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Blake Jenner Is the All-American Leading Man Hollywood Needs Right Now

Men’s Fitness talks with one of Tinseltown’s brightest new talents about his Cuban heritage, his high-mileage training for Everybody Wants Some, and how completely in love he is with Melissa Benoist.
Jeff Lipsky

If an acting career is anything like baseball, then Blake Jenner just hit a home run.

After rising to fame as a double-threat actor/singer in Glee, the Miami native has staked a claim to the Hollywood big leagues with a starring role in Everybody Wants Some, Richard Linklater’s hilarious 1980s-set ‘spiritual successor’ to the classic Dazed and Confused. And the guy’s on a roll: On deck are two more starring roles—in The Edge of Seventeen, alongside Hailee Steinfeld, and in Billy Boy, which he wrote himself. (Like we said: The guy’s got talent.)

On the eve of his new movie’s hotly anticipated premiere, he sat down with us to talk about his personal style, what it feels like to be confused with those other Jenners, and how he coined the phrase that everyone will be repeating for years to come. (Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.)

Men’s Fitness: We got to see Everybody Wants Some a little early. That movie looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun to make. 

Blake Jenner: It was so fun. It was easily the best three months of my life no doubt. At least thus far.

And the cast—they must have been some good guys to hang out with for a little while.

Yeah man, we were living together for three weeks in a cabin, over by where [Everybody Wants Some] director Rick [Richard Linklater] lives. It was awesome. It was just endless hanging out, endless bro time. We were rehearsing dance moves and baseball practice and watching movies. Just doing research of achieving that brotherhood status with each other. The camaraderie in the film should look legit, which it was 100% because we all became boys by the end of rehearsal time.

How many times did you have to redo takes because people just burst out laughing?

Quite a bit, man. One time sticks out to me: Tanner Kalina, who plays Brumley, was looking at everyone with these eyes of innocence, delivering his lines like it was just there, like he was this kid. Everyone just started cracking up. That was all the time. I don't know if we'll ever get that again, what we had on this film.

There are a few hilarious scenes where the guys go out to the bar. Did you actually have to research those ’80s dance moves?

A few of us had some stuff in our back pockets—my dad's quite the dancer—but for the most part we would be dancing with our dance teacher. We'd go into the studio and play some old Michael Jackson. It’s all in the hips. By the time we were shooting, it felt pretty legit.

The ensemble cast is obviously great. But you’re the top-billed actor. How did you feel going into that? Did you feel any pressure to carry the movie?

Just the fact that we were working with Rick was pretty insane enough. I think all of us actors got there just not wanting to get fired. But you can’t really go into a situation thinking like that. The second I got there, I think the main thing was everyone just being cool with each other. It was all in the name of fun.

At one point, you’re goofing around with the guys and you coin a great phrase: “Constant fuckwithery.” Was that your line? Or was that in the script?

[Laughs] I came up with that in rehearsals. Sometimes you’ll throw ideas back and forth, and sometimes they’ll end up in the script. We were trying to find something to get a dig at these guys in a funny way, and I said, “What about ‘fuckwithery’?” We all started laughing a little bit and I think I remember Rick saying, “Something was just created here.”

Right now you’re 24, you’re recently married, and you have two big coming-of-age films lined up: The Edge of Seventeen, and Billy Boy, which you wrote. What draws you to those roles?

I'm fortunate to have gotten to tell those stories recently. There's something about them that I like. I have a fond memory of when I was growing up and I think that probably comes into play when I'm reading a script like that.  I remember when I was jumping off a bridge into a canal with my friends when I used to live in Miami when we were 14. Running from security, just causing havoc. Those are the rich moments in life that you find out who you are within your friends. I think that kind of fuels the fire for me because I dug growing up, the trials and errors.

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Speaking of finding your way, how’s it feel to be going to work with your wife [actress Melissa Benoist]? To be married to Supergirl?

You just can't piss her off now that she's got super powers. Nah, it’s cool. We’d worked together on the film I wrote, and obviously on Glee. I love working with her. Anytime we get a chance to it's always a great time. It's a no-brainer for me.

Your name was reportedly on the list to star in the upcoming Han Solo spin-off. Are you a Star Wars fan? How did that feel?

That's a huge thing for anyone my age. Melissa and I were going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we ended up marathoning Episodes I-XI, and then going to see it. It was like a 3-day process. 

Plus, Everybody Wants Some probably isn’t all that different from a Han Solo anthology. It’s just that one of the baseball players is a Wookie. 

You hit the nail on the head.

We were stoked to feature you as one of the style pieces in our April issue. How would you describe your signature style? 

I'm pretty laid-back. I really dig henleys, boots, and—obviously—jeans. Maybe a hoodie underneath a jacket. Usually just v-necks and henleys. I'm pretty chill dude. Unless it's a special occasion, obviously. Then break out the suits, man.

Who are your style icons?

David Bowie’s the man. I just saw Five Years, the documentary about him. He was so ballsy, going all out with the costumes and makeup. With each character he embodied, he clearly didn’t give a damn what people thought. He was just doing what spoke to him. That takes balls.

You’re from Miami. Your mom is Cuban. How did growing up there, with a Cuban family, shape you?

It probably shaped me more than I realize, I think. I'll be talking to Melissa at home, or my friends, and I'll fall back into little bits and pieces of Cuban Spanish slang that I picked up from my mom over the years. I really didn't speak it too much, but I understood it perfectly and still do. The food, too. The food is amazing.

I don't know where I'd be without my Cuban family. Growing up with them, that definitely took a part in what I know today, the kind of music I like today, who I am as a person. My mom especially. She’s proud of it and we're proud of it too. I’m very grateful for it. Very grateful to be half Cuban. 

One more thing—my mom will kill me if I don’t say this—but she taught us to be very family-oriented. I think that’s why we’re so close. 

Was there a family connection when you got into your ’80s style for the movie? Did your parents see themselves in your role?

When we first started shooting—during one of the baseball scenes—I took a picture of myself in the wig and the hat and everything, and sent it to my parents. 

My dad was a freshman the same year I was a freshman in the movie, and he had the exact same haircut. My family already says I look like my dad. With them seeing me in the hair and stuff, it will probably be super weird in a good way.

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Speaking of family: I know you’re not part of the other Jenner clan. But how often do you get that question?

My brothers and I, we’ve been getting that since grade school.

Really?

Everybody always asked. We'll get it now but same answer. We're just like, no, no but it's not a common name so it's kind of crazy. I've never heard of another Jenner. Obviously, except for the family, for that family.

Did you have to focus on a particular kind of fitness to get a particular ’80s build? The “skinny college freshman” build, so to speak?

Before this film, I was shooting the film that I had written [Billy Boy], and in my mind that character was super skinny, and I was treating myself in a very malnourished way. Once [Everybody Wants Some] had rolled around, I had been playing basketball and lifting weights and eating. Nobody told me to do it. I just figured for a freshman coming in to school, still honing his craft as an athlete, he’d be on the come-up—a little skinny, fit, but with a lean freshman look. He’s a pitcher.

What kind of cardio did you do?

I was running, hiking a lot. Running miles and miles. Even in Austin I’d wake up much earlier than my call time and go for a run. I’d hike—and I still do this now—with a 40-lb. vest on.

I was also drinking—and I still do this, because I really like it—I drink a gallon of water a day. I read somewhere that a certain percentage of the time when you feel like your hungry, you're actually thirsty and your body's just confused.

Did you lift weights or anything?

I wasn't trying to get bulky or anything, so I was trying to stay away from any heavy foods, heavy weights. I was trying to just get that lean look going on so I was eating light, a lot of salmon, chicken, vegetables, egg whites, quinoa. Running.

I did do jiu-jitsu for a little while. That was a main source of cardio and getting the muscles working out without having to lift actual weight. All the grappling and wrestling involved with it. That was a good source of exercise I got.

And a lot of water.

And a lot of water. A lot of love from family.

And all the laughing from being on set.

My abs were taken care of in that department because of all the laughing. All of us ended the shoot with like 8-packs from all the laughing we were doing.

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