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All The Ways Joe Manganiello Is Trying To Make 'Dungeons & Dragons' Mainstream Cool

Updated May 27, 2020 38.5k views12 items

There was a time when the stereotypical players of Dungeons & Dragons were nerds in dark basements who rarely surfaced to see the light of day. Today, that stereotype is mostly a relic of the past, and popular culture has embraced what the nerds knew all along: D&D offers a world of imagination, excitement, and adventure you can share with your family and friends. D&D is no longer relegated to basements, and that's partly due to the fact that celebrities like Joe Manganiello have come out of the closet as avid D&D players.

Manganiello certainly doesn't fit the mold of a basement-dwelling gamer. He was a prominent member of the Magic Mike cast; he played an alluring werewolf on True Blood; and, in case you haven't figured it out yet, the guy is absolutely ripped. While all of that is great for his career, it has absolutely nothing to do with what he enjoys doing in his free time. Believe it or not, the man loves throwing dice with his pals. And, since he began playing the game as a celebrity, Manganiello has helped to bring D&D into the mainstream. In a profile with Variety, Manganiello reveals in ins and outs of his celebrity campaign and how each player became involved. 

  • Manganiello Played 'Dungeons & Dragons' In The ‘80s, And It Helped His Acting And Writing

    In high school, Manganiello played at the varsity level in football, basketball, and volleyball, but he was interested in theater more than anything. Throughout this time, he played D&D with his friends, and during his senior year, he won the part of Jud Fry in the school's production of Oklahoma!

    His love of theater and D&D intertwined, and the overactive use of imagination and strategy helped him develop as an actor and writer. In an interview with Men's Health, Manganiello said of his earliest days playing the game, "It’s where I figured out how to develop a character and how to tell long-form narrative stories, like on a TV series. The earliest evidence of me producing and acting and writing all came from that."

    He expanded on the importance of the game in another interview with Inverse. In the piece, he was asked if D&D helped push him to become an actor:

    I wouldn’t say it’s the reason why. I didn’t play D&D and go, I wanna be an actor. That happened independently. I made films and that’s how I got into acting, but unbeknownst to me, especially when I started producing and breaking stories for pitches and scripts, I realized all of those muscles I developed from game mastering as a kid. So in hindsight it was absolutely instrumental in my development as an artist. It was a way for me to work it out, in a way I understood, creating characters and stories could be something I could do for a living.

  • Manganiello Stopped Playing For A While, But Got Back Into It In The Early 2010s

    Even the most ardent fans of role-playing games tend to stop as they get older. That's exactly what happened to Manganiello when, in 2013, he was performing in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire at Yale. While he was there, a childhood friend he used to play with - in fact, a buddy he taught the game to - reignited his passion for D&D.

    It happened with a single phone call, when Manganiello got in touch to offer some tickets to his show. Manganiello described the conversation in an interview with Men's Health, in which his friend said, "Dude, you’re not gonna believe it, but we started playing again, and you need to make a character and come over."

    Apparently, that was all it took. The actor hopped in a car, drove halfway across the state, and reentered the magical world of Dungeons & Dragons.

  • He Runs Campaigns For And Plays With Other Celebrities

    When you're a celebrity, odds are you're going to know a ton of other celebrities. It makes sense, seeing as they tend to work together, but it wasn't until recently that the world learned there were a ton of famous folks who enjoy role-playing games. Manganiello hosts D&D games, which often include up to nine of his friends and co-workers. In an interview with Men's Health, Manganiello joked that "everybody in LA" stops by his place for a game.

    Some of the celebrities he's played with include James Gunn, Brad Peyton, Tom Morello, Taran Killam, David Benioff, Vince Vaughn, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Deborah Ann Woll, The Big Show, and Stephen Colbert, to name a few. Manganiello described his group in an article he wrote for NBC News:

    All my friends play. All these huge directors, comedians, actors? We all play. My trainer of the past eight years, who is a CrossFit champion - 6'2", 245 pounds of solid muscle - is the most [dedicated] encyclopedia of fantasy novel information you'll ever find. There's a ton of us in LA who all get together and play the way that we did as kids, when we were first creating character backstories and writing episodic adventure series.

    Unfortunately, Manganiello's wife, Sofia Vergara, isn't on the list due to a complete and total lack of interest. Despite this, she has no problems with his love for the game, and that's evident, seeing as she let him build the ultimate man cave devoted solely to it in their basement.

  • He Has A Special 'D&D' Dungeon In His Home Called The 'Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon'

    Video: YouTube

    Manganiello doesn't have a card table set aside to play with his friends; he has a basement room named in honor of the man who created the game called the "Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon," and it looks exactly like it sounds.

    Two swinging wooden doors (that look like they were ripped straight out of a castle in medieval Europe) open onto a room featuring a large table with chairs. Bookshelves around the room feature every book and board game the actor might need to start a campaign. There are busts of dragon's heads on the wall, and a Beholder hangs from the ceiling - forever watching the games played beneath its many-eyed gaze! Miniatures are spread out all over the place, making the dungeon look as if it's constantly under siege by a Lilliputian army.

    Everything about this room truly is an homage to the late Gygax.