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True Blood’s Joe Manganiello on Cock Socks and Magic Mike XXL

Joe Manganiello. Photo: Bravo/NBC Universal

Note to True Blood fans: Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the latest episode, as there are major spoilers to follow.

According to Joe Manganiello, viewers should have been prepared for a character as prominent as Alcide to bite the dust after Tara died in the season premiere. “Anyone can go at any time,” the actor told Vulture in advance of tonight’s episode. “They killed Tara in the cold open!” Ordinarily, said Manganiello, he would have had trouble keeping his hunky werewolf’s “shocking” death a secret, but promoting his directorial debut, a documentary about male strippers called La Bare, around the same time as his pre-season True Blood interviews helped him sidestep the topic. “I think people just like to talk about male stripping,” he laughed. Manganiello chatted with Vulture about lobbying for Alcide makeout sessions, impersonating Lafayette, and what’s in store for Magic Mike XXL.

What was it like shooting your death scene?
It was freezing. It was in the 30s, and I had to lie on the ground for long periods of time, and try not to shake or rattle, while I was freezing, because I’m supposed to be dead. The director was like, “Please stop shaking!” And I was like, “I’m trying my hardest right now!” So that was really, really tough to do. I’ve died on other projects before, so that wasn’t a big deal. But I was like, This is the last time I’m going to have to lie down on the ground naked in Malibu in the woods. So that made me happy. I thought, If I get through this, I’ll probably, hopefully, never have to do this again.

Kristin Bauer van Straten at one point offered up your cock sock for a charity auction. Did you manage to save any props for yourself as a souvenir before you left the set? Because you were known as the on-set klepto …
[Chuckles.] I kept Fangtasia matchbooks, I took Lou Pine’s coasters, and yeah, I took my sock! I’m not sure where along the process that sock was that Kristin got that got auctioned off, but my endgame sock — the sock that I die in‚ I have. I was only in Fangtasia once or twice, so I knew when I was there, I needed to snag this matchbook. And Lou Pines, same — we were only in there for a couple of episodes in season three and never came back, so I knew I needed to grab everything that I could while I was there. I never knew where I was going to wind up, what storyline I was going to wind up in, or with who, so I needed to make sure I grabbed anything I could as I went along. And this last season, all I could grab was my sock. I wasn’t in it that much, so it was kind of the only thing that I had! [Laughs.] And looking back, I made a conscious choice, with the character being a werewolf and Alcide being a bit of a purist, that he wouldn’t wear a watch. He wouldn’t wear jewelry, no necklaces or anything, because those are things that would have been lost when he would shift, so I never had any props, or anything to take home at the end. That was it! I could have stolen a plain old shirt, but I have a closet full of them. [Chuckles.]

Did you ever have suggestions for Alcide, or did you stay out of the writers’ room?
I come from the theater world, and there really aren’t any conversations that you can have like that in theater — you can’t talk to Tennessee Williams about how you don’t think that scene works! You know? You just do it. So I think that as far as I went, for the first couple of years, no. But as I was on the show longer, it was more of a back-and-forth conversation, as I started to know the character better. I remember there was an instance where I was kind of curious as to how I was supposed to play a scene in which I got beat up, into submission, by a girl who I outweighed by probably 130 pounds. And so there was a conversation about that: What story are we telling here? How am I supposed to play that? And furthermore, the only way that character would be able to defeat me or beat me up is because I let her, which means now I’m playing a game with her, and if I’m playing a game with her, why aren’t we making out? [Laughs.] So that was one of those conversations — and it was changed! We did make out at the end, and I was not beat up. It was the only way it made sense.

You do some killer impressions. Did you ever have occasion to sit in for your fellow True Blood cast mates at the table reads, and read any other character’s lines?
I did, once! I got to play Lafayette.  I think I did a pretty damn good job. It was like a sitcom, basically, starring me as Lafayette.

I want to see that!
I think my Lafayette was a little more Marsellus Wallace [from Pulp Fiction], but I think it worked. [Laughs.]

Have you shown La Bare to your Magic Mike team yet? Do you think it inspired them any for the sequel?
Yeah, they’ve all seen it. I screened La Bare for them at my house, and we talked afterwards about what was going to happen in the script for the sequel. I think we’re going on a road trip to a stripper convention somewhere down South. When I read the script for the first Magic Mike originally, it was pretty dark. It read like an expose. I thought it was more along the lines of The Girlfriend Experience, in terms of tone, because you couldn’t see the dance routines. You couldn’t see the guys. You couldn’t get a sense of the chemistry between the guys in the locker room, until we were actually shooting it and rehearsing the dance scenes. So the movie kind of took on a life of its own in the actual execution of it, which changed everything. So even though it read like The Girlfriend Experience, when we were all together, it was more like Animal House.

I think that’s where the idea for part two came from, which was from us hanging out, laughing, filming part one, and realizing, “Man! We should have made the movie about this!” So part two is really going to be what we wanted part 1 to be. [Laughs.] So it’s going to be about the guys. We didn’t really get to focus on any of them. I don’t think there are specific instances of, “Oh! We have to do that!” It’s more like, “Man, I’ve never had this much fun on a set, ever!” And when you promise that you’re going to stay in touch with everyone after a project, you never do that. And on this project, we all did. We all stay in contact and keep hanging out, no matter how busy we are. So we were like, “We should have the cameras on us. It should be just us, messing around, this locker room/frat house-type atmosphere.” It was more about that. Like, “Let’s do that.”

Does this mean fewer routines for you to learn this time?
I don’t know. It’s not like the routines wound up in the movie all that much. I mean, we filmed giant, five-minute long routines for just about every single act we did. I was in six or seven dance routines that were three to five minutes long, and all they did was appear in a montage. So I don’t think it was the routines that took up that much time in the first movie, but it was that the story was a love story, and it needed to service the love story, rather than the ensemble of guys. But this time, I’ve got a whole bunch of routines that I’ve been thinking about, so I’ve got those in my back pocket. I’ve got some good ones. Like a couple of guys in La Bare do this move that’s almost like a volleyball dive, so I’ve called dibs on that one. [Chuckles.] You can’t shoot a documentary about a strip club and not get ideas!

Joe Manganiello on True Blood and Magic Mike XXL