Getting to Work: Joe Manganiello's Fitness Evolution

The athletic actor quit boozing, hit the gym hard and and is now reaping the rewards of his toil.


If you’ve seen my book, Evolution, you can see how skinny I was as a kid. I couldn’t do one pullup or one dip into high school, which has nothing to do with my athletic ability. It just had to do with my lack of any form of upper-body strength. I played football, basketball, and volleyball in high school. I had an MCL tear playing varsity football, returning a kickoff in a game. I tore it, and it gave me enough pause that I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to go play basketball in college. I was set to do that, and I was going to study criminal justice. But at the last minute in high school…we had a TV studio and you could take TV classes. And I started writing and directing and producing films and TV shows. And then starring in them. 

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I wound up trying out for the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. I think they took 17 actors out of 800 who auditioned from around the world, and I was one of them. And they gave me a scholarship to go to the school; I really got in at the last minute. But I think it set the table for the kind of career that I have now. The past few years have been kind of a reward for all of that weirdness or awkwardness. Because I get to be an artist and I get to be an athlete rolled into the same job.

The link between my acting and my fitness is an interesting thing. I think that I was doing great work for years. I’ve been acting for 22 years. I started in classical theater. I started doing Chekhov and Ibsen and Shakespeare. And I was in sitcom after sitcom after sitcom. I did some plays that were nominated for awards. But none of those were a break until the physicality melded with the acting in True Blood. People really took notice. I think I tried to get away with being the smoking, drinking artiste—you know, that romantic idea of the artiste—it just wasn’t me. I’m at my best when I can find a role that offers that type of physicality.

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