Un­lock beast mode with Hol­ly­wood star Joe Man­ganiello

True Blood ac­tor Joe Man­ganiello is the guy who wrote the book (lit­er­ally) on go­ing from a scrawny weak­ling to a ripped 104kg mon­ster. He tells MF how trans­form­ing his body has helped make his ca­reer

Men's Fitness - - Contents - Words Jes­sica Shaw Photography Peter Yang

Joe Man­ganiello, wear­ing faded jeans, a well­worn navy T-shirt, and a base­ball cap pulled down low over his stub­bled face, is do­ing his best to look mor­tal. But at al­most 2m tall – all mus­cle and right an­gles – he couldn’t be any more con­spic­u­ous on LA’s Mel­rose Av­enue if he were wear­ing a cape and flu­o­res­cent Ly­cra. So it’s no sur­prise when some­one stops him in his tracks. He ap­pears to be a fan, ask­ing, ‘What have you been up to re­cently?’ Man­ganiello proudly tells him he’s leav­ing the fol­low­ing morn­ing to shoot Magic Mike XXL, the se­quel to Stephen Soder­bergh’s crit­i­cally and com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful 2012 movie set in the seedy world of male strip­pers, in which he starred along­side Chan­ning Ta­tum and Matthew McConaughey.

The man, how­ever, isn’t im­pressed. ‘When are you go­ing to do some­thing else?’ he sniffs, im­ply­ing that Man­ganiello is squandering his tal­ents on such fe­male-friendly fare, then walks away, leav­ing be­hind a tan­gi­ble whiff of dis­ap­proval. ‘What did he want?’ Man­ganiello asks later, in­cred­u­lous. ‘Come on, dude! I haven’t slept in months I’ve been work­ing so hard on so many projects!’


It’s not the first time the 38-year-old has been writ­ten off as a wavy-haired pretty boy who’s more mus­cle than sub­stance. Man­ganiello’s first high-pro­file role, as were­wolf Al­cide Herveaux on HBO’s su­per­nat­u­ral drama True Blood, re­quired fre­quent top­less­ness – and he cap­tured the at­ten­tion of mil­lions of women (and quite a few men) in his thong and chaps as Big Dick Richie in Magic Mike, while his part as a DEA foot­sol­dier in a sleeve­less shirt nick­named ‘Grinder’ in last year’s Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger ac­tion-fest Sab­o­tage didn’t do much to change his im­age.

Though it’s done won­ders for his ca­reer, Man­ganiello doesn’t take this im­age se­ri­ously. ‘I’ve been on this in­ter­est­ing track, es­pe­cially for some­one who’s such a dude’s dude,’ he says later that af­ter­noon, rest­ing his bare feet on a ta­ble in the back yard of his Hol­ly­wood Hills house. ‘I’m this gun-shoot­ing, foot­ball­watch­ing, WWE-wrestling dude. All my friends are guys. But other dudes are like, “Fuck that guy. You’re just the fuck­ing guy on those fuck­ing mag­a­zines that my girl­friend has”.’

It’s tempt­ing to won­der if those other dudes would have their feel­ings less­ened or in­ten­si­fied by the fact that Man­ganiello has been dat­ing Sofía Ver­gara, the cur­va­ceous Colom­bian star of TV’s Mod­ern Fam­ily, since mid-2014. The two met at the White House, Man­ganiello ex­plains, while show­ing off a let­ter from Barack Obama, who re­ceived a copy of Man­ganiello’s body­build­ing book, Evo­lu­tion, which has a fore­word by Sch­warzeneg­ger.

‘Thank you for your kind gift,’ it reads on of­fi­cial let­ter­head. So the pres­i­dent is some­how re­spon­si­ble for the re­la­tion­ship? ‘I ain’t giv­ing that guy credit for any of it,’ he says. It’s not as

much a dis­missal of Obama as a tes­ta­ment to how Man­ganiello got the girl all on his own, thank you very much.

‘Ask any­one, “Why’d you be­come an ac­tor? Why do you make money? Why’d you be­come a rock star?” It’s to get ac­cess to a dat­ing pool,’ he says. ‘You work hard to get to go out with who you want.’ The way Man­ganiello talks about Ver­gara, how­ever, shows he’s se­ri­ous. ‘Some­times you can find some­one who’s in­cred­i­bly real who’s in a po­si­tion that, at first glance, you wouldn’t think they’d be in,’ he says. ‘It’s taken me a while, but I’m in a good place.’


He may be in a good place now but Man­ganiello’s rise to star­dom hasn’t ex­actly been smooth. Cast as Flash Thomp­son in Sam Raimi’s 2002 movie Spi­der-Man – fea­tur­ing in the mem­o­rable school-hall fight scene where Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker first demon­strates his pow­ers – Man­ganiello thought his ca­reer was about to take off. How­ever, the film didn’t raise his pro­file as ex­pected and he went off the rails, drink­ing a bot­tle of whisky and smok­ing two packs of cig­a­rettes a day.

While he’s not quick to re­live those days, he also doesn’t shy away from dis­cussing them. ‘I haven’t got­ten any­where by hid­ing any­thing,’ he says. ‘If I said to some­one, “How come you didn’t act for four years?” and there was no an­swer, I’d go, “Uh, OK, dude. I don’t want to work with you be­cause you’re shady and weird”.’

He doesn’t elab­o­rate on the specifics of get­ting sober, though he’ll ad­mit he went through the steps of apol­o­gis­ing to those he’d hurt and re­pay­ing old debts.

So­bri­ety had fur­ther benefits, in­clud­ing slews of of­fers for small TV parts. He showed his comic tal­ent in How I Met

Your Mother and brooded in the teen drama One Tree Hill. But it wasn’t un­til he played the were­wolf pack leader Al­cide in

True Blood that fans went ra­bid. While grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity and the re­wards, Man­ganiello is in­sis­tent that such eye-candy roles are not what he’s fun­da­men­tally about. ‘I did what I had to do to play the game,’ he says of his ef­forts to get into peak con­di­tion for the part. ‘Be­cause if you get the role as the new naked guy on the naked show, well, what are you go­ing to do all day? You’re go­ing to get in the best shape of your life.’

Man­ganiello’s jour­ney is chron­i­cled bar­bell by bar­bell in Evo­lu­tion, which traces his trans­for­ma­tion from a scrawny 70kg into the chis­elled 104kg mus­cle­man he is to­day. Af­ter win­ning the role, he hired Ron Mathews, best known for get­ting Hugh Jackman into Wolver­ine form, and started bulk­ing up with what they called the Were­wolf Work­out. Count­less bench jump-overs, plyo press-ups and goblet squats later, Man­ganiello was ready for ac­tion.

‘On True Blood I had a lot to prove and a lot of ground to gain back from years I didn’t work,’ he says. ‘I told my­self I wasn’t go­ing to look back and think I made one mis­step.’


Th­ese days Man­ganiello has a lit­tle less to prove, with a big­ger role in Magic Mike XXL – he de­scribes the se­quel as ‘Ani- mal House on the road’ – for which he’s break­ing out the thong and the pecs again.

‘I stayed in pretty good shape this year by just work­ing out con­sis­tently – there was never a feel­ing of, “Oh, now I gotta buckle down”,’ he says. ‘This year I’ve been work­ing on ing my­self men­tally. When I’m tired and my arms hurt, I’m jump­ing on the pull-up bar any­way.’ His 60-minute daily rou-rou­tine with his trainer takes in squat racks, Olympic bar­bells and bumper plates. (For de­tails of Man­ganiello’s pun­ish­ing up­per-body work­out, turn to p68.) ‘I made a con­scious ef­fort to force my­self to re­cover quicker,’ he says. ‘The work­outs I do are so nasty, aw­ful. I get in there for an hour, work re­ally fuck­ing hard, and get out.’

But don’t ever as­sume he’s a meat­head. Man­ganiello saysays he’s still the same drama school stu­dent who spends weeks re­search­ing a role in li­braries or on­line. On the set of Sab­o­tage, Sch­warzeneg­ger says he found that Man­ganiello works as hard as any­one in the in­dus­try. ‘I re­ally got to know him when we re­hearsed. We all trained very care­fully for a month be­fore the movie, and whenen you do that you get to know the peo­ple very well, very quickly. You see who’s thehe lazy bas­tard and who goes all out. Joe goes all out.’

Col­lege buddy and Magic Mike XXL co-star Matt Bomer agrees. ‘He has an en­vi­able amount of courage and self-con­fi­dence, but not in an ego­tis­ti­cal way. Watch­ing him on set has made the job eas­ier for me. I just have to do what he does, which is not be scared to throw my­self into it.’

What­ever he does next, he’s wary of the on­slaught of en­dorse­ment of­fers that tend to come his way thanks to his suc-uc­cess and his im­age. Most re­cently hehe re­fused to shill for a new ‘ weight-loss’ cream. ‘ I’m not go­ing to be the face of some snake oil that I’d never use,’ he says. ‘And you know what makes you lose weight? Ex­er­cise.’ That said, he’s open to launch­ing his own sup­ple­ment line if it matches his mes­sage, which is that youou have to be dis­ci­plined and not try to cheat the sys­tem. ‘There’s noth­ing wrongng with a ni­tro­gen re­leaser,’ he says, ‘or try­ing to find low-sugar, high-pro­tein, healthy snacks.’


A cou­ple of years away from 40 and with­ith his dark days long be­hind him, he’s at ease in his skinn – re­laxed enough to have lob­ster mac-and-cheese on a night­ight out with Ver­gara, but driven enough to know he doesn’t haveave to give up on his body as he ages. ‘What you can do with yourour body needs to be rethought,’ he says. ‘You can stay crazy fit at 50 and be­yond. I don’t plan on ever touch­ing steroids or growth hor­mones. I plan on age­ing nat­u­rally and see­ing whathat that looks like.’

Don’t think he can pull it off? That’s fine – as his most cele-le­brated co-star once told him, be­ing un­der­es­ti­mated is one ofof the best things on Earth. ‘Let peo­ple think you’ve got­ten thi­sis far only be­cause of your looks,’ Sch­warzeneg­ger says. ‘Letet peo­ple ex­pect you to live off the hunk stuff. Ev­ery time youou do a movie or a TV show, they’ll be blown away.’

Man­ganiello is proof that a weedy kid can be­come a ripped, Ver­gara-dat­ing star

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