Joe Manganiello on True Blood being the Big Bad Wolf Workout

Joseph Michael “Joe” Manganiello born 28th December 1976. He is a classically trained American film and theatre actor. He has received both critical and popular praise for his role as werewolf Alcide Herveaux on the HBO television series True Blood. He also holds a BFA in acting from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. He played Flash Thompson in the Spider-Man film series, and had recurring roles in television on ER, How I Met Your Mother and One Tree Hill, among others.

Joe Manganiello: “True Blood’s” Big Bad Wolf

“True Blood’s” Joe Manganiello chats with GQ about how he went from delivering packages to starring as a ripped werewolf
By Willa Paskin

July 2011
See the GQ Summer Vacation Style Guide Starring Joe Manganiello
There’s no denying it: Joe Manganiello looks good without a shirt. This fact has not gone unnoticed by HBO, for whom he frequently flexes as an oft-nude werewolf on “True Blood.” Ask him about his physique, though, and he’ll insist he’s just following the script: “If Alcide was described as weighing 300 pounds with a comb-over and missing his front teeth, that’s what I would look like.” Luckily for Manganiello’s career, he’s not playing a guy with a gap-toothed smile. It’s his He-Man physique that helped turn a six-episode stint into a regular gig, raising his profile high enough to audition for Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot. “He and his wife are huge fans of ‘True Blood,'” Manganiello explains. While Snyder ultimately went another way, Manganiello, 34, isn’t complaining. A few short years ago, he was paying his bills working as a roadie and as a delivery man for a masonry company. As for the new season of “True Blood,” spoilers are as hard to come by as clothing on-set. So, any inhibitions left at all? “Once they yell action,” he says, “you’re a werewolf and you’re not thinking about it. But before, there’s a boom guy crouched behind you at ass level.” Who says werewolves don’t blush?

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“I grew up reading GQ,”

the “physically imposing” Joe Manganiello tells an inadequate-feeling in a central London hotel room. “My mother would get me a subscription every year so I would get it delivered. I always swore that if it happened for me, I would try to look the part.” Given that he’s just done a shoot for the forthcoming issue of GQ Style (“I can’t wait to see the pictures”) and he’s turned up today in a Joseph Abboud suit, John Varvatos shirt and tie, IWC watch and brand-new blue alligator Mezlan shoes (check them out on our Facebook), it’s safe to say he’s succeeded spectacularly on both counts. He’s also succeeded spectacularly at looking the part of Alcide Herveaux, the conflicted, buff werewolf who joins the predominantly vampiric cast of True Blood in season three, which airs on Channel 4 at the end of the month. Here Manganiello takes time out of watching Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Old Vic to talk about aspirational male figures, the exercise even lycanthropes struggle with and body hair removal…

Is it as much fun being in True Blood as it looks?
Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a bit like being a kid on Halloween every day. I get to play the werewolf and there’s all these vampires, witches, fairies, were-panthers, ghosts and goblins. It’s a ton of fun and aside from that it’s also very fulfilling in an adult way in that the dialogue is so rich and so good. Hell, I have a giant wolf that I get to hang out with…

What’s the hardest thing about playing a werewolf?
Probably matching the physical description of the character in the books. The workouts are just completely brutal. You know I really try to give this thing my all and Charlaine Harris described him as being “physically imposing”. That’s probably the toughest part.

What’s the worst exercise that you have to do?
Well, being 6′ 5″, pull-ups are my nemesis. I have really long arms so I have to do twice the work of someone with short arms to get the weight up there. Pull-ups are the bane of my existence. My trainer does a pretty good job of making me want to throw up.

Is there anything that men do in the gym that bugs you?
People talking on cellphones. People that decide to go sit on a piece of equipment and camp out. Or people that don’t put their weights back on the rack – that makes me go crazy.

Our favourite is men using the hairdryers in the changing rooms to dry hair not on their heads…
Oh, God! And yeah, all the old guys that walk around without pants on. It’s like, “Come on, man!” Maybe I’ll get it in about 40 years.

What music do you work out to?
I have a couple of friends that are really big, world-renowned DJs. There’s a drum and bass DJ named Dieselboy who I know from Pittsburgh, where I’m from. He DJ’d out of there for a while and we went to college together. I listen to some
of his mixes. There’s another DJ named Z-Trip and he is credited with inventing the mash-up: he’d take a rock song and seamlessly mash it with a hip-hop song. I listen to their stuff a lot when I’m working out. I kind of put together my own mixes too. I used to DJ a bit in college…

The top Google search for you is “True Blood Joe” which implies that people have some difficulty with your surname…
When I first got out of drama school, my original manager tried to get me to change my name because people were having trouble spelling it and saying it. I said something to the effect of, “F*** that, they’re going to have to learn.” [It’s Man-gan-ello, by the way.]

Did you have any alternatives lined up?
No, I never considered it for a second. Funny, I told my father that story and he said, “It’s a good thing you didn’t change it because you wouldn’t have been allowed home.” [laughs]
Did you know that there’s a Tumblr blog called “F**Yeah Joe Manganiello”?
That was actually brought to my attention – I think my fiancée found it. She said, “Have you seen this?” It was amazing because that website in particular dug up pictures of me I didn’t even know existed. I literally check it from time to time to find out what I’m doing. It’s almost… creepy in a way. It’s creepy and flattering at the same time. Which I guess is just like my whole experience on True Blood. Creepy and flattering.

What’s a Joe Manganiello groupie like?
True Blood fans in general are so passionate. And kinky at the same time. We have the kinkiest fanbase ever. We’re probably on the kinkiest show ever. I always say that there’s two types of True Blood fans: the ones that haven’t see the show at all and the ones that are completely obsessed by it. I do get a lot of guys that want to talk to me at the gym about working out. I’m always wary – I feel like I’m being hit on.

Do they ever want to compare bench presses?
No, not necessarily. I just think so many shows in this day and age are not about really strong men. American comedies especially are all about these men being browbeaten by their wives and it’s impossible for me to watch. I didn’t see real men dealing with real issues on television, I didn’t see them in films and it seemed it was in vogue to emasculate male characters. It was getting to the point where I was disgusted and sickened by most of the scripts that I was reading and didn’t want to do them. I even said no to a lot of them because I didn’t want to be responsible for portraying a man that way. So what’s great is that I get a lot of guys coming up to me saying how much they love my character. He has that strong, tough exterior, but he’s very sensitive on the inside. That is really fun for me to play and I think it’s something that resonates with men.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen at Comic-Con?
We spoke last year in front of 5,000 people and I think they turned down about 5,000 more. So just that level, and fans staying out overnight to try and get into our panel – it’s incredible. We shoot the show and especially going into season three I didn’t know how my character was going to be received. To get out there and have fans screaming… it’s the closest I will ever be to being a Beatle. But you get some freaky fans.

Have you ever had any particularly weird gifts or requests from fans?
I’ve had really nice gifts. I had a fan make me a silver wolf-tooth necklace. That was really great. But I did have a fan who said that she had heard when wolves have wounds, they lick each other and the wounds heal quicker from their saliva. She looked at me with these dead eyes and asked me to lick her. [laughs]

We take it you politely declined?
I stared at her wide-eyed. And then looked at security.

What’s your human grooming regime like?
I mean, I need to get out of the house. If it takes me longer than 60 seconds, it’s not worth it. I’m pretty quick about it all. I use a trimmer on the stubble and obviously when I’m not working the beard is less necessary. And my hair pretty much does its own thing.

Given that you play a frequently shirtless werewolf, we’re obligated to ask you an awkward question about hair-removal…
I do none. I am completely hairless. I’ve been accused of waxing my chest but I don’t at all. Which is completely bizarre because my father’s full-blooded Italian – Sicilian – and my mother’s part Armenian. I always say I’m the only hairless, Sicilian-Armenian werewolf you’re ever going to meet…

True Blood season three starts on Channel 4 in early September.

See Joe Manganiello’s GQ Style photo shoot in the new issue, out on 15 September.

Click here to read’s interview with True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård.

Click here to read GQ Style’s interview with True Blood’s Anna Paquin.

Published 11 Aug 2011
Online editing by Andy Morris


“Every time he did a functional cable curl, we’d change the direction that the arms were coming together, so it was stimulating slightly different fibers every time. We were always trying to work the ends of the muscles so you can see the separation and the definition instead of just working the belly of the muscle, which makes you look bigger and bulky in size.”


“We did a lot of drop sets where he would start heavy and I’d keep lowering the weight until he couldn’t lift even the lightest of weights anymore.”


“The way you have to lift for this is literally almost no rest. We’d do a set of chest, then go right into a set of biceps, and then go back into a set of chest, so your chest is resting while your biceps are working and vice versa. But your heart rate isn’t resting at all. So after about 20 minutes, it feels like you’re doing sprints. It’s hands-on-your-knees, sweat-dripping-off-your-nose, can’t-catch-your-breath crazy.”


“He had very little definition in his obliques and lower abdominals to begin with, so I had him do a lot of twisting motions and a lot hanging leg raises, where you hold on to a pull up bar and take your feet to touch your hands.”

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