M&F: How much training did you have to do for your new movie, Pompeii?
AA: That’s all we did! I got up to Canada and (costar) Kit Harington had arrived maybe a week before me, and we had to go crazy for six weeks. I lost 35 pounds. It was insane. I would never advise it. I had a trainer, a nutritionist, and physical therapist.
What was the regimen like?
My day was an hour run in the morning, and then we’d get to the set and we’d do two hours of fight training. We’d take a break for an hour, and then we’d do an hour of weight training with a trainer. Then we’d take another break for an hour, and we’d review the training for half an hour, and then you’d go home and do another hour running. I did that for four weeks. I actually got sick doing it—it was cold, and I got a chest infection. But you just had to fight through it.
What was it like working with kit? (Harington also stars in Game of Thrones.)
He’s great. He’s 27, and he’s so focused and professional. I was like, “Man, if I had that attitude when I was that age, I’d be a billionaire by now.” He’s carrying the movie. The way he just gravitated toward responsibility was admirable.
Do you have an athletic background?
I run, I swim, and I cycle. I used to play soccer quite a bit in England where I grew up. I’d always been quite lean, but the size came in when I just started working out in the gym. And with the consistent training and working out over the years, the muscles just adapted. When I was doing Oz I was working out like a beast, because we had the gym on set and in between takes—it was boredom. It was like we were in prison for real, so we’d hit the weights. We tested one another with the reps, and it was great for the character because going straight out of the gym, you were pumped and you’d do the scene. Being a black guy that’s more than six feet, the industry will gravitate to you as a bad guy or a tough guy.
You’ve expressed a desire to play the comic book hero Black Panther. Are you going to get out of playing villains?
I love playing the bad-guy roles. They’re a lot of fun and there’s so much freedom in them: There are fewer moral boundaries. I think where the change in career really hap- pens is when you become the leading man, as opposed to the support character. Whether in an action movie or a rom-com, as the Black Panther or Luke Cage. I think the timing is more right than it’s ever been for a black superhero, and Marvel is leading the charge by putting so many African- Americans in the films. I think the time is right. For me, it would be lovely to take it to the next level.