British actor Greg Sulkin played professionally for football academies such as West Ham, Queens Park Rangers and even Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club in his youth but later rose to stardom off the field and onto our screens, where he rose to fame with roles in Sixty Six, Marvel's Runaways and as personal trainer and thirst trap Grant on Netflix's Pretty Smart.
M&F sat down with London-born Sulkin to find out how football and other social fitness activities have helped get the toned Brit in shape for those crucial shirtless scenes. We've also learned that the ambitious 29-year-old has set his sights on playing a future incarnation of legendary spy James Bond.
Sulkin, who is actually a lifelong Arsenal fan, played football in the academies of some of England's most prestigious clubs from the age of 8, but after suffering a knee injury at the age of 13, playing at such a high level was no longer tenable play, and his dreams of following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp became a sad reality. Little did the Westminster man know that a career in Hollywood was just around the corner.
"My mother saw a newspaper article that basically said there was an open audition for a Jewish role in a film starring Helena Bonham Carter," says Sulkin. "It was made by Richard Curtis and the entire Working Title team. I never wanted to be an actor and just went to my very first audition. Four weeks later and many callbacks later, I finally booked the lead and I think it was one of those situations where my sports injury allowed me to go to the audition."
He adds, "Honestly, I don't think I would have moved on if I hadn't been successful with that audition, because it wasn't until I started acting in the industry that I really fell in love with her." Incredibly, Sulkin became in Sixty Six, a film based on England's successful 1966 World Cup campaign after beating 5,000 other hopefuls.
However, as the pain in his knee subsided, Sulkin couldn't resist returning to football whenever his busy acting schedule permitted, even appearing for Team GB at the 2009 Maccabiah Games (the Jewish Olympic Games). Sulkin's off-pitch career continued to flourish, scoring a role in The Wizards of Wavely Place opposite Selena Gomez. "It was going to be an episode and it ended up being four years on the show," says the actor. "Thankfully I've kept working, and acting is 100 percent my career, but the fitness side of things has always been with me."
Soccer is a social activity
For many, playing soccer is about more than just getting great cardio. There's the post-game breakdown of the highs and lows of each game and the camaraderie that comes with sharing the love of the sport with your friends, but make no mistake, football burns fat. For example, a 180-pound man can burn about 900 calories during a 90-minute game. "I still play every Thursday night here in LA to stay true to my roots," says the actor. "It's kind of like my meditation."
Exercising with friends is a great way to stay accountable and motivated, especially when you get to play at Rod Stewart's home. "He has a soccer field in his back garden," Sulkin shares. "It's a nice little community with a huge Celtic badge all over the place."
While soccer, or football as they call it in the UK, is Sulkin's first fitness love, he admits it can be difficult to get 22 people together whose schedules all fit, so when games aren't possible, he strives to maintain his body in other ways and makes sure he works out almost every day.
Climb the ladder of success
Sulkin is a fan of traditional bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. He tries to schedule 20 to 30 minutes a day for cardio, initially preferring the treadmill to the rough concrete but lately finding himself drawn to the full-body workouts offered by the CLMBR. "I feel like it has very little impact on my knees and joints, which is tremendous," says the athletic actor. "I do the CLMBR at least four times a week."
As with the social side of football, the CLMBR gives Sulkin a sense of community as he enjoys following his favorite coached courses. “They guide you through the sessions in terms of form because form is so important. The open design of the machine allows me to look ahead and also maintain correct posture.”
Greg Sulkin is "pretty smart" about his preparation for shirtless scenes
Courtesy of Netflix
The tone is set for Sulkin's portrayal of Grant on the Netflix sitcom Pretty Smart from his very first half-naked appearance. The actor shares that he commits to getting in top shape several weeks after such scenes and often doubles his workouts to twice a day if he feels it necessary, but once filming wraps up, the star allows himself to relax strict regime to balance his lifestyle although always keen to maintain his level of fitness. "Workout is one of those things that you can get addicted to, but once you get out of the routine it's really hard to get back into it, so I'm never out of the gym for too long."
Sulkin admits he has a sweet tooth but understands that sugar is one of the first things he cuts down on when his body needs to look its best. "Every single person is different," says Sulkin. "But for me, instead of counting calories, I try to just have some common sense." The actor is a big believer in listening to your body and how it's reacting to certain foods. He prefers to limit his red meat consumption to no more than once a month and feels his body responds well to fish and lean meats like chicken. "I also like non-meat foods," says the actor, sharing that he's recently transitioned to a much more plant-based diet. When
When it comes to looking at his carb intake, Sulkin likes to make clever changes, like substituting quinoa for rice. "I feel like it makes my body feel a lot more toned and not sluggish." Sulkin also says he's learned that what he's putting into his body directly affects his mental health, so he tries to use as many natural ones as possible to eat whole foods as possible. "I feel really great after eating carrots or fresh cucumbers or spinach... those types of foods."
Greg Sulkin continues to spy on his ultimate role
Throughout his career to date, Sulkin has taken on roles that include comedy, action and horror, but there's one character the Brit thinks would be a major achievement if he could get the part. "My goal is to be the first Jewish James Bond," he says. "I grew up Jewish, it's an important part of who I am and I think every person should always embrace their community and who they are. Besides, who wouldn't want to play James Bond!?”