You likely know Joe Manganiello as America’s favorite werewolf for his role on True Blood — or even as the husband of Sofia Vergara. But what you might not know much about is his near-lifelong obsession with the fantasy roleplaying war game Dungeons & Dragons.
“It’s a game that was really the predecessor for video games… It’s just that when we were kids, the technology wasn’t available,” says Manganiello, 42, who has been a fan of the game since he was about 10. “So you’ve got to play the game in your mind.”
His passion for the game, long synonymous with teenage geekdom, has only intensified over the years. “How obsessed am I? I have a dungeon in my house,” he says, explaining that the room had been a wine cellar when he and Vergara moved in, and that his wife had wanted to turn it into a pilates or dance studio. But, he recalls telling her, “I need this room.” Now there are dragon heads mounted on the walls.
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Manganiello explains that the game was his “creative outlet” when he was a kid. “I love telling stories. I always have. And that’s really what the game is — it’s…really complex math mixed with character development, and then this craps-table gambling element.”
He admits, “When I was a kid it wasn’t cool. You didn’t want to say you were into tabletop role-playing games. Probably in the ’80s there was more of a division between the jocks and the nerds. I was both.”
He got his chance to respond to at least one person at high school who looked down on D&D while attending his 5-year high school reunion. There, he recalls, he bumped into a friend who had played D&D with him back in the day. “His wife came over and said, ‘Oh, you talking about that stupid game again?’ I said, ‘Oh, that stupid game? I do that for a living…” Manganiello recalls. “I play a guy who turns into a wolf on a show about fairies and vampires, and it’s the No. 1 show on cable.'”
The actor has had a lot of fun “speaking out publicly and just saying ‘I like this thing, I have fun doing it,'” he says. “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and say ‘thanks for changing the game,'” and people’s perceptions of it.
As far as Vergara’s opinion of the game, he says, “My wife is supportive of whatever I do. She knows that I love it, and I have fun doing it.” If he starts talking about Dungeons & Dragons to her, though, it’s a different story. “She’ll interrupt me and say, ‘Do you want me to go into the closet and get my tray of earrings and explain them to you for the next half an hour?’ Alright fine.”
The best reward for his decades-long dedication to the game, he says, is that he’s now turned it into a side hustle, making D&D merch with his streetwear company Death Saves, and writing for D&D as a consultant. As he explains it, “I basically tracked down a part-time job that was the job I wanted when I was a kid.”
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