This is a preview of our January/February cover story, "Super Manganiello." For the full version, download the Men's Fitness app for iPhone and iPad or pick up the issue on newsstands.
Joe Manganiello is a geek.
It’s a Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, and the actor is cruising the aisles of Golden Apple Comics on Melrose Avenue—a famous fanboy mecca—and appears completely at home among the Captain America T-shirts and awkward facial hair. One moment he stops to admire a first edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the next he’s gushing about the X-Men poster on the wall he had as a kid. He even waxes philosophical about why Aquaman gets no love. “What do you think about the movie casting?” he asks, referring to the news that Jason Momoa, the big raven-haired Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones, has landed the role of DC Comics’ lithe platinum-blond swimmer. “It’ll be interesting,” he says, unable to hide his skepticism. “But I don’t ever pretend to understand what DC does.”
Manganiello, wearing faded jeans, a well-worn navy T-shirt, and a baseball cap pulled down low over his scruffy face, is doing his best to look mortal. But at 6'5"—all muscle and right angles—he couldn’t be any more conspicuous in the crowd if he were wearing a cape and fluorescent Lycra. And right when he mentions that he’s the real-life inspiration behind a mixed-martial-arts badass in the new comic series The Illegitimates, the brainchild of his buddy, Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam, a comic-book reader stops him cold in his tracks.
“What have you been up to recently?” the guy asks Manganiello, who proudly tells him he’s leaving the following morning to shoot Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to the hugely successful, critically acclaimed 2012 movie he starred in with Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, set in the seedy world of male strippers. The fan, however, isn’t impressed. “When are you going to do something else?” he sniffs, implying that Manganiello is squandering his talents on exclusively female-friendly fare, then walks away, leaving behind a whiff of disapproval. “What did he want?” Manganiello asks later, incredulous. “Come on, dude! I haven’t slept in months I’ve been working so hard on so many projects!”
It’s not the first time the 38-year-old has been written off as a dark-haired Fabio who’s more muscle than substance. In the last five years, Manganiello has shot to fame as the shirtless werewolf Alcide on HBO’s supernatural soap opera True Blood, captured every woman’s (and some men’s) attention in his thong and chaps as Big Dick Richie in Magic Mike, and flashed his inner tough guy in the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Sabotage. Along the way he earned “Sexiest Bachelor Alive” honors courtesy of People magazine.
Though his undeniable sex appeal has done wonders for his career, Manganiello doesn’t take the image seriously. “I’ve been on this interesting track, especially for someone who’s such a dude’s dude,” he says later that afternoon. He’s puffing on a cigar from one of the two humidors in his kitchen, resting his bare feet on a table in his backyard. There’s a Magnum ice cream refrigerator by the pool, a nod to a commercial he did that earned him enough money to buy this Hollywood Hills house. “I’m this cigar-smoking, gun-shooting, football-watching, WWE-wrestling dude. All my friends are guys. But other dudes are like, ‘Fuck that guy. You’re just the fucking guy on those fucking magazines that my girlfriend has at work.’”
To read the rest of "Super Manganiello," download the Men's Fitness app for iPhone and iPad.