Not-so-av­er­age Joe: Ac­tor and cover star Joe Man­ganiello talks fit­ness, mar­riage, and how he re­ally feels about be­ing shirt­less on screen.

Lauded as one of the sex­i­est men on the planet, ac­tor Joe Man­ganiello re­turns to the screen with a new role that high­lights his best fea­ture: pure tal­ent.

Ocean Drive - - Contents - by JARED SHAPIRO pho­tog­ra­phy by JOHN RUSSO

“WHAT ARE YOU WEAR­ING?” It’s the ques­tion that celebri­ties prob­a­bly loathe more than any on the red car­pet—the triv­i­al­ity of nam­ing the brands they’re sport­ing as they en­ter a party or pre­miere. But no one loves that ques­tion more than Joe Man­ganiello, I would sus­pect. He’s just happy to be wear­ing any­thing. After al­most two decades in Hol­ly­wood—and de­spite the fact that he is a clas­si­cally trained ac­tor from Carnegie Mel­lon with many years’ worth of theater ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt, as well as an au­thor, phi­lan­thropist, and avowed book­worm—what Man­ganiello is most rec­og­nized for are pecs and abs. Shirt­less—that’s how Hol­ly­wood has al­ways cat­e­go­rized him: sweaty and barech­ested in block­busters like Magic Mike, ag­gres­sive and dan­ger­ous in five sea­sons on True Blood. Even his lat­est role, voic­ing Hefty in the an­i­mated film Smurfs: The Lost Vil­lage, comes shirt­less (though in Man­ganiello’s de­fense, Smurfs typ­i­cally don’t wear shirts). But that’s a thing of the past. In up­com­ing roles in the highly an­tic­i­pated The Bat­man (as the vil­lain Death­stroke, op­po­site Ben Af­fleck), his own in­de­pen­dently pro­duced Stano, and Ram­page (in which he stars with Dwayne John­son), Man­ganiello is fully clothed, show­ing his act­ing chops only. He’s also fully clothed on our cover, as he re­turns to South Florida, where he wed his wife, ac­tress Sofia Ver­gara, at the Break­ers Palm Beach.

You just turned 40. How does that feel?

It’s great! Forty is like the new 25. I feel bet­ter phys­i­cally than I did in my 30s and def­i­nitely in my 20s. I’m not prone to make the same mis­takes that I made in my 20s. I’m a lit­tle smarter and def­i­nitely have more money in the bank. Get­ting older has its ben­e­fits. How do you main­tain your physique and health? Prob­a­bly right around True Blood and Magic Mike—that

chap­ter of my ca­reer where I had a lot of these phys­i­cal roles—was a great ex­cuse for me to see how healthy I could get. And what a dif­fer­ence it made. Head­ing into my 40s, I re­ally thought, I’m go­ing to be 40 in a cou­ple of years; I

should make sure that these years are healthy and I’m push­ing as hard as I can. Be­cause, for ex­am­ple, the trainer that I’ve had for the past seven or eight years [Ron Mathews] be­came the world’s fittest man over 45, and so I looked at him as a model for me. How ripped were you be­fore Magic Mike and True Blood?

I’ve worked in film and tele­vi­sion since I got out of school, start­ing with Spi­der-man [2002], and built for that. What dic­tated my get­ting into the kind of shape I was in for True Blood and Magic Mike was rec­og­niz­ing that it’s work. If you’re go­ing to play a char­ac­ter that’s de­scribed in the novel as be­ing built [as in True Blood], then you’re kind of lazy if you don’t do that. And in Magic Mike, if you don’t look like you’re in the best shape of your life, what are you re­ally do­ing? Do you want to be an ac­tor? Do you want to be suc­cess­ful? Do you want to make money? Do you want to have a ca­reer?

The Spi­der-man role as Flash Thomp­son hap­pened pretty fast. I screen-tested for Spi­der-man the week that I got out of Carnegie Mel­lon. It was very quick. I was a 40-year-old man trapped in a 23-year-old’s body at that time.

Did you worry about mak­ing it in Hol­ly­wood? To­tally. Hol­ly­wood’s a re­ally tough busi­ness. Even when it seems easy—like for ex­am­ple, Spi­der-man. I met Sam Raimi [the di­rec­tor] and im­me­di­ately screen-tested. That was in June. They didn’t call me back un­til Novem­ber to say that I got the part. Everyone [in Hol­ly­wood] knew I was shoot­ing the movie: It was this un­be­liev­able cou­ple of weeks for me, and everyone was throw­ing par­ties and I was in­vited to every­thing. And then two weeks later, my room­mate came home and said that her friend au­di­tioned for my role. I called my agent, and as it turns out, the old head of Sony didn’t think I was right for the part. Be­cause I wasn’t blond-haired like the char­ac­ter was in the comic books. And they started, un­be­knownst to me, see­ing other peo­ple. And that went on for a month and a half, and it al­most broke me. Then on Christ­mas Eve, my agent called and said, “Con­grat­u­la­tions! They didn’t find any­one else. You got the role back.” And I just gave an un­en­thu­si­as­tic “Great.” That was my first job, and with it came a re­ally tough meal to digest, which was the fact that Hol­ly­wood gives you [a role] and they can just take it right back. Un­der the sur­face was this un­be­liev­able dis­ap­point­ment that the rest of the pub­lic doesn’t see. They don’t un­der­stand that I went through the worst roller-coaster ride of my en­tire life.

Did you worry after Magic Mike about be­ing type­cast? I re­mem­ber when I got the first script for Magic Mike, I was work­ing with Chris Rock and I kind of put my head in my hands, and Chris said, “What’s up?” I told him, “I got this script to read, this of­fer, this movie. It’s about male strip­pers.” And he kind of made a face like “Mmm” and said, “Well, who’s di­rect­ing it?” I told him it was Steven Soder­bergh, and he said, “You’ve gotta do that movie.” My re­sponse was: “I know, but I have my shirt off a lot on True Blood, and now I’ll have my shirt off in this movie. I’m wor­ried that peo­ple aren’t go­ing to be able to see past that and ac­tu­ally look at the work.” And he said, “Look, man, Brad Pitt had his shirt off for 15 years; he’s do­ing just fine.” Look, True Blood was my big break, but when you do A Street­car Named De­sire at Yale [Reper­tory Theatre] and the first half of the re­view talks about your physique, it’s like, Je­sus Christ, you know I can act, right?

Does it frus­trate you that the me­dia seems to al­ways fo­cus on that?

It is what it is. I think the vast ma­jor­ity of writ­ers ask me ques­tions about the work, but they don’t care about the work. It’s the physique ques­tions or the re­la­tion­ship ques­tions that wind up be­com­ing the click­bait that kind of cov­ers up the pro­ject that I’m in.

Speaking of which, it must have been nice to get a call for a movie where they don’t care about your physique.

It’s the Smurfs! It’s a cute movie about lit­tle blue peo­ple who go on ad­ven­tures. It’s go­ing to be fun. But once again the press is like, “So your Smurf has his shirt off?” Every Smurf has his shirt off—they all do!

If they asked you to do an­other Magic Mike…

I’ll do it in, like, 20 years, when we’re all in an old-age home. I hope I’m in that kind of shape in 20 years! Fin­gers crossed.

“That chap­ter of my ca­reer where I had a lot of these phys­i­cal roles was a great ex­cuse for me to see how healthy I could get. And what a dif­fer­ence it made.”

I’ve spent about a year and a half say­ing no to all that stuff, and I lit­er­ally said no to every­thing that came my way. It’s not in­ter­est­ing to me. If it’s funny, I’ll do it. But I can’t even tell you how many su­per­hero or su­pervil­lain roles along the way were not right for me. You know, be­cause I didn’t want to cash my chips in. I wanted to get the one that was the right one, that had the right legs, that was go­ing to be di­rected or writ­ten by the right per­son. That was go­ing to tell a great story. I fi­nally wound up with some­thing that I thought was in­ter­est­ing in [Death­stroke].

How do you let loose?

I’m an avid reader, so I’m al­ways reading some­thing. I love just hang­ing out with my wife. We just have a great time to­gether—we’re great, we just laugh all day long. If I had my choice, it would be just jump­ing in the car with my wife and tak­ing a week­end trip some­where.

You got mar­ried here in West Palm Beach—why?

You know, the mar­riage is for both of you, but the wed­ding is for the wife. She wanted to get mar­ried here, at the Break­ers, which is such an un­be­liev­able ho­tel. It’s like a Euro­pean cas­tle on the beach in Florida—it is in­sane. She ex­pressed that’s where she al­ways wanted to get mar­ried, so we flew out and checked it out and it seemed amaz­ing. And that was it. There are cer­tain things you choose your bat­tles for, and when it comes to the wed­ding, I rec­om­mend every guy out there just do what she wants. My wife was def­i­nitely right: It was amaz­ing, the most in­cred­i­ble week­end of my life. It was un­be­liev­able.

As a clas­si­cally trained ac­tor, you’re trained to be in front of the cam­era, but did you ever ex­pect you’d be part of an A-list cou­ple in the lime­light?

No, I just mar­ried the girl that I love. That was it. I re­ally do be­lieve that we were put on the planet to be with each other. From the first date, it was just like wow! It was so easy in all the ways that you want it to be easy and chal­leng­ing in all of the most fun ways pos­si­ble. So I knew right away and that was it. I was never part of a celebrity cou­ple be­fore this, be­cause I never wanted to go through the dif­fi­culty that can bring in terms of pa­parazzi and at­ten­tion. Those peo­ple want to in­ter­fere with your seren­ity; they want to in­ter­fere with your re­la­tion­ship. They want to write things that hope­fully will in­sti­gate trou­ble in your re­la­tion­ship so they can sell mag­a­zines or get clicks. And it’s a re­ally in­sid­i­ous side of the busi­ness, as I’ve found out. The two of us knew that once it be­came pub­lic that we were to­gether—and we had con­ver­sa­tions about how that would change a lot of things, and she is the only woman on the planet that I was will­ing to go through all of that for. Be­cause she’s the greatest. And all that pres­sure has just brought us closer to­gether. It’s not some­thing that we wel­come into our lives. We try to stay pri­vate. At the end of the day, it’s re­ally no­body else’s busi­ness but ours. It’s just that I love her and she loves me and here we are. And there is a price for that, when liv­ing in the pub­lic eye.

Mov­ing for­ward, what is a role or a pro­ject that you re­ally want?

I’d love to get back up on stage. Maybe some­thing on Broad­way. I haven’t done Shake­speare in a while. I’m cer­tainly get­ting old enough to start do­ing Chekhov roles prop­erly. I love the process of theater; I love ta­ble work. I love work­ing for three weeks to a month be­fore you put some­thing up, then you in­vite an au­di­ence in.

What char­ity are you in­volved in?

I’m on the board of trustees for Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal of Pitts­burgh (chp.edu), and I’m headed there soon to bring the Smurfs to the hospi­tal for the kids, and Sony has been kind enough to let me screen the movie for the kids who can’t go to the theater. We’re go­ing to have a big fundraiser. I love those kids in the hospi­tal, man. Watch­ing kids fight what they’re fight­ing through just makes your heart swell. You want to do ab­so­lutely every­thing you can to make their fight a lit­tle bit eas­ier.

What do you love about Mi­ami?

I usu­ally visit at least once a year. I love Mi­ami. If I had my way, or if I could live any­where, it would be Mi­ami, 100 per­cent. Or some­where in South­ern Florida. I like that hu­mid­ity, the cul­ture, the Cuban cof­fee, the ci­gars. So maybe one day I’ll wind up re­tir­ing here.

“Hol­ly­wood gives you [a role] and they can just take it right back. Un­der the sur­face was this un­be­liev­able dis­ap­point­ment the rest of the pub­lic doesn’t see.”

T-shirt, COS ($19). Mi­ami De­sign District, 3915 NE First Ave., 786-857-5923; cos­stores.com. Pants, Bot­tega Veneta ($650). Bal Har­bour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-8646247; bot­te­gaveneta.com.

High-tops, Con­verse

($95). Nike, 1035 Lin­coln Road, Mi­ami Beach, 305-674-0156; nike.com

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