When your father is The Hulk, your powers are bound to be limitless. Insert Lou Ferrigno Jr., son to actor and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, who takes after his dad’s genetics in all facets of his life and career. Whether he’s shining in comedy or drama, landing top brand commercials, or gracing the covers of fitness magazines, the Santa Monica, California native injects love and passion into all his endeavors.
Describing himself as a “compassionate, thoughtful, artist,” and a “conflicted soul,” Lou proves you don’t have to be boxed into any one thing, giving his fullest potential in whatever task is at hand. The USC graduate attended all the hottest improv comedy schools in Los Angeles, before diving into fitness and commercials, landing the cover of IRONMAN MAGAZINE and shooting national ads with Subway, Dr. Pepper, Comcast, Carl’s Jr., Honda, and many more.
No stranger to the film and television realm, Lou has been a fan favorite since he appeared in How I Met Your Mother, NCIS Los Angeles, Teen Wolf, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn, and Mutt & Stuff… to name a few. Fast forward to today, you can find him in SWAT on CBS, Samuel Goldwyn’s thriller film DREAMCATCHER, and NIGHTSHADE.
Flaunt caught up with Lou via Zoom, who was posted in West Los Angeles on a beautiful Saturday. Read below as we discuss coming up on set with his parents, transitioning from athlete to comedy and acting, going to improv school, his first big break, filming SWAT CBS, his workout regime, staying busy in the pandemic, love for cooking, goals, and more!
Born and raised in Santa Monica, how was it growing up?
It was beautiful. My dad bought a house in Santa Monica early on because they wanted to be closer to Gold’s Gym. In those days, Gold’s Gym was in Santa Monica. It was the 70’s, it was post Pumping Iron. At the time, there was only one. The place to be for anyone bodybuilding—that movie brought everything to the forefront regarding bodybuilding. It was interesting. It was a great area and a great place to be, but it was a much older demographic. I didn’t have neighborhood friends. I had one friend growing up in the neighborhood and turns out, his dad was involved with the Russian mafia. We learned that later on! I never had the classic growing up but then again, I was always traveling the world with my parents. Traveling to different countries and going to set. I had a very unconventional upbringing.
When did you decide you wanted to do the entertainment thing?
I always was on set with my parents. It was always my dad’s thing and my sister’s. Last minute they needed a kid for this movie called Cage 2, a sequel my dad was in. They needed some kid to walk in and grab the milk in action, I said “okay, I’ll do it.” A lot of times, I was very reluctant to do things but something drew me to this. Growing up as Lou Ferrigno Jr., I was always an afterthought. My dad wasn’t only world famous, he’s a massive spectacle of a person. You see this guy, and you look at him. I was never really considered by anyone, it was always me watching everything going on.
When that happened and we did the scene, I nailed it and felt comfortable. I turned around and saw all the faces involved in the production looking at me, and I thought to myself “this is it.” In that moment, something came easy to me about not being stressed. Since I was 10 years old, I knew it. My dad was an actor, my mom was an actress, and my sister was in school and did theatre growing up. I was an athlete, very reluctant to jump in. After working 15 different jobs trying to do everything but acting, I realized I got no other choice. Now i’ve got to do it. From there, I knew it’d be the rest of my life.
How was your experience studying improvisational comedy in LA, after graduating USC?
I was very lucky. I’m very athletic, I could get away with playing sports at a high level and that really kept me from pursuing anything else. I was really succeeding in that world. I always knew I wanted to go to college to do it and get an education. My mom said I had to do it. While I was there, I knew I needed to distinguish myself from my father somehow, having the same name and a father that’s world-renowned is tough when you’re trying to be your own person. Especially someone who’s so famous, of course he’s gonna be in the forefront.
I knew I had to distinguish myself. I wasn’t going to be a bodybuilder. There’s too many questionable aspects to bodybuilding. I walked onto the USC football team, and made it. #1 team in the country going in, they kept me on the squad so I could do it. I wasn’t going pro, so I got my degree: major in Communication and minor in Business Law. I really hit it hard, reading as much as I could. In the back of my mind, I always knew I’d be an actor. Even though I’d never taken a class, I knew it. I needed to exhaust every option before I pursued this, because this is going to be the rest of my life. I don’t want to say “what if?” After doing a number of different jobs, there’s nothing else I can do.
Do you remember your first big break?
How I Met Your Mother. I hadn’t seen the show at the time, it was on its 8th season. I walked in, and every job has its lessons. I bought this leather jacket that’s way out of my price range, but I liked the way I looked and felt in it. Even my girlfriend at the time said “you’re about 10 years away from that.” I left and said “I love this jacket.” I spent the money on it, it was a lot. I got this audition, this two-line thing for HIMYM. I never even heard of the show, but it was for a co-star.
I’m thinking, I’m going to drive all the way across town for this? I had done a couple roles for a couple soaps. I thought, you know what, I’m going for this job and I’m going to wear my jacket. Even though it’s for one co-star, I’m going to be the person I want to be. When I walked in the room with that jacket and said that thing, I felt like the person I wanted to be. It has paid for itself time and time again. They brought me back for a recurring role, a huge part of the show, because I was the last boyfriend of the mother before she meets Ted. I felt very lucky, as this was a pretty significant role. It was one of those things where I was faced with adversity, so I pushed forward and it turned out great.
How is it filming SWAT CBS?
It’s awesome. SWAT was the first pilot I booked, and now we’re in our fourth season. I auditioned for a dozen or so pilots before. Things happen as they should. Every minute on set was so much fun. It’s perfect for what I like to do, for what I fit into. It’s a little boy’s dream come true. Kicking in doors, yelling at people, arresting people? Saying a snarky line every now and then, then run away and jump off a building. It’s amazing. I’m very lucky to be more and more involved with the show, moving into our fourth season. It’s doing well, a big show and a big network.
What do you feel when you act?
As an actor, my life’s all over the place. From the moment the director calls action to cut is the most peaceful time in my life, because nothing matters. Nothing matters in terms of my worries, my strife – everything i’ve prepared for this moment to do a good job doesn’t matter. It’s all about being in the moment and relaxing. You’re recreating a truthful moment. I work my butt off to get to those moments. I’ll do 20, 30, 50 takes, I don’t care. I’ll be there all day, and pretend to be in this alternate reality. It’s really strange, but peaceful, and so exciting. Anything can happen, like Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong can and would. Inside a scene if that happens, it’s gold.
Bring us back to that Ironman shoot with pops.
That was in 2009, I did a Muscle & Fitness cover with my pops before that. During college, bodybuilding was a one-way street. Now they’ve made it into smaller categories, meaning you don’t have to train as much or take antibiotic steroids. Fitness modeling is what I thought I’d do to support myself, but I didn’t know there was no money in it. That was a conflict of interest. I was figuring out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, and I realized there’s so much more than this. Another shoot, I dieted for 8 to 12 weeks, got some shots done, and that was it.
I look on Men’s Health and Jake Gylenhaal’s on the cover for Prince of Persia. He’s in good shape, but not great shape. This guy’s getting covers of magazines? He’s getting paid millions of dollars for these movies, for being ripped and in shape? I need to do that, that’s really what sealed the deal. Exercise is a way for me to channel what I’m very grateful for. I’m an artist, so aesthetics are important to me. In terms of recreating human anatomy, I use myself as a reference for that purpose. Also, a sense of spiritual balance and balance between muscular anatomy and your mental well being is huge.
What is your workout regimen?
I try to switch it up all the time. I break a sweat every time I workout, that’s the minimum. I do a lot of stretching, and a lot of cardiovascular movements. I do a lot of weird movements where people look at me like “that guy’s in good enough shape to not be crazy, but he’s actually okay. He’s getting away with it.” Also, lots of weights, and different balancing exercises. I’m an open book. I suffered an injury at USC, my second torn ACL, which incorporated post op rehabilitation therapy. That’s basic movements: strengthening big muscles that don’t seem difficult, but are extremely challenging. That mixed with my dad’s tutelage with bodybuilding and body definition with all my sports specific training, I’d like to keep this going as long as my body can. I love to workout. I was heavy as a child, and it makes me feel good about myself, which makes everyone else feel good about themselves. You can’t help it, it pours out of you.
How’d it feel to land the cover of the Fall 2019 issue of IRONMAN MAGAZINE?
At the time when I did the first shoot, it would’ve meant everything. “Wow, this is it.” When I did it, I was in the middle of shooting a film, my first lead in NIGHTSHADE, a psychological thriller. I play a detective. It was an opportunity to either not take it or I was sleep-deprived for the role, so I need to push it a little harder, maybe a lot harder. Pack my meals, do more cardio, but then I’ll be able to do both. I did it and I’m so grateful. Now it’s sort of an ancillary project to what I was working on. I was doing what I love and what I was meant to do, not just look stoic, pose, and tighten my belly. It’s so much more than flexing.
2021 is your biggest year yet, starring in Samuel Goldwyn’s DREAMCATCHER, leading NIGHTSHADE, and acting in Blackout. Talk about putting in work during a pandemic.
Being in this Coronavirus situation, it’s definitely a struggle than it once was. You can’t let that affect you. As long as there’s a passion for something, you can pursue that passion if there’s a pandemic, if you’re in jail, anything. It’s in your mind. Perspective is so huge. I’ve been very fortunate working with great people who have brought me back. Sam Macaroni directed Blackout, who did Guest House trending on Netflix. He’s a guy I’ve known who was doing Youtube videos and now he’s built himself to be this big director. The first movie was a hit, and hopefully this will be great. It’s a great script. It’s in the vein of Jason Bourne action/adventure. There’s no telling, it could be a different title. You never know with his projects.
Outside of your career, I know you like to cook and paint. What do you like to cook?
I cook everything, name anything. I cook everything with a healthier twist. I use only fresh herbs, the best quality olive oil, with salt and lemon. That’s all you really need. I like to host dinner parties. I usually invite my sister, my brother-in-law, and a few friends over. I cook for them. Serving and being in a place of servitude for people I care about is a huge, humbling task to undertake. I enjoy being that person, I can get opinions on my cooking as well. It bothers me when I see something for this amount… let’s say you’re spending money on a salad. You could make the same salad for half the price and not have to deal with not great service. I don’t like that. I paint. I create things with my hands, so this is a parcel with that. Baking’s more of a science, but cooking’s more of an art. And I love to eat a lot.
What do you like to eat most?
Sour Patch Kids? I eat everything from God’s green earth. Any vegetable, every single thing except mayonnaise. It’s a phobia/disdain. I don’t want to say I loathe mayonnaise, but I have traumatic experiences from my mom’s lack of skill in making child school lunches. It was horrible, things that have stuck with me. Plus, if you make an aioli, it’s a mayonnaise, don’t lie. We all know what it is. It’s yellow or pink-colored mayonnaise. In and of itself, eggs and oil are great, but it’s the manufactured wobbly stuff that doesn’t work.
Goals for yourself at this point in your career?
I’d like to trend around the world, to revive this rom-com/action type of genre that has been missing the last few years. I’m a masculine guy and that portrayal of a masculine figure doing good, but also being an honorable man is something I strive for. I’ve written down my goals and aspirations, but seriously about leading a studio network film. I believe it in my crazy mind, I really do. It’s a matter of time before something like that comes along. I’ll be ready for it, I’ll be excited and to make whatever production better. It’s not “I wish this, I wish this.” You’ll see. That’s what keeps me sane.