Lone Wolf

2.21.2012

By William Van Meter

Joe Manganiello was a theater-loving jock who defended the arty kids in school, but never felt he belonged to any clique. Then he was cast in 'True Blood' and found his feet—all four of them.

In high school, Manganiello didn’t fit the cookie-cutter stereotype of a jock, but he played football, basketball, and volleyball. “I never felt like I belonged,” he says. “I had the jocks that I was supposed to belong with and party with, and I didn’t see eye-to-eye with them. I remember getting in fights with guys on the football team for bullying artistic guys I was friends with. Internally, I was more of a weirdo artist. I identified with the kids smoking on the corner in Slayer T-shirts. That was more of who I was. I would hang out with those kids and listen to Fugazi.”

Manganiello stayed close to home and studied drama at Carnegie Mellon. “I was now an artist throwing out those ideas of what I thought I was,” he says. His identity expanded still further when he fell into the then-burgeoning rave scene. He bleached his hair and got his tongue pierced. “I was an old-school raver,” he says. “This whole other layer came in. I started hearing this music that turned me on and excited the creative part of me. I was getting piercings and listening to drum and bass. That was my coming of age as an artist. I was free of what I thought I had to be. All of a sudden, I could figure out who I was and what I liked.”

The libertine rave scene was a futurist subculture dancing to a techno beat, but it was a scene programmed to auto-destruct because of its decadence. Manganiello, who has been sober for almost 10 years, admits falling prey to excess, but he won’t go into specifics. “I spent the later part of my twenties cleaning up the first half,” he says.

After college, Manganiello won the role of Flash Thompson, Peter Parker’s high school nemesis, in Spider-Man -- an ironic bully role that contrasted with his actual school experience. He moved to L.A. for the film, but shooting didn’t begin for six months, so he took a job as a bodyguard for Tyrese and as a bouncer at an after-hours club.

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