Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson on tequila, lucha libre and his love of Mexico

Brad Japhe, CNNUpdated 7th June 2021
(CNN) — Hollywood's highest-paid actor for two years running, Dwayne Johnson has recently added "aspiring entrepreneur" to his resumé. His fans know him as "The Rock" -- an action superstar and former professional wrestler -- but he has recently aligned himself with the native liquor of Mexico.
Teremana Tequila, launched in 2020, is one of the latest entries in the suddenly crowded sector of celebrity spirits.
In his wrestling days, Johnson adopted the persona the "People's Champ," and in real life he has striven to do the same. So when building the booze brand before the pandemic, Johnson spent time on the ground in Mexico with the hard-working men and women crafting the liquid -- from the agave fields to the barrelhouses.
Johnson's own love of Mexico and its native spirit deepened after a 2007 trip to promote his film "The Game Plan" at a time when he was still finding his footing with global audiences.
"I was able to drive out into the perimeter of Mexico City [and explore]. At that time, I was still on the come-up, I was trying to turn the corner on my career," he said. "I've always loved the culture and the tequila, so it was an unforgettable trip."
A third generation professional wrestler, Johnson was intrigued as a child by lucha libre -- a high-flying and theatrical take on the sport, popularized in the arenas of Mexico.
CNN Travel caught up with Johnson from Hawaii on the set of "Black Adam," the latest superhero mega-production from DC Comics, to talk about his collaboration with the López family to create tequila in Jesus María, Mexico, his interest in the agave spirit and how his family weathered its own bout with Covid-19. His next movie, "Jungle Cruise," is scheduled to debut on July 30.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson got into the tequila business in 2020.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson got into the tequila business in 2020.
Jonesworks/Courtesy Teremana

How did you develop your love of tequila?

Growing up, my household always had tequila, whiskey, vodka and beer. I had grown up with a real love for tequila and whiskey, in particular. But that first time when I visited Mexico -- Mexico City in particular -- I went out to a few local spots and I enjoyed some local tequila.
Up until that point I had enjoyed the well-known, famous brands. But when I finally touched down in Mexico in 2007 I enjoyed the local tequila there. I absolutely loved it. That was a real special connection. I remember buying as much as I could from these local places.
I started to ask questions about how this particular tequila was made. And the process. And then I went back to the same bar again the next night. That was a good time. A lot of great memories of connecting with tequila and connecting with the locals.

Tell us about the distillery and creating the Teremana brand.

The Teremana Distillery down there in Jesus María [in the state of Jalisco] is a special place that I hold near and dear to my heart. When I went down there for the first time -- we partnered with a beautiful Mexican family who are tequila makers themselves, and agave growers.
We built our own distillery there. It's special for the jobs that we're able to create. We have almost 250 Teremana employees.

Did you have any exposure to luchador wrestling culture as a child?

I grew up in the world of pro wrestling. And in Texas -- we used to live in South Texas -- I was exposed at that time to lucha libre. My dad and my grandfather were very close friends with a lot of the well-known Mexican families from the Guerreros to Dos Caras.
I was always just enamored and in awe of the luchadores because they all wore masks and they were so ... cool to me as a little boy. I adored pro wrestling, and wrestlers were my heroes. And especially once I moved down to South Texas, I would see these luchadores every night, man!

Did they inspire you on your professional journey?

Their ring style and wrestling style was very unique and very athletic, very different from the American style. I was always fascinated, I loved watching the matches -- front row. I was that little boy who was eating popcorn and dropping it all over the floor. And I'd go into the back dressing room and I'd hang out with my dad -- I'd keep my mouth shut because that was important. But I would just be in awe of all my heroes.
I was so fascinated when I realized that the luchadores never take their masks off. Shower: Mask on. I mean, that is commitment. And I remember asking my dad and my family about that. And my dad said, 'They're protecting the business. It's what we do and it's what they do.' In that culture that's how important it is to them, that they never reveal their identity. So that just took my idea of my heroes and brought it to a whole new level.

You got Covid-19 last year. How did that affect you and your family?

It hits everybody differently. My symptoms were very mild. My wife had some stronger symptoms.
She was bedridden for about a day. She had a little bit of a fever, she kicked that. Then we wound up, in a way, just being in neutral, cruise-control through it. Everybody around us got Covid and that thing is so fast and so insidious.

Do you have one location that's your happy place?

It's in the [Hawaiian] Islands. That's where I always need to get to. It centers me -- especially when I have my family around with me and I can take our babies with us and have that 'mana' seep into their souls. The people are just warm. We were [on Oahu] right after Christmas.
I love to bring as much production there as I can. And I've reached a nice point in my career where I can strongly recommend that we go to Hawaii [laughs]. It's also good for the crew, it's great for the island -- for the local economy.

Favorite cocktail?

Right now it's 'The People's Margarita.' It's a twist on a top-shelf margarita, in which I just add a splash of pineapple to it. I'm a fan of pineapple, of course -- spending so much time in the [Hawaiian] islands. That splash of pineapple really does something unique to the spirit.