Joe Manganiello is a complicated man. On the one hand, he's a ridiculously shaped sex symbol, made famous for appearing topless or nude on numerous screen occasions. On the other, he's a Carnegie Mellon-trained and highly accomplished actor, a successful entrepreneur and author and, now, a director and producer. He's as comfortable discussing exercise regimes as he is reflecting on the nature of feminism since the 1970's.
Complicated may be an understatement.
Speaking to Buzzfeed to promote his new film, La Bare, Manganiello revealed a man unburdened by any conventional idea of what he should be, biceps be damned. Even La Bare itself highlights the complexity of his approach to life - a documentary examining the world's most popular male strip club. the film is, he suggests, "an exploration of what it means to be a man in a post-feminist world."
Manganiello isn't likely to be caught spouting any anti-feminist diatribes any time soon, though. He sees the whole concept of male-stripping itself as a product of feminism:
"If you think about it, male stripping is a product of feminism — it didn’t exist 100 years ago or 50 years ago. It started in the late ’70s, so what does that mean and how have we re-adjusted?"
That persistent ogling of his body? He even has some interesting things to say about how that compares to the objectification of women:
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as male objectification...I think that word exists only with women because there are societal pressures for them to behave a certain way and to look a certain way. Someone put it to me once: Women are sex objects and men are success objects. That was really interesting to me.”
Which all ties in neatly with True Blood. If there is any show out there that truly fights for a gender-neutral sense of objectification, it's the vampire-drama. Manganiello himself seems very much aware of the consequences of that - and is clearly on board with what he sees as the show's intentions:
True Blood is softcore porn with Oscar winners. I mean, you watch softcore porn on Cinemax and think, OK, that could be lit better and they could have better actors. So you turn over to HBO and they do have better lighting and better actors. It’s the same thing; we’re just doing it with quality.”
His ultra-toned appearance, though, was less a product of the show positioning him as a sex symbol, and more a conscious decision on his part prior to filming:
“I had a conversation with Ron Mathews, my trainer, early on where he told me to make a decision: Did I want to be in 100% shape every time I took my shirt off or not? I had to decide because otherwise, there would be photos of me at all various types of body definition...So I decided to shoot for the moon.”
This itself is an extension, he suggests, of his own approach to everything in his life:
The fitness side of my career is truly an extension of my work ethic...There are few things in life you truly have control over and, as an actor, there’s even less in your control. But the one thing I do have in my control is how hard I work. So when someone looks at me, they can see I’m the kind of person who puts in the effort because of how I look… I didn't start working out for True Blood to get a book deal or have a fitness website and become the ‘in shape’ guy...I just wanted to do the most I could with that opportunity — and everything that’s happened has been a result of that.”
That work ethic, he argues, has led him to a point where no matter how much or how little he appears in the show in its final season, he's well positioned to segue into the career he's always dreamed of - without being typecast:
During the first few seasons, I had great stuff to do,...But I don’t think that I’ll be pigeonholed by the role because I wasn't a part of the show enough for that to happen. I think Alcide gave me a career past the show, but I don’t think it will necessarily be what I am remembered for. It was the means, not the end.
“It was all about getting to this point I’m at right now — every actor dreams of getting the right job at the right time on the right show that pops them out, and that happened five years ago for me. So, those five years were spent with my head down, blinders on; total tunnel vision. I was going to squeeze every drop out of True Blood, and I can look back and say, with confidence, that I got everything out of that experience I possibly could. That got me to right now, which is the spot I always dreamed of being in.”
As for what's coming next - Manganiello seems to have a strong sense of where he's heading:
“I realized a long time ago that if I could get to a certain level, acting-wise, it would open up all the doors to things I wanted to do directing and producing-wise...Which is exactly what has happened. As amazing as the past five years have been, I really feel like right now, at this moment, the best part of my life and my career are ahead of me. And there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Who's going to bet against him?
[True Blood](series:200767)'s seventh and final season premieres June 22 on HBO.
What are you most looking forward to from Manganiello?