Rising actor Taj Cross made his debut in the Hulu original comedy Pen15, back in February of 2019, as the male lead Sam. Since the first season was released, the series has performed well with the critics and has garnered a devoted following. Cross’s performance as Sam has really struck a chord with audiences and he has easily become a fan favorite from the series.
Now, just two years later, Cross is starring in the new NBC sitcom series Young Rock as high-school-aged Dwayne Johnson’s right-hand man Gabe. Though only a few episodes have been released so far, Cross has already proven that his character Gabe is sure to inspire a lot of laughs for the viewers.
We had the chance to speak with Cross about his experience working on Young Rock and what fans can expect from his character as the series progresses.
The Knockturnal: How did you hear about this project and what made you want to be part of it?
Taj Cross: My manager sent me an audition for Young Rock and when I read it I immediately loved the character, Gabe. He was one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever auditioned for because I made so many decisions about him and I feel really good about it. I went to the audition. Did all of my lines and the casting director actually gave me so many notes that drove me away from all of the decisions that I made about my character? So I went out thinking “Oh my God. I didn’t do good. This was my favorite character and they didn’t like my decisions.” And then a week later I got a call that I was put on hold so that was really surprising.
The Knockturnal: You’re really great in this role so I’m glad that they ended up choosing you. Can you tell us a little bit about your character Gabe?
Taj Cross: Gabe is enthusiastic, very energetic, always quick with an opinion, very determined to get stuff done. He’s Dwayne’s, right-hand man. He’s always ready for an adventure. He’s always down to go to a party or have fun with girls. You know typical high school dude stuff. He’s Dwayne’s wingman. He helps him out. He gives him advice and he help’s him along the way.
The Knockturnal: I really see that you were able to form that strong connection with Bradley Constant (Dwayne) how were you guys able to cultivate that dynamic?
Taj Cross: It was really fun to bring up that chemistry. We started to get to know each other a lot. We were all in the same motel in Australia—all of the cast. So we would hang out every chance we would get. When we would come back from set, we would go out to dinner or lunch or breakfast or just hang out in each other’s rooms and watch movies or play video games or something. And that really like almost brought up the kind of long-term friend that just builds that relationship. That banter that you’re really comfortable with and we would always work on the characters together—make decisions.
The Knockturnal: You filmed the show in Australia, right? Was that your first time there?
Taj cross: It was. We shot the show in Australia and it was my first time going to the country. it was beautiful. I got to go to Byron Bay for two weeks on a break and that was lovely.
The Knockturnal: Did you have any favorite moments from filming on set?
Taj Cross: I really liked in episode two, we did the pizza scene where the Karen’s come in. I’ve always wanted to really be able to scream and freak out in a scene. So I was so excited just to be able to scream “It’s the Karen’s” and run around frantically. So that was really fun to shoot with Bradley.
The Knockturnal: Since you are playing a teenager in the 80s, did you find that you had to do any sort of special preparation that you didn’t have to do for Pen15?
Taj Cross: I didn’t do any special preparation because it was the 80s. I did special preparation obviously for the character. But the thing that got me into the mood of the 80s was mostly the extras because whenever I would see the extras with the mullets and the wigs and the outfits and the acid colors with the shoes, it really just brought me in the moment.
The Knockturnal: I know the show obviously is about “The Rock” and it has a lot to do with wrestling. Were you a fan of the sport before you became Gabe? Or have you found yourself getting more into it since working on the show?
Taj Cross: I’ve always been fascinated by the wrestling league so it was really cool to bring up that story and the kind of background of it and to meet all these actors who were playing these big-time wrestlers that I’ve heard about before. Like “Oh you’re playing André the Giant. Oh you’re playing Macho Man. That’s so cool”. I thought that was a really cool experience to meet all of these guys that almost looked really like the actual wrestlers.
The Knockturnal: I have to ask have you had a chance to meet “The Rock yet? Has he dropped by set while you were filming?
Taj Cross: I didn’t get to meet “The Rock” in person. I met him via Zoom and that was amazing. But I didn’t get to meet him in person.
The Knockturnal: Do you find yourself more drawn to comedic roles or do you want to expand to any other genres like drama or romance?
Taj Cross: I would love to expand as much as I could. I would love to do anything that involves acting with a cool script. I’m not just going out for comedies. I’m auditioning for some really cool stuff like a lot more dramas, even some thrillers.
The Knockturnal: Lastly, can you share a little bit about what fans can expect from the rest of season one?
Taj Cross: Dwayne and Gabe get into some trouble. They try their best to persuade the girls. Gabe is Dwayne’s right-hand man for Karen. So he just tries his best to get him with that girl and they just try their best to survive in high school. Make the best of it and get some girls.