PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Joe Manganiello; "True Blood" Star Talks Sobriety, Streetcar and Life After Alcide

By Tori Scott
13 Sep 2013

Manganiello in "Magic Mike."
Photo by Glen Wilson – © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

These are epic shoes to fill. Does the ghost of Marlon Brando still loom over you, or did you get past that your first time as Stanley?
JM: It's so different. I watched his version when I first wanted to become an actor, when I knew I was heading in that direction in my teens, I watched "Streetcar." I love Brando and James Dean and all those guys. And then, I didn't watch it again until after I did the show in West Virginia. I respect Brando incredibly because he was punk rock. He was really this rebel who was fighting, just raging against the machine that was this presentational theatrical acting style. It used to be very stuffy, and real people just didn't act like that. So he was the first one to really turn his back to the camera and do his mumbling. And it was so important at the time and it needed to be done. Somebody needed to rebel against it and it just happened to be him, in my opinion, in this role that really changed things and altered the course. So, I'm not constricted by that anymore. I'm free to just play the play, and I'm free to play those moments. I think the people who are familiar with his version have an opinion about it and I don't necessarily know that they've really ever heard the play. I look forward to those people coming to see the play because I think they will probably go, "Wait a minute, is this the same thing I saw?" Because it is so different. There are so many more moments. I mean, Stanley can really be funny at times. He's funny and he's heartbreaking and he's vicious, and there are just so many layers to him. But I think really what Brando had to do at the time was just to tear it all down. But you know, it's mine now. I think the fact that over 16 years I just keep meeting up with this play, I mean at some point I will get too old to play the role, so I don't know if it's this last time I get to do it or not but, the fact is, it's mine. Someone asked me recently, "Have you seen any of the other versions?" Honestly, outside of "The Simpsons," I haven't. I think because there is an amount of it for me where it's MY play.

This is really very personal for you.
JM: Yeah. It's my play. And I belong to it. So you know, I don't really want to see somebody else having sex with my wife. [Laughs.]

You mentioned the idea of Broadway earlier. What are some other roles or other playwrights that interest you?
JM: Always been a huge fan of David Mamet. I just love the language. The first play I ever did in college was a collection of scenes from the "Goldberg Street" collection. It was really difficult material, really dense and you could just rehearse the shit out of that all day every day and get to opening night and still not feel ready. But then, when you get into the performance, it's so freeing because the language is so natural. I'd love to do some Mamet. You know, maybe a run of Speed the Plow where I stay away from sushi. [Laughs.] Or even Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross. I love Neil LaBute. I got to meet him during intermission of Reasons to be Pretty and he said, "You know, there is a great role in this play for you." Also, my teachers at Carnegie would never let me do John Patrick Shanley. So there's a bunch of Shanley plays I want to do… and Terrence McNally. I'm getting to be the age of Chekhov, and I loved working with Moscow Art theatre directors in college and haven't done it since. And I used to do tons of Shakespeare.

You are really ready to get back to the theatre.
JM: Yeah! Just get back into those roles where you can really sit down at the table and work it all out.

With a new school year starting, what are some words of advice you would give to all the incoming acting students?
JM: You never know which one of those styles or which one of those stupid, crazy things they ask you to do is going to stick with you. And sometimes it's the most bizarre stuff on earth. I thought animal projects were the dumbest thing I'd ever done in my life and then come to find out my big break came playing a half man-half animal. I think about the commedia dell'arte chapter that people kind of blew off. And, honestly, I've made a very good career in comedy playing characters like those characters from commedia. I had this teacher from Peru, her name was Victoria Santa Cruz, and she taught us this class called rhythm, which had really nothing to do with acting. It was like, jumping over a sponge to a tabla player in rhythm and not breaking stride. I mean, it was bizarre! But, honestly, there's not a week that's gone by in my life since that I haven't thought about that woman or thought about something she said. I even quote her in my book. You just never know. And I saw kids that came in freshman year who thought they were too cool for school, smartest one in the room, and they got kicked out. They kicked out really talented kids for thinking they had nothing to learn. So, I would just say to be humble, put your head down, learn everything you can because you just never know down the line what you will need to pull out of your bag of tricks. And who knew I would spend ten years in LA not using any of it, and then all of sudden, I'd be using all of it.


Tori Scott is a performer and writer living in New York City. She frequently performs at Joe's Pub (coming up Oct. 7) and 54 Below. Follow her @ItsToriScott.

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