While accepting the Generation Award at the MTV Movie & TV Awards at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle star discussed all the challenges he faced while trying to make it big in the industry yet still staying true to himself.
A highlight clip then played, showing Johnson’s most memorable scenes in movies like The Fast & the Furious, San Andreas and Baywatch, followed by an epic mini performance of dancers busting out moves to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Johnson appeared onstage, smiling as a sign reading “The Rock” lit up in flames behind him.
“Thank you to MTV for this incredible and prestigious award,” said Johnson, before giving a shout-out to his “family at home” — his three daughters, Simone, Jasmine and Tiana, along with his longtime girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. “I got a household of strong-ass women at home. … Thank you to my team, my business partners … and I want to thank you, the fans. All of you at home, you are the ones who are giving me this.”
Johnson continued on, explaining how early in his acting career, he learned a valuable lesson; that “the most powerful thing we can be is be ourselves.”
“When I got to Hollywood, they didn’t know what the hell to do with me. I was this half-black, half-Samoan, 6’4″ 270-pound pro wrestler. I was told at the time I had to be a certain way,” he recalled. “‘You gotta drop some weight … you gotta stop calling yourself The Rock… For years I bought into it, that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. But I was miserable, so I made a choice; I wasn’t going to conform to Hollywood, Hollywood was going to conform to me. And now here I am, with all of you, getting the Generation Award. Holy s**t!”
“What you saw up here tonight [with the dancers], this is who I am,” he added. “I wanted to bring these cultures up here for the world to see. Yes, it’s important that you are your most authentic self. I’m a walking example of that. But that’s not enough, because there’s another side [and] that’s the side that the magic is on. That’s the side that’s gold.”
Johnson explained that the “magic” side has to do with never forgetting those around you, who constantly support you and lift you up, and to remember to do everything with compassion.
“You do that by being kind, by being compassionate by being inclusive, and straight-up just being good to people, because that matters,” he said. “When I was 15 years old, I heard a quote… ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.'”
Johnson echoed those sentiments earlier this year while chatting with ET at the Time 100 Gala in New York City in April. The humble actor, who was being honored at the event, said he was “such a lucky guy” to have the type of career he has had thus far.
“If you’re lucky enough to become successful it’s one thing,” Johnson said. “The cover of Time, for me, is really reflective of a lot of good, hard-working people around me.”