Joe is strikingly tall, 6’5’’ with a wonderful smile and a ruggedly handsome look. We met at the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago and chatted about his new film, his character on “True Blood,” his film idles, director Steven Soderberg and more.
Sarah Adamson: My guest tonight is Joe Manganiello of the new movie “Magic Mike.” Welcome to Hollywood 360.
SA: Most people would know you from your work as a werewolf on the series “True Blood.” Can you tell us a little about your character Alcide Herveaux and how you became a regular?
Joe Manganiello: He’s really a deconstruction of a werewolf. He’s this big, strong, protective, animalistic monster who is very shy and sensitive on the inside. The character on the show is really an exploration or the discovery of that shy, sensitive, reclusive guy as he turns into the wolf. He kind of embodies it and owns it.
SA: Unlike some characters on the show, you are going to be staying on. You’re asked to be a permanent member.
JM: They haven’t killed me yet!
SA: Yes, because they have too many people killed on that show (laughs)!
JM: Yes, they do (laughs)!
SA: I’d like to congratulate you, again, on your work in “Magic Mike” as I thought it was thoroughly entertaining and simply lots of fun. You play an exotic dancer known for your fireman costume. Did you have fun playing that character?
JM: Yeah, I play a male stripper. I had more fun than I think I’ve ever had in my entire life working on this movie. There is always that thing of don’t bring your work home with you…you want to leave it on set. There was no way I was going to leave it all on set. I think I’ll probably be carrying around a bit of this character for the rest of my life, hopefully.
SA: That’s awesome. The fireman costume, was it a part of the original script?
JM: Yes, actually, a good friend of mine was a male stripper during the 90s at a club called LaBare down in Dallas and he was the originator of the fireman routine. I had some talks with him about how to do it and how to play it. That moment where he picks the girl up (laughs). That was in the original script.
SA: Oh yeah! I noticed that part, Joe (laughs). That was great!
JM: Thanks (laughs).
SA: How was it to be directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh?
JM: A dream come true. I’m a huge fan of his. His body of work is just so insane and so diverse. The diversity of his body of work speaks of his intelligence. He also has…it might be my favorite Soderbergh movie, which is, “Out of Sight.” I’m a big Elmore Leonard fan and so often people would just ruin Elmore Leonard if it’s in the wrong hands. Steven is that great combination of smart and savvy but also wickedly funny. I think this movie reflects that. It was just incredibly fulfilling and just such a fun experience.
SA: That’s wonderful. I agree. I think this movie could have totally gone another way if it hadn’t been for the directing and your acting, of course.
JM: I think a lot of it was casting. They just put together this great group of guys and for whatever reason we just really gelled.
SA: What drew you to acting?
JM: Well, I was always an artistic kid. I was always empathic and sensitive growing up. I would paint and draw all daylong, everyday and write these stories of these characters. I was also born in western Pennsylvania into a very large physical frame, which, well, you play sports. I loved sports. I played sports year round up into high school. My high school had a TV studio and I’d take the cameras out on the weekends and I would sachiate my artistic side that I had really put down for the better part of a decade to concentrate more on sports. It was sort of a resurfacing. I had been injured several times. I tore an ligament in my knee, came back, broke my elbow, came back and broke my finger during volleyball season. There was a series of injuries that sort of serendipitously kept me out of getting in a groove athletically toward the end of high school. Around that time, the buddies I made those movies with were like, “Dude you should do this. You should act. You should be an actor.” I went, “Get out of here!” I took an acting class and the teachers in high school begged me to try out for the musical. I did and then I wound up getting a scholarship to Carnegie Mellon to study classical theater, which kind of just blew me away. I didn’t picture that happening and it was such a bizarre long shot. I really had to ignore the life that was planned out for me in order to do that. Looking back, it seems crazy to me that I would trust my gut at that age but I did and here we are.
SA: I always enjoy hearing the beginnings.
JM: I’m like Billy Elliot except I’m a giant.
SA: How tall are you?
JM: Six foot five.
SA: To me, it seems like you guys don’t take yourselves too seriously. You were just having fun with it. What’s your take on that?
JM: None of those guys took themselves seriously (laughs). We were all those guys who showed up on time and worked really hard. We just happened to be those guys. There was no diva. But, I also think it is difficult to be a diva in a group of seven alpha males who are all lifting weights and showing up on time. It was a great, fun atmosphere. There is no such thing as male objectification. It just doesn’t exist for us. We don’t care. There is no societal pressure on us in that way. It’s also really hard to take yourself seriously when you have an American flag thong cracked up your butt with a strategically placed sparkler. Try taking yourself seriously in that moment.
SA: It was really well choreographed though. You really had to learn some dance moves.
JA: Well, our choreography team, they’re used to choreographing Britney Spears and Madonna on tour so this was like nothing for them. They were hysterically funny as well. They just had a huge sense of humor about it all. I think that really comes through in the fun of the movie.
SA: The film “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was also lots of fun. There are several comedians involved with that film, Chris Rock and Thomas Lennon to name a few. Can you talk about any comical memories from working on that film?
JM: Yeah, These were all guys… I mean I’ve been a huge fan of Chris Rock since high school or even junior high. I can quote everything he’s done. So, again to hang out with him was awesome. Thomas Lennon, I’m a huge fan. Going back to “The State” and “Reno 911.” Getting to work with those guys was pretty great.
SA: Thomas Lennon is actually a friend of Carl Amari, our producer!
JM: I love Thomas. He and I just got along famously.
SA: What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
JM: Get training. I was raised knowing, if you are doing to do it, do it right. I get to work on fun projects like the male stripper movie. I get to be the werewolf. I get to be in Spiderman and these are with wickedly, wickedly intelligent people. Steven Soderbergh, he is very smart. He knows his stuff. He knows the history and he knows where it comes from. Alan Ball, same thing. I would say, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Have respect for the craft and understand that the art of acting is thousands of years old not a hundred years old like filmmaking. All of these stories are based on stories that were written by people two thousand years ago and for the most part they haven’t changed.
SA: Could you give us a short list of actors you admire?
JM: Viggo Mortensen is fantastic. His stuff, the Chronenberg movies that he’s done in recent years…“Eastern Promises” and well, “The Road” (not a Chronenberg movie) is another one. I watch his movies and they are scary. He makes scary choices. That is something that intrigues me. It adds another level. I like the adrenaline aspect of it. He’s not scared to be ugly. Gary Oldman is one of the reasons I became an actor. Growing up in the 90s, it was like, you know, “True Romance,” “Beethoven” and “Dracula”. He was it for me. Those two guys being big ones other than [Marlon] Brando and [James] Dean, of course.
SA: Joe, I want to thank you for chatting with me!
Sarah Knight Adamson© June 18, 2012