In "Magic Mike," Pittsburgh's Joe Manganiello embodies the spirit of his hometown: in this case, the Strip District.
"I think people who see this movie are going to look at us all differently for the rest of our lives," Mr. Manganiello said, laughing.
Director Steven Soderbergh's latest film, which opens across the country today, is a cautionary-but-often-funny R-rated tale about the glittery, sweaty world of exotic male dancers in Tampa. In addition to sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, there's impressive choreography and some outrageous displays of male anatomy.
"My mom has not seen [the film] and I'm not sure where I stand on that at the present time," he said recently. "I think between that, and a lot of the stuff that goes on on 'True Blood,' it's going to be one heck of an interesting summer for my parents."
The 1995 Mt. Lebanon High School graduate has a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University's drama department. Like fellow CMU grad and "Magic Mike" castmate Matt Bomer, however, he got his big break not through Shakespeare in the Park, but in television.
As werewolf Alcide Herveaux on HBO's hit "True Blood," Mr. Manganiello is no stranger to nude scenes. Filming "Magic Mike," however, was something else entirely.
The film's casting director, unaware that playing the buff and often in-the-buff Alcide had rocketed Mr. Manganiello to international fame and hotness, asked if he was comfortable with nudity.
Let him count the ways: "I was always doing crazy stuff, even then [in college]. My junior year, one project was this auto-drama where we had to tell our life story, and I started the piece out with these gothic bells playing over the speakers, naked, in 'The Terminator' pose."
He also has done an off-Broadway show in New York, full frontal: "I was always pushing the envelope to make things fun or," -- he laughed -- "memorable."
The exotic dance club's actors troupe had to perform several group numbers and some solo spots. A sports background, as well as experience in stunts and on-screen fights, served him well beyond ballet and jazz dance class at CMU.
Among Mr. Manganiello's looks: fireman, gold-dusted statue, complete with fig leaf, and a quick shot of his character, Big Dick Richie, posing in silhouette behind a screen.
The last is kind of a shocker. Asked to describe working with a prosthetic, Mr. Manganiello pretended to be puzzled: "Wait, prosthetic?"
Yet the movie's depiction of life in the club isn't all fun and games.
"There are so many different colors in the palette when dealing with this subject material," he said. "It's a lifestyle that starts out as fun, as anyone who goes out to clubs a lot knows.
"There's drinking. There's drugs involved. There's a really sexy, magnetic side to all of that, and it's really fun, but if you stay in that lifestyle long enough, you get to the second stage, which is 'fun, with problems.'
"Somebody might OD, but they live ... there are some bad nights, but enough good nights to keep you doing it.
"And then you get to the third phase, which is 'just problems.' "
Such is life: "You're laughing, having the time of your life and then the next moment, something completely tragic happens.
"And then you're back to having the time of your life."
Mr. Manganiello said the script read a lot darker on the page than it appears on screen.
"It read like an expose, but once the guys all got together and we got our thongs on ... hanging out in the locker room, there was this level of energy that I don't think anyone anticipated."
The season finale of "True Blood" wrapped this week, and Mr. Manganiello will be out promoting "Magic Mike." Among other summer projects, he'll be working on an indie film, "Tumbledown," with Rose Byrne and Jason Sudeikis.
The one-time candidate for a "Superman" movie franchise relaunch said he'll also be working on finding his superhero movie. "We'll figure the right one, and when it hits, it'll be the absolute right one."
He also plans to return to Pittsburgh for a local magazine event and make an appearance at his beloved Steelers season kickoff. A visit to training camp in Latrobe also is possible, as well as an appearance at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
When Mr. Manganiello says he keeps track of his old hometown, he isn't joking. Informed that another local icon, Primanti Bros., has opened a new restaurant in the South Hills, he replied: "Right across the street from where my dad lives. I'm all over it."
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published June 29, 2012 4:00 AM