Interview: Joe Manganiello

Joe Manganiello is best known for his role as Alcide on the hit TV series True Blood, which was based on bestselling author Charlaine Harris’ book series, The Southern Vampire Mysteries. Find out what life after True Blood has in store for Manganiello, as he chats about his role as Joe “Grinder” Phillips in Sabotage, out now on DVD.

What were some of the elements that attracted you to this project?

Working with David Ayer who I’d been a fan of for years and having access to and being trained by federal and local law enforcement agents. Federal law enforcement was what it looked like I was going to do with my life before I started acting. The other big draw for me was working with my childhood idol, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Your character, Grinder, is a member of an elite DEA task force. What kind of research or physical/weapons training did you do for the role?

I trained for about four months on the range with live rounds. shotguns, handguns, and fully automatic weapon systems. I trained in mixed martial arts stand up and ground fighting. I observed law enforcement officers in the field and had class room sessions with them as well. I also put on about 20 pounds of muscle physically to resemble an undercover biker.

What was it like wearing your hair in corn rows and were you comfortable rocking that look off-set?

It was borrowed from reality. One of the undercover officers I worked with had cornrows at one point in his career. People definitely treat you differently when you’re 6’5” 250lbs and are covered in tattoos from the neck down with cornrows in your hair.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays your team leader, “Breacher.” What was it like working with him and did he assume a leadership role on set?

We all referred to Arnold as “boss.” He exudes a legendary amount of charisma and presence when he enters a room. You can’t help but treat the man with respect. On a personal level, he is one of the most generous, funny, and intelligent people I’ve ever met.

You and your other DEA team members, including Sam Worthington (“Avatar”), Josh Holloway (“Lost”), Terrence Howard (“Iron Man”) and Mireille Enos (“World War Z”), look like you’re having a lot of fun on screen cutting loose and taking the piss out of each other. Was the dynamic similar off-screen and who was the biggest cut-up on/practical joker on set?

We had a great team dynamic. I think you can chalk that up to casting. Everyone was laser focused and worked hard to get the technical aspects of their performances right. We had a lot of fun doing it. Everyone had their individual quirks.

Like Arnold, you’re well known for both your acting and your physique, having written the best-selling fitness book “Evolution.” Did you discuss the topic of fitness with Arnold and did he have any tips for you – or vice versa?

Arnold wrote the forward for my book “evolution.” So yes we talked about fitness a lot. Right after we were done filming he asked me to give a speech at Joe Weider’s memorial on behalf of my generation of body builders. Both were incredible honors for me. Arnold was one of the big reasons I became passionate about body building in the first place.

The members of your DEA squad are described as “adrenaline junkies.” Are you an adrenaline junkie yourself and, if so, what slightly dangerous/heart-pumping activities do you like to do for fun?

My background is in theater and I’m not sure if there is anything that gets the blood pumping like being backstage opening night before the curtain raises… Other than that, I really loved sky diving the few times I’ve done it.

In Sabotage, your character’s nickname is “Grinder.” Do you have a nickname now or did you have one growing up and, if so, what inspired it?

I had a habit of knocking kids out with my elbows in basketball games in high school so my friends on the team would call me “Mangan-elbows”.

What did the name Arnold Schwarzenegger mean to you growing up and do you have a favorite Arnie movie?

Arnold was the biggest movie star on the planet. I love his action movies and comedies and could recite all of the lines backwards and forwards. My favorite was probably Predator or Terminator 2 closely followed by Terminator and The Running Man. But Twins and Kindergarten Cop are classics.

What are you working on next?

My feature film directorial debut la bare ran in us theaters this summer and is being released on demand here next week. Magic Mike 2 starts filming this fall and I am currently putting together the next round of producing projects for my company 3:59 that just launched a line of workout gear.

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