Everything about Joe Manganiello is big—from his six-foot-five-inch stature to his boulder-size biceps and chiseled chest. So, too, is the title of his first fitness book: Evolution: The Cutting-Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building the Body You've Always Wanted. In it, the 36-year-old star provides a six-week, step-by-step program that got him into top werewolf form for True Blood (the actor shared elements of the workout with us back in 2011).
In addition to the exercise regime, Manganiello writes about the hurdles he overcame in his fitness journey. Surprise: He wasn't born with superior genes and was once bullied by classmates and coaches for having a waiflike build. It's hard to imagine, now that he's the kind of guy who bares it all in Magic Mike and in Off-Broadway plays (see his high-school photo, below).
Catching up with Details during a stop in Chicago for his national book tour, Manganiello described what motivated him to get ripped; the best advice he received from his mentor, Arnold Schwarzenegger; his grooming regimen; and why everyone on True Blood must die in the final season.
DETAILS: Throughout your book, you mention that you weren't born with superhuman genes and that you had to really work for your body. How did you overcome that?
JOE MANGANIELLO: People sit on the couch and point at the screen and say, "That guy had it easy." Or they say, "That guy rolled out of bed that way." They think that the people they see on the screen don't deserve it. I had to work every single day for all of the pictures I have today. For example, there's a "before" picture on Page 1 in my book. I wasn't blessed with the type of genetics to pack on muscle. It took me almost 15 years of training to put on any type of size. I think failing at an early age is what gave me the motivation. If I had people patting me on the back, telling me how great I was, I don't know if I would have gotten to where I am today.
DETAILS: What was the turning point for you to want to really change your body?
JOE MANGANIELLO: There were a few points. The big ones were those [basketball] coaches in the ninth grade. I led my team in rebounding, but instead of glowing comments at my year-end review, they were like, "You have to do this better. This is where you really need to work." I wanted a pat on the back, and I didn't get that. I took it to heart. It really pissed me off.
DETAILS: Your hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who you've worshipped since you were younger, became your costar in Sabotage and then your friend and mentor. How did that happen?
JOE MANGANIELLO: A really good friend got me a bracelet with this Japanese-sword metal. Arnold thought the bracelet was really cool. He asked to try it on and really liked it. I was like, "It's yours, just take it." A week later, Arnold showed up on set with a box and handed it to me. In it was a watch that he had designed based on the gauges in the Austrian tanks he used to drive in the army. After that, I'd show up to lunch on set and Arnold would push the other trays out of the way so I could sit next to him. It was like a high-school cafeteria. It was awesome. We hit it off right away.
DETAILS: He wrote the foreword to your book. Did you ask him to do that?
JOE MANGANIELLO: It was an incredible honor. I read that foreword now and I still can't believe that the person he's talking about is me. I told him I had an offer from Simon & Schuster to write about bodybuilding, and eventually he offered to write the foreword for me. You know, I go to his house for dinner and hang out. We smoke cigars. I look at all the achievements in his life, and there are parallels in the way we grew up. We definitely see eye to eye.
DETAILS: What's the greatest lesson you learned from him?
JOE MANGANIELLO: It's probably from just watching his example, which is, metaphorically, you fill your plate in life and then you pack on some more. He's had such a full life. He's always said yes to everything. People come up to me all the time and are like, "I have no time to work out." I'm like, "You don't have one hour to work out?" They say, "I'm too busy." I say, "Oh, really? A friend of mine happens to be the former governor of California, and he works out an hour a day. So you're busier than the governor of California?" There's no dress rehearsal. You only get one life. How fully do you want live it?
DETAILS: You're now a veteran of the red carpet. What's the best fashion tip you've ever received?
JOE MANGANIELLO: Keep it simple. Joan Rivers' fashion police? They basically critique what the women are wearing. For guys, you don't have to pile on anything. Just keep it minimal.
DETAILS: Do you have a go-to brand?
JOE MANGANIELLO: This past year, I had the huge honor of presenting the CNN Style Award to John Varvatos, my favorite designer in the world. He found out I was a fan of his and now dresses me for every event. From formal, casual, tuxedos, that guy nails it.
DETAILS: You're rarely seen without a beard—you're living Movember every single day of the year. What's your grooming regimen like?
JOE MANGANIELLO: Well, it's specific to the roles I take on. I'm doing A Streetcar Named Desire, and [Stanley] doesn't have a beard. It's 1947 and he has a job, so I shaved for that. Then I had to grow the beard back because I was filming for True Blood again. It just so happens that I have been playing Alcide for the past five years. In terms of my own grooming, I'm pretty lucky. From the neck down, I have almost no body hair. There's nothing I really have to do. I don't even shave my neck.
DETAILS: You were a fan of True Blood before you ever played Alcide. From a fan's standpoint, how would you want the show to end?
JOE MANGANIELLO: Hmm . . . I think everyone should die, except for Sookie. I think they should all be killed off—tragically, Shakespearean. A pile of bodies and Sookie. She can go back to being normal. No more vampires, no more supernaturals, everyone dies. And no more supernatural anything in any other TV show or movie.
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