You train in L.A. with Eric Fleishman, aka “Eric the Trainer.” What’s your goal in the gym?

It’s sort of Eric’s motto that from the lower chest up you want to look like you weigh 195, and from the lower chest down you want to look like you weigh 165. [Dohring is 6’1″ and currently weighs around 173 pounds.] So everything we do is geared toward that look—the old bodybuilder style where aesthetics were included and it wasn’t just about being a big hulking mass.

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Like Brad Pitt in Fight Club? 

Yeah, for sure. When you talk about Fight Club, why do people respond to Brad Pitt? Is it because he was lean? No—you can be lean and not create that same effect on people. You can be big and not create that same effect, and you can be big and lean and not create that effect. When everything’s in proportion and the lines flow right, it’s something special. For me, I don’t want to be just a hulking man. I want to have propor- tion and look aesthetically pleasing.

As an actor, is there a certain look you’re going for to get the leading roles you want?

Yeah. The way Eric talks about it is, you always want to be able to go up or down 20 pounds. It’s all an illusion. It’s about, how big can I get my upper back and shoulders in relation to a small waist? People equate that with being in shape. You can look like you’re 200 pounds, but if you adjust your diet and do more body-weight exercises, you can look like a prisoner of war if you have to. At the same time, you can go heavier in the gym to come up if you want to go that way.

As an actor, you want to be right on the edge where you can go either way at any time, be- cause you never know what role you’re going to get. In Hollywood, the days are gone when you had six months to get in shape for a role. You’ve got to be ready at all times and able to adjust. You need to be only three weeks away from the way you want to look.

Your character in Veronica Mars, Logan Echolls, has a dark side—he’s a suspected murderer. Does that type of role change your approach in the gym?

Yeah, I got to play the most badass character in the cast. And when you play someone like that, you always need to look like you’re capable of throwing a punch.

Anyone can be big, but you have to be able to portray the personality of a guy who can snap at any second.

Coming from sunny Southern California and private school, I had to work my ass off to get that ability. And it’s a good thing I did, because I always wind up playing the serial killer and those kinds of roles.