There are many reasons you might want to check out the new fitness book by Joe Manganiello, Evolution: The Cutting Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building the Body You’ve Always Wanted. For starters, the blurb his Magic Mike co-star Channing Tatum penned for it claims each purchase comes with a lap dance. “That’s Channing getting me in a lot of trouble, because hopefully I’ll sell a lot of books and that would be a lot of lap dances,” Manganiello tells EW, laughing. “I guess we’ll see how it does.” There’s also a step-by-step guide to the six-week workout program he uses to get camera-ready to play werewolf Alcide on True Blood, and personal stories he hopes inspire people to want to go to the gym. “The people who have read it have found it to be very motivating, and that was definitely the goal,” he says.
One of the most interesting stories is what happened after Manganiello got what he thought would be his big break, being cast as Flash Thompson in 2002′s Spider-Man; he wouldn’t act again for four years.
“I was at a place where I didn’t want to act anymore, and I had effectively left the business. A lot of that was my fault,” he admits. In the book he describes drinking and smoking habits that he’s long since kicked. “I just made the decision that I was going to be the best me that I could,” he says. He began working at a masonry company, shoveling sand and gravel from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.: “I could never fill out. I was built like [a stick] my entire life and just could not pack on weight, which is one of the reasons why I didn’t pursue college football. The kids around me were starting to do steroids, and if I wanted to compete, I was going to have to do that, and I just didn’t want to have that type of life experience. I didn’t fill out till age 28, when I was working on the back of that construction truck. There was something about that type of work that just removed some sort of genetic block in me. So I was in this place in life where I thought I was about as far off the path as I possibly could get, but by just giving in and submitting to the day-to-day of it, and just trying to be the best construction worker I could, I actually somehow wound up leap-frogging whatever sort of limitation I thought I had. Sometimes those answers come in the last place you would ever think.”
He never could have imagined that one day he’d be starring in a movie, April’s gritty Sabotage (formerly Ten), with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wrote the foreword for Evolution and describes having lunch with Manganiello every day on set and bonding over their construction pasts. “There were probably four icons for my generation growing up: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Michael Jordan, and Arnold. I went to see every single Arnold movie there was. I could quote every single one of his movies. He was the man,” Manganiello says. “The fact that I would show up to lunch and Arnold would push the tray of whoever was sitting next to him out-of-the-way so I could sit next to him, it’s amazing. I still read the foreword and don’t believe that I’m the one he wrote that for. It doesn’t compute.”
He recalls one memorable moment during filming: “It was freezing out. We’re loaded up with all this gear and our rifles. We’re crammed on this tiny metal fire escape, all stacked up in a line on the back of this building in Atlanta. It was Arnold, who was gonna kick the door in, and then I was behind him, and then Sam Worthington was behind me. My character [a member of a task force the DEA has put together to fight against the Mexican cartels] chews tobacco, so I had this huge chaw full of Red Man. I spit and said in my best Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, ‘This sh– makes Cambodia look like Kansas,’ and simultaneously the AD yelled, ‘Rolling!,’ and Arnold turned to me and went [in Schwarzenegger accent] ‘If it bleeds, we can kill it.’ And I looked at Worthington, and he looked at me, and they yelled, ‘Action!,’ and we were so pumped up. We came through that door. I’m sure there’s a take in there where we’re just, like, crazy, and that was the one where Arnold quoted Predator right before we ran through the door. It was awesome.”
As for Manganiello’s next professional feat, he’s in the midst of locking picture and music on his feature directorial debut, the male-stripper documentary LaBare. (“I have to somehow figure out how to get the Flaming Lips to allow me to use one of their songs for my opening credits sequence. I love them, and I love this song, and it’s perfect, and hopefully, hopefully, I can talk them into letting me use their song on an indie documentary budget,” he says.) Inspired by fans saying they loved Magic Mike but wished they’ve gotten to see more of the ensemble, Manganiello and his brother, with whom he has a production company, put together a crew and headed to Dallas, home to LaBare, one of the first and most successful male strip clubs in the world. “It started in the late ’70s as, I guess, a product of feminism. Women wanted their right to equal naked asses, and they got it,” Manganiello says. The documentary focuses a lot on one man, Randy Master Baster, who’s been there since the beginning and is still one of its biggest moneymakers. “Add in this cast of characters along with him, and what we found was gold,” he says.
While we can’t give you a sneak peek at that, we were able to get Manganiello to reveal all in one of our EW Pop Culture Personality Tests. Watch the video below to learn which movies he saw too young, what he considers the best entertainment-related gift he’s ever received, and when he was seriously starstruck.
UPDATE: Manganiello also chatted with Entertainment Weekly editor Jess Cagle on EW Radio (SiriusXM Channel 105). Listen to a clip below.