Actor Joe Manganiello is making his debut this week in Season 3 of HBO’s critically acclaimed hit series True Blood, as fan favorite werewolf Alcide Herveaux.
Having gotten the role after learning that fans of the books were blogging about him being perfect for the character, and then pursuing it until he got an audition, the actor says that he was a monster movie fan, growing up, and has always wanted to play a werewolf. Now, he’s living that dream, even getting to work with his real wolf counterpart, on a show that he was already a fan of when he was cast.
While filming the Season 3 finale, which he promises will be insane, Joe Manganiello spoke exclusive by phone to Collider about working on his favorite show and how he hopes he’ll get to do so for a long time to come. Check out what he had to say, after the jump:
Joe: I was a fan of the show. About a year and a half ago, a friend of mine sent me an email with a web link to a blog site where fans of the Charlaine Harris books were blogging, as to who should play certain characters when they show up. There were a bunch of fans who were blogging about who should play Alcide, and some of the fans were posting pictures of me. So, I ordered the books and read up on them, and found out about Alcide, and started bugging my agents and managers to get me in because it had been my dream, since I was a little kid, to play a movie monster and a werewolf. So, based on the fans’ recommendations, I wound up getting the part.
That’s a very unusual way to go about getting a role.
Joe: It’s a testament to this day and age of computers and blogging and fan sites. The fans were really responsible for me getting this, and even just finding out about it. I had been a fan of the show, at that point, so I had been watching all of the episodes, and I made sure that I continued to watch all those episodes. Obviously, I’ve kept up the speed, ever since.
How did you end up actually getting considered for the role? What was the auditioning process like for you?
Joe: Once I started reading these blogs, I started posting them on my website. This guy read one of the posts on my website and he happened to be best friends with one of the casting directors. And so, I guess he was out at breakfast with one of the casting directors and the waiter came up to their table and the casting director said, “Oh, wow, that waiter would make a great werewolf, if only he was an actor.” And, this guy said, “No, you know who’d make a great werewolf? This guy,” and he pulled up my picture and showed it to him. A few weeks later, I wound up getting the initial audition, but it wasn’t for Alcide, it was for another werewolf that was a smaller part. So, I went in and auditioned for that other werewolf part, and it was the best audition of my life. I wound up being brought in a second time for that other werewolf character, and then they wound up bringing me back in for Alcide.
Was there something that brought on your desire to play a werewolf? What is the appeal for you?
Joe: I was kind of a dark kid. I loved Halloween, and I loved vampires and the black and white old monster movies. I would stay up late at night, as a little kid, and would watch Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein. There was something in me that identified with the monsters and how the monsters were misunderstood. There was something romantic or sad about that. As a young kid, I was obsessed with monsters, Stephen King books, black and white movies and Godzilla movies, so to grow up, as an adult, and be able to get paid to play, the way that I did as a kid, it reminds you of why you got into acting, in the first place.
What can you say about how your character fits into Season 3 and how big of a role the werewolves play in the story this season?
Joe: Obviously, Bill (Stephen Moyer) is missing and we don’t know who’s taken him, and we know that vampires can only come out at night, so I get forced by Eric (Alexander Skarsgaard) to bodyguard Sookie (Anna Paquin) during the day and escort her on her search for Bill. From there, Sookie and I are basically inseparable. I’ve sworn, on my life, to protect her.
How much did they tell you about this character, when you were cast, or are you learning about him as you go?
Joe: I got a really good idea of who Alcide was from the books, but of course, this show strays from the books. I read the books to get a general idea and to get the vibe of Alcide, and then, from there, you have to let the books go and play what they put in the scripts. Alan Ball is notoriously amazing for writing very deep and well thought out characters, so it really was very easy and apparent for me to get the depth of who Alcide was.
Having read the books, do you notice any significant differences or changes to the character in the show?
Joe: He’s pretty close to what it is in the books. The books are really from Sookie’s perspective, so the really cool thing about the TV show is that it’s told from so many different character’s perspective. If you read the books, you get the basic gist of who Alcide is, and the TV show is just a more fleshed out, deeper version. You get into Alcide’s relationship with Debbie (Brit Morgan). That isn’t necessarily shown, in depth, in the books. You really get into his past and the werewolf society a lot more. It’s just a much fuller, much richer description.
What was the first day on set like for you? Was it anything at all like you expected it to be?
Joe: My first day on set, I remember looking at Anna [Paquin], in the middle of a take, and my brain went, “Dude, that’s Sookie Stackhouse!,” and I had to tell my brain to shut up because I was in the middle of the scene. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe that I was there and that I was now stepping into the pantheon. It really was like being sucked through the television into my favorite show.
Now that you’ve done a few episodes, what has it been like to work with Anna Paquin?
Joe: I think Anna is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. Watching how consistent she is with such highly emotional scenes was shocking to me. There were days when she had to cry for 10 hours straight and she nailed it, every single take. I find her to be a really inspiring person to work with. Who she is in real life and then the character that she plays is such a huge departure that it’s really fun to watch.
How crazy will things get between Alcide and his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Pelt? What are those scenes like to do?
Joe: They’re insane. Brit Morgan is a phenomenal actress, and the character is out of her fucking mind. She’s a very generous actress and it’s very easy to play off of her because I think she channels something. Debbie is 100% trailer trash, but there are moments where the girl that Alcide fell in love with shows up, and that’s what makes it so heartbreaking and so sad.
Even though Alcide comes in to protect Sookie, will you also be exploring the attraction that forms between them?
Joe: It’s in there. The attraction is definitely in there. Alcide and Sookie would be a smart choice for each other.
With Alcide being such a moral man, how challenging is it for him, throughout the season, to remain true to those morals?
Joe: Alcide wants to be left alone. He’s nursing a broken heart and, when you’re in that kind of position, you just want to lay on your couch, for weeks on end. But, there’s obviously something about Sookie that pulls him out of his shell. In the bigger scheme of things, I think that’s really good for him to be around. But, for the most part, he really wants to be left alone. He’s thrust into this situation that he didn’t ask for and that he has nothing to do with, but winds up pulling a string on the sweater and the entire thing unravels, and he’s caught in a situation that he can’t turn away from.
Knowing that this show has a tendency to not have a lot of wardrobe for some of the characters, was the lack of clothing something you were comfortable with, or do you just deal with it because it’s part of the job?
Joe: You do everything you can to prepare yourself. I’m a big guy on preparation, so as soon as I knew I was cast, I was in the gym, twice a day, six days a week, with a trainer. I was on a diet, and did the whole deal. When you get to those scenes, obviously you want to make sure that you fit the character and that you are not only comfortable, but confident in those situations. You also don’t want to embarrass your family name, so you get in there and work a little extra hard.
Playing a werewolf, don’t you also want to look physically intimidating?
Joe: Yes, very much. Werewolves look like animals, whereas vampires don’t necessarily don’t have to be the most physically intimidating people because you believe that they’re super-strong and can rip your throat out. With a werewolf, I knew that it was going to be different. I didn’t want the audience to have to suspend their disbelief so much. I wanted to be as muscular as possible because I thought that, if I was a super-strong, half-animal character, I would probably be in unbelievable shape. At least the physical strength would be apparent, rather than something internal or hidden.
How has it been to work with your wolf counterpart? Could you ever have imagined that your career as an actor would lead you to working with an actual wolf?
Joe: No, I never imagined that, in a million years. But, with that said, being able to hang out with full-blooded wolves is one of the coolest things I have ever done, in my life and in my career. It was intimidating, at first. They’re not dogs. They’re gigantic. They’re huge. They’re as big as lions. They have these yellow eyes and they don’t behave like dogs, so there is an uneasiness at first, but a lot of it is really just awe. You’re just in awe of these really powerful and beautiful creatures. It was a real thrill to get to spend time with them and work with them.
Joe: It just depends. There are rules. You can’t eat around them. You don’t want to touch them first, you want to let them adjust to you. I was fortunate enough to get to know the trainers a little bit and, on some of my free time, I got to go up to the ranch where they train the wolves and hang out with my wolf. They wound up actually letting me take him for a walk, for about 45 minutes, up in the mountains.
Since something bad always seems to happen on “True Blood,” how involved does your character get with the action, and do you enjoy doing that kind of physical work?
Joe: I love doing physical stuff. I used to box, and I used to train as a boxer, and I’ve done countless action fight sequences, so I really do enjoy getting into the mix there, and they were really cool about letting me do that. Werewolves are a really rough bunch, so wherever there is a group of werewolves, there is always going to be a fight.
When you work on a show where the creator says that there’s going to be a big body count this season, does that worry you at all, as far as job security goes?
Joe: Oh, sure. I would ask Alan, “Okay, what’s happening in the next episode?,” and would think to himself and go, “Well, there’s going to be a lot of blood and a lot of people are going to die.” That’s par for the course on “True Blood.” People ask me how it’s going on the show, and my response is always, “Well, they haven’t killed me yet.” You never know. You always get that script and flip through to make sure that you’re in there and alive at the end of it.
How many episodes have you shot already?
Joe: I’ve shot seven episodes.
Are there any specific episodes that you’re really looking forward to fans of the show getting to see?
Joe: Episode 7 is insane. That was my favorite script of the year. It is absolutely crazy! I’m excited for people to see that.
Do you know if you’ll be returning next season?
Joe: I don’t know. I don’t know what their plans are for next season.
Have you gotten to meet or talk to (author) Charlaine Harris, to see what she thinks of you playing Alcide?
Joe: I did. I met her at the premiere, for the first time. She was the sweetest, nicest lady that I think I may ever have met. We actually talked about the 10th book that just came out, and she gave me some really great insight into Alcide and where his arc goes, throughout the series of books. That was a really, really cool conversation. And then, I actually just watched this interview that she’d done where somebody asked her, “Who would you rather marry, a faerie, a vampire or a werewolf?,” and she said she’d rather marry a werewolf. So, I figure that, if Alcide is good enough for Charlaine, maybe he’s good enough for Sookie too.
What do you enjoy most about getting to play this character, and what have been the biggest challenges?
Joe: This thing that I enjoy the most is my castmates. Working on such great material, on such a great show with such great actors has been such a pleasure. And, one of the biggest challenges is that we work long hours. I work long hours on set, and I work long hours in the gym when I’m off. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever worked on.
Since you pursued this role, can you understand what the appeal of this show is and why the fans are so loyal and devoted to it?
Joe: It’s going to sound funny, but I think that people respond to the humanity of the show. I think the show, in its essence, is about what it means to be human. It explores loneliness, love, lust, loss and death, but it does so through people that either were human and are no longer, or people that are only partially human, or people that aren’t human and are trying to live amongst the human society. It’s such a human show, even though it’s dominated by a bunch of people that aren’t human. I think that’s what the purpose of mythology is. You have these Gods that have flaws like the rest of us, and it’s through speaking about those flaws, of these people who shouldn’t have flaws, that we learn a lot more about ourselves and can delve further and explore these things.
What was it that made you decide to get into acting?
Joe: Acting was my first love. It was the first and only thing that I was excited to wake up at six in the morning on a Saturday to go do. I spent a lot of years working on a lot of projects that weren’t necessarily fulfilling. There were things that I worked on because I’m a professional and it’s what professional actors do. I worked on a lot of projects that I didn’t necessarily watch, or wasn’t necessarily a fan of. I’m just very lucky and I’m enjoying every second of this because I do realize that it’s fleeting and that you can’t always work on something like this. I’m not always going to be able to work on the hottest show on TV, in the coolest part I could ever play, in 2010, which seems like the year or the werewolf. It’s not always going to be this good, so I’ve got to enjoy every single moment of it. It is these moments that remind me of why I set out to do this, why I worked so hard and why I persevered, stuck around and stuck it out. This is a big reward for me, for sticking around.
When you do work of these quality, does it make you more selective, as far as what you want to do next?
Joe: Yeah, it does. It’s such an amazing part on such an amazing show with such an amazing fan base. It has already changed the game for me.
Joe: I know they’re going to be casting Superman soon, and there’s someone at USA Today that just started a Joe For Superman blog. That would be another dream come true.
Do you have any plans for hiatus?
Joe: I just recorded an audio book, actually. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I got to read a fantasy book by Patricia Briggs, called Dragon Bones. And, I still have a bunch of “True Blood” stuff left over to do, so I am still very much immersed in werewolf land. I’m going to be doing some features for the DVD. I’m not sure what yet because I just got the call, but we’ll figure it out. And, I’ve got Comic-Con coming up. I grew up a big comic book reader, as a kid, and I love the whole fanboy crowd. I hear the “True Blood” panel at Comic-Con is the place to be. I’m excited to be included in it, and I’m really excited to go out and meet the fans.
Is there anything you can say about the Season 3 finale? Are there big cliffhangers?
Joe: It’s going to be insane. People are going to lose their minds!