Meet the Broadway Star Who Goes to the Gym for Method Acting

Ramin Karimloo spoke to GQ about how physical training helps him identify with his characters.

July 29, 2017 5:00 am

Ramin Karimloo is a leading man on Broadway. He was Jean Valjean in Les Misérables in 2014-15 and his current role is as Gleb in AnastasiaAnd though he doesn’t like showtunes and has never seen The Wizard of Oz, he takes his job seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he got incredibly buff for it.

Karimloo sat down with GQ to discuss his form of method acting: going to the gym. Method acting is a technique where the actors try to fully embody the character. For Karimloo, that means he customizes his workouts to what he thinks the characters would do.

His inspiration was when a producer, who Karimloo claims “is like family,” told him that Karimloo was getting a little tubby. So he started doing the INSANITY program six months before playing Jean Valjean. Karimloo saw keeping in shape as an emotional thing for his character — he was recently released from prison and was taking vengeance with his body.

Karimloo says that the first time he got a positive reaction about his new abs was when he Facetimed with his wife, Mandy. He got skinny, but he still needed to bulk up for his character, so he worked with a professional bodybuilder. By the time he got to Broadway in Les Miz, the actor was deadlifting almost 500 pounds and benching 300.

Exercise has become a way of life for the actor, since he has to maintain his good shape for seven shows a week for a year and a half. Now that he is playing a military man, Gleb, he has focused on endurance. Karimloo tends to exercise right before showtime because it wakes him up.

And his typical week of workouts? Low-impact cardio with a weight-lifting session that ends with high-intensity training. The key is “time under tension.” Anything to bring the theater more to life.

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