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Willie Geist Says Son 'Clammed Up' When Given the Chance to Meet Dwayne Johnson: 'It Was Too Much'

People logo People 4/15/2021 Jen Juneau
Willie Geist, Dwayne Johnson posing for the camera: Matthias Nareyek/Getty; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Willie Geist (L); Dwayne Johnson © Provided by People Matthias Nareyek/Getty; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Willie Geist (L); Dwayne Johnson

Willie Geist's son may have been able to smell what The Rock was cooking — but he couldn't quite get himself to take a bite.

The Sunday Today anchor, 45, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive chat that his younger child George William, 11, recently got the opportunity to meet Dwayne Johnson over Zoom.

And while he was excited, the idea of meeting someone he's such a big fan of on short notice was a little beyond his comfort zone.

"He kind of like clammed up," says Geist, 45. "I was like, 'Do you want to just come? ... Just wave at the computer.' "

"And he's like, 'I don't know what to say. No, I can't. I can't go.' And he got all nervous as if he was standing across from Dwayne Johnson," the television journalist adds.

Willie Geist, Dwayne Johnson posing for the camera: Willie Geist (L); Dwayne Johnson © Matthias Nareyek/Getty; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Willie Geist (L); Dwayne Johnson

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a person standing in front of Christina Geist, Willie Geist posing for the camera: Kris Connor/FilmMagic Willie Geist (R) and family © Provided by People Kris Connor/FilmMagic Willie Geist (R) and family

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"But the very idea of meeting" Johnson, 48, "even over a computer screen, thousands of miles away, it was too much."

"Maybe some other time we'll meet him down the road," Geist says of the Jumanji actor.

Another celebrity George and his 13-year-old sister Lucie Joy can't get enough of? John Mulaney, whom Dad says is "their standup god."

"They were very excited about that one," Geist recalls of a previous interview he did with Mulaney, 38, last year.

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Geist has told many a tale about fatherhood, including in an essay for PEOPLE back in June 2018 where he shared the hilarious story of the time he tried to overachieve as a dad — and it all came crashing down on him.

After spending the day with his kids going bowling, to Dave & Buster's and to a petting zoo, Lucie and George became "violently ill," leading his wife Christina to joke, " 'Wow, I guess I can't leave anymore. I can't leave without coming home to this crime scene.' "

"So she, I think, would tell you that, that weekend, although my heart was in the right place, was a parenting fail, and that maybe at least I should have brought some germ wipes or something along for the day," Geist wrote.

"Lessons learned. Let's turn it into a positive. Let's bring the wife," he added. "Let's maybe not do bowling and the mozzarella sticks on the same day as the petting zoo and the Dave & Buster's. Maybe let's pick one of those."

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