For an actor, getting cast in HBO’s hit series True Blood is quite literally the ultimate gut check. Stars of the vampire serial can have their bare torso splattered with blood in one scene, then enjoy a buck-naked romp—or a blood-spattered buck-naked romp—in the next. Anyone on camera had better be ready to show everything they’ve got.

When producers tapped Joe Manganiello for the role of Alcide Herveaux, an Alabama contractor who happens to be a werewolf, the 6'5" actor had three months to prepare before filming. Since the Mt. Lebanon, PA, native laid the foundation for his current Hollywood success in the weight room, Manganiello was more than up for the challenge. As one of the few actors working in ­Hollywood with a physique worthy of an action star, the response from his female fans keeps him motivated. "I had a friend of mine call me and tell me that it was a girl’s birthday in his office, and they got her a cake with my picture on it. A year ago I wasn’t on anybody’s cake. It makes me feel really good, and it makes me want to work even harder from a fitness standpoint.”

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Check out the July issue of Muscle & Fitness for more on Joe Manganiello's fitness regimen, on newsstands now.