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Joe Manganiello: From wolf on "True Blood" to stripper in "Magic Mike"

NEW YORK — Joe Manganiello was a theater-loving jock who defended the arty kids in school, but never felt he belonged to any clique. Then he was cast in "True Blood" and found his feet — all four of them. As he prepares for the HBO show’s new season and the release of his latest film, "Magic Mike," Manganiello talks with Out magazine’s William Van Meter about these projects, his awkward high school years, and, of course, taking it all off for the camera.

For his upcoming role in "Magic Mike," in which he co-stars with Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and Matt Bomer, and which is based on Tatum’s pre-Hollywood career, Manganiello interviewed a former male stripper to research the era. “All the guys he worked with were dead or in rehab,” he says, “but it was the time of his life — this insanely destructive lifestyle, this club life. It was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll … and getting paid to take your clothes off and have sex.”

In the film Manganiello plays Big Dick Richie. When asked if he stuffed his G-string to live up to the challenging sobriquet, he demurs and answers, “Um, I’ll let everybody see the movie and they can decide.”

Manganiello, of course, is used to shedding his clothes to transform into his "True Blood" persona. The actor views this as pragmatism rather than an extension of show creator Alan Ball’s gay sensibility. “As far as the butt cheeks stuff goes,” Manganiello says, “it just makes sense. It’s not gratuitous; it’s realistic. If you’re a werewolf and you transform, you lose everything and there are your butt cheeks. The show is a deconstruction of supernatural creatures. It’s not like other werewolf projects, where you magically reappear with tiny jean shorts on.”

Manganiello admits he loves his job, and after revealing to a fan that “there’s going to be a whole new pack of werewolves on this season,” adds that his "True Blood" role really fits his personality. “It utilizes each part of my eclectic personality. There’s the kid who loves monsters, and I can be athletic, but I also love history and I can research wolves and Southern dialects. The dialogue is so rich — it’s Tennessee Williams with Chekhovian layers — and that fulfills my bookwormy playwright side. I’m so fortunate. Plus, I get to have a beard all the time.”

To read the full Joe Manganiello cover story, click HERE.