Steve Howey, star of the new TV adaptation of the legendary 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger action film True Lies, often appears on screen with an incredible physique, but he never expected to one day take on one of the legendary roles of Austrian Oak . Thankfully, Howey wasn't expected to play the seven-time Olympia when he took on the role, but he was able to bring his own unique experience of acting and staying in shape to a character who will click in 2023.
M&F caught up with the 45-year-old from San Antonio to find out how his training has evolved since we last interviewed five years ago and why the actor is in the best physical and mental shape of his career.
You attended rtheastern Junior College (Sterling, CO) on a basketball scholarship. Was that your first impression of the importance of being physically fit?
I was a late bloomer in basketball. I didn't start playing until my freshman year at (Crescenta Valley) High School and from there I went and got a scholarship to a junior college with plans to go to a Division II or I but I couldn't keep up these guys. I drank protein shakes, worked out all the time and still couldn't compete at their level. But I grew up selling boats in Southern California, so I've always swum. I was always in the water like a fish, so I think it had a lot to do with (being fit). I have pictures of me swinging on ropes connected to the top of the pole so I was quite an athletic kid but yeah basketball was my love and I had high hopes that I would be a professional basketball player, but then I went to college and those dreams were shattered.” [laughs]
You often get seriously screwed on screen, as with "Stuber" (2019). How did you prepare for this role?
That was jacked. I got cut, it was just timing. I think one of the reasons I got (the role) was how I looked in Shameless. In 2017 or 2018 I started running marathons and I started doing sprint triathlons. With all that running and training it was hard to keep a lot of muscle, so realizing how much you can eat while training like this was a lot of fun. Playing a stripper in Stuber was a lot of fun. It was a great scene.
With so many roles you've taken on in film and television that require you to be in great shape, was it easier to stick with your character because you were so active growing up?
A lot of my workouts are for physical reasons, but I think the main reason is my mental and emotional health. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice, it would be "train more". There were times when I was on the TV show "Reba" (2001-2007), I definitely enjoyed the party scene, and there were times on "Shameless" (since 2010) where I did the same, but sports have always been part of my lifestyle. Especially with "True Lies" I knew I was going to do my own stunts, I knew it was going to be a lot of work. Being "number one" on the show, in every scene, all day, every day, so being in good physical shape was paramount. It had to be done. So I've been lifting weights, I've been running, I've been to muay thai classes and I've just been preparing and I'm glad I did because if I didn't it would have been bad. Like my body broke.
You really gave it your all on True Lies and actually broke!?
My body ended up breaking! I broke my finger, just the tip. It went all the way back and the nail hit the ankle and stayed there. The stunt involved dodging a swinging baton and then throwing the stunt guy against the wall and then through a glass window. We did it a few times and this one time I wanted to grab him and my finger just went back. I finished the stunt scene and stuck my finger back. w I have about a month before I can do pull ups!
When you last spoke to M&F about five years ago, They spent two to three hours per session in the gym. Has your training changed with the more functional training and running you do now?
I think muscle memory is a big part of it so I don't have to go that hard. During that time, five years ago, I personally went through a lot, so being in the gym was cathartic. It was my therapy, away from therapy if you will. It was more like; "I have to push myself to stop thinking." [laughs]
Speaking of thinking; What did you think of filling Arnold Schwarzenegger's giant boots for the TV version of True Lies?
The man is a legend! I just want to say how hard it is as an actor to throw a knife and let it go through that person and then they go into the wall and then they say to that person, "Stay here!" This is tough, and he pulls those looks around the corner and pulls it off so effortlessly that filling his footsteps is a daunting task if you will, but we've tried to maintain our originality. We tried to do our own thing so we weren't emulating what (the original film) was doing, but it was a huge responsibility trying to pull off that TV version. Schwarzenegger is the man.
It's such a great project that manages to pay homage to the original without trying to copy it, but when you first read the script you were relieved that you didn't have to play the role with an Austrian accent!
Yes! (laughs) I said, do you realize that I'm not an Austrian bodybuilder?
True Lies, starring Steve Howey and Ginger Gonzaga, premieres March 1, 2023 on CBS and Paramount+.