Think of him as a renaissance man, with more muscles and fewer pretensions than James Franco, though Manganiello spent most of the time on the set of "Sabotage" beating the tar out of his fellow cast members - Terrence Howard, Sam Worthington and Arnold.
Tough-guy director David Ayer ("Training Day") wanted his team of actors to prepare for their roles as a covert DEA strike force by mixing it up physically, within reasonable limits.
"David likes it hard-core, and I do, too," said Manganiello. "Any days that we had off, we'd put on the head gear and really go at it as a cast, to create that warrior mentality. I actually liked everybody I worked with on this movie.
"I wish there were move movies where I got to beat the hell out of the actors that I worked with."
He didn't mention any names.
But he did mention that the goal in "Sabotage" wasn't punishment, but research and team-building. The cast also trained with covert DEA agents. Manganiello got to know their techniques, their mind-set and the kind of work they did.
"I asked the guys what drives them," Manganiello said. "Is it an extreme sense of justice or patriotism? But it's something else. There's this quote from Hemingway: 'There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.' "
I mentioned that I get stressed hunting for bargains at Ross.
It's obviously not for everybody, he replied.
"Some find that, like my character, it's something they're good at. For whatever reason, they have this skill set. I talked to one guy, and he said that when you first kill someone, one of two things will happen: You wake up the next day and you realize this isn't for me, or you wake up the next morning and you realize you want to kill."
Under, he hastened to add, righteous circumstances.
"These [cartel] people are using inhuman tactics. They are unfit for society, and so you end up being driven by the sense that you need to protect society from these guys."
I asked Manganiello if the agents he spoke with questioned the overall efficacy of the war on drugs.
"They talk about it all the time, constantly," the actor said, adding that he detected no consensus. What they do agree on, he said, is that most people in America have no idea about the reach of the industry, the powerful forces in play.
"People would be surprised if they knew everyone who had a hand in the cookie jar."