I first noticed Joe Manganiello during his scene-stealing turns in “How I Met Your Mother.” A recurring character, the towering Joe M. would walk into a scene, nail a big laugh, and get out.
He’s like the Patrick Warburton in this “Seinfeld,” with that Warburton/Brad Garrett deadpan.
He’s one of the stars of “True Blood,” but the funny stuff is what stands out. He shows up in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” as the stud all the old-married guys idolize. He gets laughs.
“Much of my career, pre-‘True Blood’, was comedy. Theater and sitcoms.
‘True Blood’ put me on the map. It came at a time when I thought drama wasn’t going to happen for me.”
But happen it has. As one of the many ripped and randy Southern folk who are secretly vampires and werewolves, Manganiello, 35, has gotten used to doing a lot of acting with his clothes off.
The fact that he’s “quite a specimen,” as Channing Tatum put it, had a lot to do with Joe landing one of the key supporting roles in Tatum’s male stripper dramedy, “Magic Mike.”
“I met the casting director for ‘Magic Mike’ and she hadn’t seen “True Blood,’ so she asks, ‘Are you going to be OK with partial nudity?’ I said, ‘I’m like the POSTER CHILD for nudity right now!
I’m used to running around in the woods, naked, growling at people.”
So Joe M. became “Big Dick Richie” in the film. Yup. That’s his name. It’s a role that requires a certain swagger. Manganiello, another jock turned actor (he studied at Carnegie Mellon after giving up athletics), has that in spades.
“For this movie, my cardio sessions changed to dance rehearsals. I had an athletic background before I went to Carnegie Mellon. And we had a semester of ballet and jazz there.The jazz was really useful when learning the stripper’s money-maker moves.”
But to be a good stripper, “swagger” isn’t the most important thing.
“You have to have a sense of humor about yourself. As a guy, when you try to act sexy, you really can’t be. The difference between female stripping and male stripping is that male stripping is comedy. Male stripping for women involves these routines, costumes and storylines. That’s fascinating. It’s all very story driven.”
As demonstrated in “Magic Mike,” which is loosely based on Tatum’s pre-Hollywood stripping career, striptease has guys in “An Officer and a Gentleman” uniforms, as Tarzan, dressed up as cops and firemen.
“I’ve had a lot of requests for that fireman’s suit,” Manangiello jokes. “It’s male wish fulfillment, is what it is.”
The big guy has had his shots at the big brass ring. He was considered for “Superman,” and has hopes that the big break may be just over the horizon.
“My schedule on ‘True Blood’ has kept me from the big action movies. There’s been serious interest in me for big action pictures, and we can’t fit them into my hiatus from the series. I have a contract. I can’t walk away from it. And I wouldn’t want to. But for a kid who grew up loving action pictures and comic books, that move seems like a no-brainer. Since graduating from a classical theater school, I’ve consciously tried to turn myself into the kind of adult actor who would make the sort of comic book superhero that I would have wanted to see when I was a kid. I hope that happens, someday. It’s just a matter of when it comes up and what it is”
Meanwhile, he’s ready to take on a front and center role on “True Blood.”
“The first two seasons of ‘True Blood’ we went out of our way not to put swagger into Alcide. He’s a werewolf without swagger. But this year, season five, the character arc has put swagger back into the guy.
There’ve been a lot of carrots, dangling carrots, for me, the past couple of seasons on “True Blood.” This year, I get to eat those carrots.
“‘Magic Mike’ prepared me for what I’m doing this year on ‘True Blood.'”
He may also be back for what could be the final season of “How I Met Your Mother.” “There’s been some talk,” he says. “That way, at least I’ll know before anybody else who the ‘Mother’ turns out to be.”
And either way, he still has the praise of Channing Tatum, that “quite a specimen” remark is one to warm any action picture director’s heart.
“Well, Channing has seen just about all of me.”