True Blood's Joe Manganiello opens up about life in Hollywood, growing up in Pittsburgh and what it's like to go to work in your birthday suit
by George Wayne
MY LIFE AT HOME IS ALL ABOUT…I get up at 7 every morning, grab an Impact protein bar and a couple of scoops of whey protein in water and then I meet my trainer Ron Matthews by 8 at a gym in West Hollywood called The Factory. He will work me out to the point where I want to throw up; it’s a brutal hour of pain. After that I stop by this mom-and-pop diner where I usually have an egg white omelet with peppers and feta cheese. After breakfast I go home, take a shower, and head to the set of True Blood. We shoot interiors at various stages in Hollywood, while the exterior shots you see are actually filmed in the woods in Malibu – like the scenes where my character is being transformed into the wolf. There is a real wolf on the set – my stand-in – and the wolf likes me. It’s important to get along with your wolf. I touch him – he’ll lick me and stuff – and sometimes even take him for walks. This coming season of True Blood is going to be my biggest one on the show: Will the wolf finally sleep with Sookie? Most of my scenes this season are shot with Anna Paquin who is Sookie on the show. She is just great to work with; I've been a huge fan since The Piano. She is very generous, and she makes my job very easy. She is really friendly, really cool, and really down-to-earth.
SUDDENLY YOU ARE BECOMING VERY FAMOUS…The most interesting thing is that fans got me on to the show. The fans of the books had blogs devoted to them, and started posting pictures of me saying I should play the role of the wolf. That was given to the casting director who called me in, and the rest is history. As far as the fame thing, as a kid from Pittsburgh, it makes me happy to know that the football players for the Pittsburgh Steelers love True Blood, so I have become good friends with many of them. I get to go on the field during their games, and that’s just the best.
THE BOURGEONING MOVIE CAREER...I'm in two films this summer. The first, What To Expect When You're Expecting, already opened. It’s a fun romantic comedy with a great cast. I play a guy who is the perpetual world-traveling photographer who always has some story or picture of his latest conquest, and these dads just think I'm the coolest guy in the world.
I got the role of Big Dick Richie in the Steven Soderbergh film, Magic Mike, after meeting with the casting director who works on all his films. She had no idea who I was. During the audition, she asked me if I was comfortable with partial nudity, and I am like, “Come on. I'm the poster boy for partial nudity.” Then she asked if I had ever played a character that was intimidating; I reminded her that I play a werewolf. The next day I got the part. Big Dick Richie is a male stripper in Tampa, Florida, and I have six dance routines. I trained with some of Britney Spears' choreographers for those sequences. Allison Faulk put together all these dance routines and they are hilarious. Male strippers usually wear thongs when they work, so there will be a lot of thong wearing in this movie. Soderbergh is really a genius. He is super quiet on the set but yet so precise. I call him the sniper; he sees things you could only imagine.
I don't mind at all that I will forever be stuck with the nickname ''Big Dick Richie.” That is one of the reasons why I took the part. And no, GW, I don't have to wax my ass before my nude scenes. I don't have any hair there. I don't even have any hair on my chest. I am Sicilian/Armenian so it really makes no sense – I should be hairier. I have become used to being almost naked on sets; it's become second nature. They threw me right into my first nude scene on True Blood. It was broad daylight and I was out in this field. There were school buses driving by on the other side of some bushes, and there I was naked in the middle of the day. That was nerve-wracking, to say the least, but now it's not a big deal at all.
MY YOUTH WAS SPENT…In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When I was a kid I didn't want to be an actor. I wanted to be a treasure hunter or a super spy. Growing up I was a big, athletic boy. I tapped out at 6'5'', and so it was expected that I would be an athlete, when in actuality I was this shy, sensitive kid. By the time I was in the final grade of high school, I was immersed in the theater. We would sneak cameras out of the Film Department at school and make mini-movies over the weekends. It was great; all my friends soon wanted to be in these movies, and from there I got a scholarship to the Drama School of Carnegie-Mellon. There I studied Classical Theater, and from there the move to LA. I got cast right away by Sam Mendes in Spider-Man, but filming didn't start for six months. I had to find another job to pay the rent, so my first job in Hollywood was as a bodyguard for the actor Tyreese. Yes! I was Tyreese's bodyguard, then a bouncer at a rock bar, and a doorman of an after-hours club. After Spider-Man, I didn't get any work in the business for the following four years. I had actually left the business completely disillusioned by 2005. I was shoveling gravel from the back of a dump truck in L.A. with a bunch of guys who didn't speak English. Something had to give for me to get back on track and that was my drinking, so I stopped drinking. I managed to land a part on this Tori Spelling TV show called So NoTORIous. That's how I got back into the business.
MY ADVICE ON FULFILLING YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY…Is to always remember that everything starts with gratitude. I wake up every day grateful and thankful because I love my life right now, and why shouldn't I? I get to sit here with you staring out at the ocean with the palm trees and that stiff breeze, as we sit on this incredible roof on the most private, posh-est property on Ocean Drive, the Villas By Barton G, or, as I call it, the Versace Villa – it’s like Gianni Versace's house. My Mum is here, you are here and it's just amazing. So it's all about never losing a sense of thanks and gratitude.
IF THERE IS ANYTHING ECCENTRIC ABOUT ME IT WOULD BE...I have the worst bedhead in the morning when I wake up. It is often standing straight up. Also my eyes are so bad I can't have Lasik surgery performed. I actually wear these big, thick, black glasses; you should see what I look like in the mornings.