RUGGED APPEAL. Actor Joe Manganiello transcends the werewolf genre. He does, however, play the werewolf Alcide Herveaux on the hit TV show True Blood and his popularity is rising very fast, with females the world over swooning over him. By M. Berlian
While he’s most famous as Alcide on True Blood, Joe Manganiello, originally from the rugged U.S. city of Pittsburgh has been plying his trade for over a decade in such hits as One Tree Hill (as Owen Morello), ER and two of the Spider-Man films, in which he portrays Flash Thompson. This coming May, you’ll see him in What to Expect When You’re Expecting working together with Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison and Dennis Quaid.
In June 2012, Manganiello will co-star in the Steven Soderbergh-directed Magic Mike, in which he portrays Big Dick Richie, a male stripper, alongside Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and Olivia Munn.
Overall, life is good for Joe Manganiello.
DA MAN: Who was your biggest influence while growing up that encouraged you to pursue a career where so many want to do it, but so many fail?
Joe Manganiello: There was a cascade of events that led to my pursuit. My mother took me to see a production of the Hobbit with puppets, as a kid, and I remember being absolutely enthralled but I didn’t want to be an actor until later in life. I remember vividly this sense in my gut that this was what I was supposed to do. I also had a high school theater teacher that saw something in me and kept bugging me to try out for the senior musical, and so I did and I got the part. That gut feeling then led me to try out for one of the toughest drama schools in the world and I ended up getting accepted with a scholarship. The moral: trust your gut.
DA MAN: As a youth, you also dabbled in filmmaking along with friends, does that fire still burn within you?
Joe Manganiello: Yes, I am currently developing several projects as a producer.
DA MAN: What experiences, positive or negative, have made you a stronger person?
Joe Manganiello: Quitting drinking and smoking have been the two biggest turning points of my entire life.
DA MAN: Do you have any regrets about pursuing a career in showbiz?
Joe Manganiello: None whatsoever. I love every single second of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
DA MAN: After finishing at Carnegie Mellon’s esteemed drama school, did you go straight into a project or did you have any of those ‘starving actor’ type jobs?
Joe Manganiello: I screen-tested alongside James Franco for my part in Spider-Man the week after I graduated from CMU and got the part. However, it didn’t start shooting for six months, so I paid the bills as a bodyguard for singer/actor Tyrese Gibson and as a bouncer at a Mexican rock bar and an afterhours club.
DA MAN: We’ve read that you turned to acting after a series of injuries prevented you from sports during your school days. What is it about acting that interested you at that time, as opposed to say, the band or chess club?
Joe Manganiello: Injuries didn’t stop me from pursuing sports. I could have gone on to the next level if I wanted to but the artistic side of me would have gone unfulfilled. Acting was the way in which my artistic nature surfaced in my late teens so I went with that… my heart was in it.
DA MAN: What was the biggest motivation for you to choose to pursue a career in showbiz?
Joe Manganiello: I grew up a misfit. I never fit in. I had all of these parts that were in direct conflict with each other. I was an athlete, but I was extremely artistic. I was a big strong kid who was also very sensitive and empathetic. I was a jock who was good at math and chess and loved to read … I didn’t know what group to hang out with in school until I started acting. When I did, I realized everyone was as weird and out of place as I was, and that I could combine all of those weird opposing characteristics together and create characters that made sense to me in my weird way. Acting was the only place that I ever felt like I belonged so went for it with everything I had.
DA MAN: Obviously, your experiences at Carnegie Mellon prepared you well, but what sorts of things do you now do to stay at the top of your game and keep pushing the envelope to hone your craft?
Joe Manganiello: CMU prepared me for just about anything that could possibly come my way. I studied every style and time period of performance in the history of Western culture and some Eastern as well. Now, it’s about getting out there and working with others at the top of their game. People like my cast-mates on True Blood, Alan Ball, Steven Soderbergh, Sam Raimi, etc.
DA MAN: Have you read all or some of Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries—the literary inspiration behind True Blood?
Joe Manganiello: I read each coinciding book before each season in an effort to get inside the writers’ heads. I wear the books like a loose jacket.
DA MAN: Do you discuss things much with creator Alan Ball? And is he open to input from you or the rest of the cast?
Joe Manganiello: I don’t tell daddy how to f*#k … Alan is a genius. I trust his judgment implicitly and I give everything I have to my job, which is playing Alcide. Alan and the writers give me the situation and what I’m going to say and then I put my stink on it.
DA MAN: Are there any special exercises or grooming rituals that you go through when preparing for your nude/shirtless scenes?
Joe Manganiello: I get in the gym and bust my ass. I don’t really have any body hair to groom … if that’s what you’re asking.
DA MAN: Do the producers require you to hit the gym or shape your body in certain ways, or is that something you just do for yourself and would do regardless?
Joe Manganiello: Nothing is required by the producers. The producers trusted me to create a look and a manner of behavior for both my character and for the entire race of werewolves. With that said, I am the type of person that does everything 150 percent. It’s just the way I am. The character is described in the books by Charlaine as looking a certain way and what you see is my interpretation of that. If I decided that the role didn’t require it, believe me, I’d be laying on the couch right now eating doughnuts and pizza. My part in the ensemble is of the giant, barrel-chested, boulder-armed, hot-blooded, protective, lumberjack-ish werewolf. He’s part man, part animal. In my mind, the more physically imposing I made him, the more his inner sensitivity was going to resonate with the viewers.
DA MAN: What do you think the future holds for the long-running True Blood? Do you think the public will continue to have an appetite for werewolves and vampires?
Joe Manganiello: I don’t consider True Blood a part of a fad. It’s a critically acclaimed show written and performed by critically acclaimed people on the best network that’s ever existed in television. The trick to it is that it’s a show about being human … it just uses super-powered creatures to make its point. That is what has made it a cultural phenomenon and is what will allow it to run as long as it wants to … or at least until the vampires all start to noticeably age.
DA MAN: Is there a fundamental difference in terms of acting acumen when it comes to playing a supernatural character as opposed to a character who’s a normal human being?
Joe Manganiello: There is an extra layer, yes. You have to play scenes in which two people fight, two people fall in love, fall out of love, murder each other… big, epic, high-concept scenes as well as ones with minute human emotional nuances—and, oh yeah, you’re a mythological monster… GO! It’s deceptively tricky but completely rock ‘n’ roll when it works.
DA MAN: You’re all set to appear in two star-studded movies this year (What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Magic Mike). Can you tell us about your character in each of those films?
Joe Manganiello: They were both offers, which you can chalk up to the popularity of True Blood. Both roles are comedic in nature. I met amazing people on both sets that I have stayed in contact with.
DA MAN: You’re going to appear in another TV show soon, White Collar. What is your role in that? Has shooting begun already?
Joe Manganiello: I shot White Collar last summer and I play a criminal opposite my drama school classmate at CMU, Matt Bomer, who I have known for 15 years.
DA MAN: You were in the Spider-Man movies. If you could pick one superhero to play, who would it be? And why?
Joe Manganiello: I’d love to play Batman or the Punisher or some government super-spy like James Bond.
DA MAN: We’ve heard that you are involved in some charity organizations, what can you tell us about those and what got you into that?
Joe Manganiello: I love kids and my heart goes out to those who are struggling with illness. I work with Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and the L.A.-based Art of Elysium and Claire’s Place Foundation.
DA MAN: You’ve appeared in a number of theater plays over the years. Are you hoping to get back to the theater in the future and do you have any favorite playwrights or plays that you’d like to work with/in?
Joe Manganiello: I’d love to play Stanley [Kowalski] in A Streetcar Named Desire again and I’m almost old enough for the great male roles in [Anton] Chekhov [plays] now. I absolutely love Shakespeare and would love to do a great [David] Mamet play again, to name a few.
DA MAN: You’ve been referred to as a sex symbol, is that something you embrace?
Joe Manganiello: It’s flattering, but it’s not really something I need to be concerned with. I’m glad people feel that way, obviously, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have to haul my ass to the gym every day and then get home and study. I put my pants on the same way I did when no one cared.
DA MAN: Does it cause any stress about always having to look cool off-camera when the paparazzi are following?
Joe Manganiello: As a man, if it takes me longer than five minutes to get out of the house, I’m doing something wrong.
DA MAN: Are you into fashion or fashionable clothes? If so, what do you like when it’s time to really step out?
Joe Manganiello: Luckily, the brands I like, like True Blood and I’ve made some amazing friends in the fashion world as a result. John Varvatos, G-Star Raw, Persol, Levi’s, Joseph Abboud…
DA MAN: Who inspires you now as an actor and/or who is your muse?
Joe Manganiello: I think the Viggo Mortensen-David Cronenberg collaborations of the past few years are exactly what I want to be doing. History of Violence and Eastern Promises are about as inspiring as it gets. It’s really more about directors for me, though. David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, James Cameron—those guys are doing amazing things and inspire me to do the best work I can.
DA MAN: It’s clear that for most actors, the career, especially early on, has lots of ebbs and flows, have you ever been at a really low ebb?
Joe Manganiello: Yes, I left acting for about four years and went into construction. I didn’t think I would ever act again and that period was both heartbreaking and completely necessary in the way that a cocoon is necessary for a worm.
DA MAN: You’ve also dabbled in the music industry, tell us about that?
Joe Manganiello: My best friends are music producers, DJs, lead singers … I love art and museums and music and culture. It’s always been a passion and a hobby. I was a roadie for my friend’s rock band Goldfinger and I’ve done some backup and spoken word on some friends’ albums over the years.
DA MAN: What do you do when it’s time to relax?
Joe Manganiello: Play video games and watch football on my giant TV.
DA MAN: Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Joe Manganiello: Howard Roark [main character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead] and The Old Man and the Sea.
DA MAN: Who are your heroes in real life?
Joe Manganiello: Anyone in the U.S. armed forces, fighting for the best interests of our country … and, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
DA MAN: What is it you most dislike?
Joe Manganiello: L.A. drivers … who are, in large part, mindless idiots.
DA: What is your present state of mind?
Joe Manganiello: Tired, from a long day on set and a tough workout. I’ve stayed up way later than my bedtime to finish [this interview] … time to sleep so I can wake up and meet my trainer early and start all over again.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Joshua Seth