Actor and model Sam Asghari is using his platform of fitness to vault into mainstream stardom.
By Mike Carlson
PQ: “The camera can make you look bigger, but it can’t make you look smaller or leaner, so I have to struggle and stay as lean as I can be.”
PQ: “I moved here nine years ago. I have experienced the American Dream. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
PQ: “I believe in consistency. If something that has been working, never change it. Just be consistent with it and let the universe do the rest.”
PQ: “I don’t believe in a plan B. If you focus on two different things, you will never accomplish one. Plan A is acting and I’m sticking with that. There is no plan B.”
Real action heroes are starting to make a comeback in American movies. After years of being subjected to 5’7” Tom Cruise cast as 6’5” Jack Reacher, or watching modest-sized Jeremy Renner or Matthew Damon defy physics as they manhandled huge opponents, Hollywood is starting to get a bit more realistic. Actors like Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, and Henry Cavill have the structure and muscle mass to put some realism into the on-screen action. That means the time is right for Sam Asghari.
A former starting tight end at Moorpark College in California, Asghari is 6’2” and a lean 220 pounds. His transition from athlete, personal trainer, and model to actor is the culmination of years of hard work. He moved to the United States from Tehran, Iran, when he was 13 years old. His journey from immigrant to actor, built upon a foundation of fitness, is reminiscent of someone else with a similar backstory.
“I feel like my whole story, as far as moving from another country and culture, is like Arnold Schwarzenegger, how he went from fitness into acting,” Asghari says.
Let’s be clear: Asghari is not comparing himself to Arnold. Modest and self-effacing, he’s the first one to say he has yet to make his mark. What he doesn’t need to say is that he seems perfectly positioned to deliver a huge impact on the entertainment world. Asghari recently booked a modeling campaign for sports apparel giant Under Armour. Before that, he created a funny and inspired online commercial short film for his supplement sponsor, 1st Phorm. And then late last year the call came that he was cast as the love interest in a Britney Spears video. The YouTube video for “Slumber Party” has been watched 56 million times and counting.
Ever the gentleman, Asghari demured from commenting on his current relationship with the world-famous megastar, but a quick look at his Instagram page shows the couple together on New Year’s Eve, at the Grammy’s, and clowning around on Snapchat. In each picture, Asghari looks remarkably comfortable in the spotlight.
MC: What was your first introduction to lifting weights?
SA: At four years old I started doing gymnastics and it turned into exercise and fitness, although it wasn’t bodybuilding. I was on a youth professional soccer team. When I moved here I realized that soccer was not as popular as it is in other countries, so I got into football. I played football in high school, and that is when I started getting into weightlifting. So it was between 12 and 16 years old. I played football for four years at Westlake High School. We went to the CIF championships twice and won state once. It was in college when I really got the nutrition part down and kept things very healthy. I used to be very husky.
MC: How much did you weigh at your heaviest?
SA: My heaviest was 275 pounds. I was 275 and probably around 20 percent body fat. I was still pretty athletic, but I did not look the way I do now. When I stopped playing football after college I really picked up my nutrition and exercising, and I trimmed down a lot. My face structure totally changed. Everything about me changed. I look completely different now than I do in those photos. I dropped down to 200 pounds and three to four percent body fat. I built back up to about 220 over the next year.
MC: What kind of size and shape is best for your career?
SA: I was on the muscular size, but now I have trimmed down a little bit and I’m more of a relevant size so I can play a variety of roles. On the screen and in print work, the screen is wider, so you appear 15 to 20 pounds bigger on camera. On camera you look wider, so I try to stay lean. The camera can make you look bigger, but it can’t make you look smaller or leaner, so I have to struggle and stay as lean as I can be.
MC: Are you gravitating toward action-hero roles?
SA: Yes, definitely. That’s something I’m interested in. I’m not stuck on the action part. I’m open. I want a variety so I can do action or comedy. My goal is to be a balanced actor. But I’m getting offers for a couple shows, so action is the goal.
MC: You created and starred in a commercial for 1st Phorm and it was funny. Do you like comedy?
SA: People are used to seeing those old “holding the bottle” poses and stuff like that [in the fitness industry]. So I tried to do something different. I got a couple of my actor friends and we made something completely different. I’m definitely able to make fun of myself, and I think I’m a funny person. It’s not necessarily a goal, but we were having a lot of fun with it.
MC: So acting is the main goal?
SA: Most definitely. Acting is the goal. Not specific in terms of what roles. Comedy, drama, action, any type I have been getting ready for over the last two years and finally everything is falling into place. We are going with it.
MC: Who’s an actor you would like to base your career off?
SA: I definitely admire Dwayne Johnson’s career. He’s not so much someone who strictly does action, like Jason Statham. I feel like Jason Statham does the same exact movies. Dwayne Johnson jumps from comedy to action to other stuff. And as he goes on, as he gets older, the more seasoned and the better he becomes. I definitely like his career. His variety of movies I really like.
MC: How often do you train?
SA: Fitness is lifestyle for me. I don’t take any days off, but I definitely am kicking back as far as a strict diet. I have more of a balanced diet so I can stay relevant. I’m not as lean or as big, but I’m two weeks away from being leaner or bigger. So if I get offered a role, I can jump right into that. In between, I’m trying to stay balanced. I do full-body workouts and a lot of cardio to stay lean. My body frame is on the bigger side. I try to keep it as narrow as I can. I can only do that by doing full-body workouts and a lot of cardio and keeping a somewhat strict and balanced diet.
MC: How intense are your workouts?
SA: There is no need to push for ego. I definitely don’t go past 60 or 70 percent [of his one-rep max.] I do more low-weight high-repetition training. I try to keep my heart rate up as the workout goes on. I have been doing that for five or six months. I can put muscle on fast. I’m two weeks away from being 10 pounds heavier or 10 pounds lighter. That’s something I’m trying to work to perfection.
MC: Do you train in martial arts?
SA: Martial arts are a must for an action actor and it's good exercise to begin with. I take “combat on camera” classes all the time. I can't be acting like an amateur on camera [laughs].
MC: It sounds like you give your fit lifestyle a lot of credit for your success.
SA: My foundation is fitness. Sports made me very disciplined, almost like the military. Playing football changed my life. I believe in myself more, just mentally. Keep in mind, it is not a physical thing for me anymore. It is more of a mental thing for me. It gives me confidence. It releases depression. I deal with my problems by exercising. Everything about it is amazing.
MC: You had a big break last year when you were cast in the video for Britney Spears’ hit “Slumber Party.” What’s it like to star in a video with 56 million views and counting?
SA: The video was very fun. The production was amazing. I had one of the best times of my life. It was a last-minute booking for me that was not supposed to happen, but I’m glad it did. It was fun, it was amazing. It took two days to shoot it, and I was the love interest of Britney. The director, Colin Terry, is very good at making music videos. He does an amazing job. It’s become an iconic thing. That video went crazy.
MC: Considering the current political client, are you proud to be a role model for immigrants? Iran?
SA: Definitely. Of course. I came from Iran, and we have some of the greatest people who have made their marks. I don’t think I have made my own mark yet, but it is something that people look up to. I love being inspirational to people. And I am very flattered that some people recognize that. I moved here nine years ago. I have experienced the American Dream. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I am very flattered that I can inspire other people.
MC: What’s your favorite group to inspire?
SA: The closest to my heart is definitely kids. They always have a hero. As a child growing up, I had people I looked up to. I had coaches, and they made such a big impact on me and were so inspiring to me. I know how important that is. I have always worked with kids. I see the impact in the kids I have inspired, and it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. They make you feel like a million dollars. It’s something that moves my heart. IM