Cleveland turns green this St. Patrick's Day, and not just for the Irish. Former Mr. America, two-time Mr. Universe, and the original Incredible Hulk makes his way to Cleveland for Wizard World this weekend. The actor, motivational speaker and fitness trainer shares on his upcoming projects and ties to Northeast Ohio.
SCENE: You're coming to Wizard World Cleveland, but you're in Ohio a lot. Word is you used to live on Champion Avenue in Columbus. How did that come about?
FERRIGNO: Yes, I lived in Columbus for about two years, 40 years ago because I was working at a sheet metal factory. Very recently, I was deputized as a deputy sheriff [special deputy with Delaware County north of Columbus].
SCENE: Have you visited Cleveland before?
FERRIGNO: Yes. It’s a great town. It’s got a lot of history. I love Cleveland. Last time I was there, there was so much snow though.
SCENE: What are you looking forward to the most with being a part of Wizard World?
FERRIGNO: Well, they [Wizard World] have a great show, especially in Cleveland, it’s a great pop culture [there]. I have the chance to meet fans for the 40th anniversary of the Incredible Hulk
. This year is the 40th. I’ve got a lot of fans that come because of the Incredible Hulk
series, some come because of the King of Queens
, I have a huge fan base in physical fitness also.
SCENE: Anything you get tired of at the shows? Same old questions?
FERRIGNO: No, I love it because the questions are always different. It’s great. They have professional photo opps, I have beautiful pictures and posters, they also have a Q&A, etc. It’s a great place for fans to connect to celebrities with a more personal touch. Everybody walks away with a smile on their face.
SCENE: You relate really well with the fans but you also have what could be considered an intimidating stature. Are fans surprised with how approachable you are, especially the kids?
FERRIGNO: I’m always generous with fans. I have a great time when I meet them. I’m very approachable. Because of my physicality they get excited because I motivate them. I’ve been weight training and working out now for fifty-two years.
SCENE: Are you still doing motivational speaking and writing?
FERRIGNO: Oh sure. All over the world.
SCENE: The original Hulk series has never been off the air and you always have new fans. Big crowds at the conventions. Is there a difference between the young fans and the fans that have been around for some time?
FERRIGNO: The new fans have not only seen the series but also watched the movies. The older generation likes the series more than the films. I’ll be doing more work with Marvel in the future as the voice of the Hulk. It’s something I’ll be involved with for the rest of my life.
SCENE: You seem to be in the same shape today as when you were playing the Hulk. Are you still on the same training schedule?
FERRIGNO: Yeah I train the same but I train much lighter. I’m a little lighter in bodyweight because I like to be lean and muscular. The training is the same but I’m not benching four or five hundred pounds anymore [laughs].
SCENE: You obviously defined a role on television with the Hulk series that no other actors have seemed to master yet. What was your key to your success in that role?
FERRIGNO: All about consistency and physicality. I was also about to act without speaking. The sensitivity I showed was embraced by every single nationality all over the world.
SCENE: Did you enjoy your recent work on the series, Con Man
FERRIGNO: Yes. It’s a series owned by Lionsgate. It’s a comedy and I really enjoy comedy.
SCENE: Years back, you played yourself on King of Queens
. How did that come about?
FERRIGNO: Well they saw me in a movie I did years ago called The Godson
with Rodney Dangerfield and Dom DeLuise and they invited me to play myself; to be a neighbor on the show. Because every day I go through everyday life and people get excited to see a street in my neighborhood. So why not incorporate that into the TV show? It turned out to be a success.
SCENE: On a more personal note, you’ve spoken before about overcoming being bullied as a child, and how you turned to superheroes, including The Hulk, and bodybuilding to feel powerful. Have you met any fans who have gone through similar experiences?
FERRIGNO: Oh many, many. A lot of times mothers will be their kids to the show because they are bullied in school to give them some confidence. I explain to them how to deal with their situation. I’ve done a lot of that with being a deputy sheriff in L.A. for the last few years.
SCENE: You've had phenomenal success. Is there something more you’d like to accomplish?
FERRIGNO: Well, I’ve got a great British film from Sony Pictures coming out called, Instant Death
. Basically you see a side you’ve never seen before. It’s a great action film. In fact, it’s almost like a remake of Death Wish
SCENE: Anything else you’d like to add about coming to Cleveland?
FERRIGNO: Yeah, I’m looking forward to spending time in Cleveland and to meet more of the fans. I love doing that. A lot of them are die-hard fans. I’m very excited about Wizard World Cleveland.
Ferrigno will appear at Wizard World Cleveland March 17 - 19. For details and tickets visit wizardworld.com/comiccon/cleveland