LaMonica Garrett has often relied on physicality to add authenticity to his roles. As secret service agent Mike Ritter, in Designated Survivor, the chiseled Californian received secret service training in order to act the part of a man whose life was devoted to protecting the POTUS. In the DC universe, Garrett is also loved for his stirring presentation of “The Monitor” and the “Anti-Monitor,” a gig requiring him to wear heavy and constricting suits for long and taxing shoots.

Now, however, Garrett has faced the challenge of his career by playing Thomas, in the groundbreaking 1883 on Paramount+. Talking exclusively to M&F, the 46-year-old actor reflects on his fitness journey so far, and looks ahead to crushing it for many years to come.

“It was a lot easier to stay in shape back then, I know that much,” jokes Garrett, when reminded of his last Muscle & Fitness feature. “Maybe it’s the years or the opportunities, but I had to do less, now I have to do a little bit more. But, I guess, Father Time is undefeated, so that’s what that is.”

LaMonica Garrett still keeps a firm grip on his fitness

“I feel the older I get, if I let it go now, I’m not sure if it will come back,” says the actor. “Or, the over discipline [that I would need] to get it back. And with my work situation where my surroundings change all of the time my agent might say, ‘Hey, in two months you’re gonna have this job, so get ready.’ I could be on a plane headed to South Africa tomorrow, so I better be ready, so that I don’t have to get ready.”

For Garrett, staying ready and maintaining those defined abs means putting in the gym hours. “I do maybe four days per week,” he says. “It will be different each day. If I’m doing legs, I’ll do core. If I’m doing back, I’ll work my core another way. If I’m doing chest, I’ll do core another way, so just something with core every day, and diet. You know, abs, or most of it is nutrition in the kitchen, so I just have to modify the way I eat and it helps.”

Fasting for focus

“I won’t eat in the morning,” says the actor. “It’s harder when I’m working, when I’m on set for 12 hours, because you don’t know when you are going to eat again. When we were filming 1883, we would have breakfast, then we’d go eight hours without eating. So, if you don’t get it in early, you’re not gonna get it in, but if I’m not working, my first meal is at 12 p.m. (usually after completing a workout session) and I’ll have a big meal, then a light meal for dinner. And I won’t eat again after 8 p.m. I try to finish my day off with a grapefruit.” Grapefruits are low in calories and high in nutrients such as potassium, folate, and magnesium. Plus, they contain plenty of fiber, making them a great choice for anyone wishing to manage their calorie intake while still feeding the body with the vitamins and minerals required.

“When you tell yourself, you’re not gonna eat after a certain time, you don’t find yourself just walking into the kitchen to see what’s around,” says Garrett. “The energy level throughout the day is amazing, but toward the end of the night, you kind of dwindle down, because you’ve had a long day of working, and working out, you’re just tired, so I get to bed around 10 to 10.30 p.m. these days, that’s like two-and-a-half hours after my last meal. I wake up, and I might have a black coffee just to get the day going, energy wise, before a workout. But yeah, the energy is great throughout the day and the fog in the brain is gone because there’s focus there.”

LaMonica Garrett resting outdoors after his resistance band workout
Bobby Quillard

Staying mobile

“We would move around,” shares Garrett, talking of his experience with trying to stay fit during the making of 1883, a gritty drama set in the 19th century based on the lives of those who lived during the westward expansion of America. 95 percent of the project was filmed outside.

“Every two weeks we would be at a different ranch, a different part of Texas, or we would be in Montana,” says Garrett. “I don’t care too much about what my hotel room looks like, as long as there is a good gym really close by. With that being said, toward the end of the shoot, Tim McGraw has his gym that I was working out in. This big trailer with a 70-inch TV, a sauna, a cold plunge, all this great equipment so If I had to be in work at 6 a.m., I was in the gym at 4:30 a.m. And Tim … He’s a workout fanatic. When I got there at 4:30 a.m., he was already sweating from being there at 3:30,” laughs Garrett.

Being creative for maintenance

In addition to fellow cast member Tim McGraw’s mobile gym mecca, the show’s creator, Taylor Sheridan, also had a gym placed on set, but there were times when LaMonica Garrett had to be creative in order to fit in his workouts. The process of filming 1883 took six months, with six days of shooting per week. Due to the wild and woolly conditions of the great outdoors, hitting the gym between takes wasn’t always possible. “Some places didn’t have a gym at all, and I’d just go to the roof,” says Garrett. “With my [resistance] bands and by ab wheel, and a jump rope, and I’d workout just for maintenance.”

LaMonica Garrett pushes his fitness boundaries

Playing the role of Thomas in 1883 is Garrett’s proudest moment in acting to date, but it was also his most challenging proposition. Preparation for the project required the actor to participate in a ‘cowboy camp’ that included wagon training, and weapons practice. He was also given horse riding lessons, requiring him to work with horses for 6 hours at a time. “If you’re nervous, or uneasy, the horse senses that,” shares Garrett. “I was working my core, and my legs, and muscles that I didn’t even know I had!” On top of all that, the actor was also schooled in the art of roping cattle. The end result is an authentic portrayal of the skills required to survive in such unforgiving times, but most importantly this story seeks to set the record straight on the role that black people played during this important time in history.

“It is diversity, but a lot of it is history, telling actual history,” says Garrett, who will next star alongside Chris Pratt in Amazon Prime Video’s The Terminal List in a show required him to undertake intense Navy Seal training. “One in every four cowboys were black, and you wouldn’t know that by the representation from past television westerns. You see, in some of the comments sections on social media, they say, ‘I love the show and everything but I don’t know If I’m buying that there was a black cowboy back then.’ I’m like, ‘That’s what it was!’ There are real historical figures, black cowboys who are well-known architects of this country, that helped build this country and how the west was shaped. Now I hear that there are young black children looking up to Thomas, and they are like, ‘Wow I wanna go and ride a horse.’ We just need more of that.”

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