with the cast is that they’re all really solid, great people. Everyone showed up every day to hopefully make something cool and awesome.

RELATED VIDEO: San Andreas Costar on the Rock: ‘He Took Me Under His Massive Wing’

Ballers

premieres June 21 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.