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True Blood’s Joe Manganiello On An Alcide-Sookie Hook-Up, Werenudity, and Working Out

Photo: HBO
Joe Manganiello as True Blood’s Alcide. Photo: HBO

On True Blood, Joe Manganiello’s character, Alcide Herveaux, is a sensitive outsider with massive biceps and considerable girl troubles. Turns out they have so much in common: In real life, the actor has likewise been a sensitive outsider with massive biceps and considerable girl troubles! Vulture caught up with this easygoing tall drink of werewolf just after he finished filming season four of True Blood. In addition to giggling about the nudity, we discussed his hopes for an Alcide-Sookie hook-up, as well as his sundry extracurricular activities this summer: eating fried chicken, making his muscles more muscle-y, and hitting the karaoke bar.

What’s the first thing you cheat-eat when you finish filming True Blood?
Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles! [Somberly] But I’m actually cast in a project right now [What to Expect When You’re Expecting, playing a studly photographer opposite Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez], so it looks like I have to train for it.

Just how sadistic is your trainer, Ron Mathews? He’s also worked with Hugh Jackman.

Ron is a semi-pro football player. Basically, he trains me like he would a professional athlete, a brutal combination of endurance and strength-lifting. There’s been a couple of moments where I wanna throw something at the mirror in the gym, smash the walls. You’re just in so much pain.

Like Nicolas Cage’s son, who allegedly attacked his trainer for saying he couldn’t eat something?
You’re also a grown adult. I’m allowed to eat anything I want, ‘cause I’m a man. I choose not to, because I’m disciplined about my job.

What were the best and worst things about being captain of football, basketball, and volleyball teams high school?
Growing up I was artistic — always drawing, writing stories. When you’re my size [6-foot-5], and you grow up in western Pennsylvania, you play football. That’s it. My artistic side was really pushed aside for a good solid decade while I pursued athletics. Right when it looked like I was going to play sports in college, that artist side of me really [came out]. It seemed like I was wasting all of those years as an athlete, but with this role I get to include that athletic side of me.

So basically in high school you were Finn Hudson from Glee.
You know, I haven’t seen Glee, but I’ve seen Billy Elliott. In other countries — say, England, for example — being an actor is a noble profession. I don’t think it’s frowned upon there the way it is for strong, athletic males in this country — especially in western Pennsylvania, which is a hotbed for professional football players. And I am a crazy Steelers fan. But then I wind up becoming successful at playing this big, manly werewolf character. I can’t tell you how many directors and producers I run into who complain about the lack of masculine-framed American actors.

Were you prom king, too?
Nooooo. I didn’t go to my prom. I had a bad experience with a girl at Homecoming and a bad experience with a girl at Sadie Hawkins. The girl I took to Homecoming — I liked her and said, “I’d love to take you out, get to know you.” She said, “No, that’s okay. Don’t bother.” She just wanted to go to the frickin’ dance, I guess. That was kind of shitty. And then this girl took me to Sadie Hawkins. I liked her, too. We went to dinner, and then we went to the dance. I said, “Hey, let’s dance!” And she was like, “Naw, that’s okay.”

I bet they regret those decisions now.

So if you didn’t go to prom, what did you do?
I went to see a re-release of Blade Runner. It was awesome. I guess I identify with Alcide that way. I didn’t really see eye-to-eye with the jocks. I remember getting into a fight with one of the other captains of the football team because he was picking on this artistic skater kid. I was like, “Get your hand off of him, or else you’re gonna fight me.” But I also didn’t really feel like I should be out on the street corner smoking cigarettes with the kids wearing Slayer T-shirts. I was somewhere in the middle.

While we’re on the topic of Alcide, let’s get to the point: Can he and Sookie just hook up already?
I really do believe — and some of the producers and writers agree with me — if Sookie didn’t disappear, Alcide would’ve built that house for her. As you can see in episode three, Alcide is obviously worried. The way the door was answered, he wanted to kiss her! Being a werewolf, he’s had to stomp on a lot of his impulses. All I can say is when anybody continually stomps on impulses, there’s going to be a reaction. What’s amazing this season is that you see those emotions and physical reactions.

How will the witches adversely affect his life?
Their actions trickle down to everybody. And there’s also gonna be a lot of problems between the werewolves and shape-shifters. They’re gonna butt heads big-time. It will send ripples through the show.

You’ve previously pointed out that Alcide is naked a lot this season.
[Giggling] My old manager, she used to say, “I don’t mind getting fucked as long as everyone else is getting fucked, too.” That’s kinda how I look at it. Everyone has to take their turn, and it’s just my turn. Yes, there is some nudity, and you’re gonna see some werewolf sex here.

As a trained actor, do you worry that the nudity will eclipse your actual skills?
Do I mind? I don’t care. I come from a classical theater background. This is the part that I’m playing now, and people responding to me having my shirt off or whatever is really them complimenting my work ethic. That’s how I take it.

This week you’re appearing at San Diego Comic-Con, where fans frequently to dress up as their favorite characters. Are you prepared to see out-of-shape geeks going shirtless to emulate Alcide?
Fuck, yeah! Actually, you only need a beard and a flannel shirt. And there you go.

Tell me about your scrapped Superman screen test.
[The director] Zack Snyder is a huge fan of True Blood and wanted me to screen test, but I couldn’t break my six-year contract with True Blood to go test. You make me an offer? Then, whatever. But I’d have to break my contract and screw over the people that gave me the greatest job of my life. Basically, what it boils down to was: I can’t give up this job that I love for the chance to screen test.

Zack Synder is actually a lot like you. He went to art school, but he’s also very athletic. Did you two get bromantic?
I don’t even know what that means! I think Zack’s awesome. I mean, I’m pretty confident that Zack and I will work on something down the line.

As a comic-book fan, what was it like playing Flash Thompson in 2002’s Spider-Man?
I wasn’t really a big Spider-Man fan, to be honest. I grew up more of a Batman fan, a Punisher fan. I liked darker superheroes. That was my first job out of drama school.

Was James Franco as eccentric back then as he is now?
[Without hesitation] Yes. I mean…I think he’s grown in his eccentricity. But he was, I guess at that point, just getting done shooting James Dean. So he was still very James Dean-ish when the cameras turned off. But I don’t know. He was a super-friendly, accessible guy. I think the eccentricity is something he’s grown into and cultivated.

Previous to that, you were a roadie for the ska-rock band Goldfinger. Explain.
I became really good friends with John Feldmann, who is the singer. John was going out on tour to Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Australia — and asked if I wanted to come. So they put me on payroll as a security. I was basically just tossing kids off stage.

You’ve also sung back-up for them. Does that mean you have musical aspirations?
Noooo. An episode of Glee — I’d do that. My fiancée [actress Audra Marie] thinks that I can sing really well.

What song do you kill at in karaoke?
Um…I really like The Doors. Probably “Roadhouse Blues,” “Light My Fire.” Jim Morrison growls. Growling comes naturally to me.

True Blood’s Joe Manganiello On An Alcide-Sookie Hook-Up, Werenudity, and Working Out