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Backstage asked prominent actors to talk about where and why they trained. One of our actors couldn't understand how he'd ever be called upon to play an animal after graduation, but Joe Manganiello now plays a werewolf on "True Blood" and looks back on that pretend-you're-an-animal acting exercise with gratitude.

As you will read, some attended conservatory programs and universities, some studied with legendary teachers, some trained in far-off lands, some learned from their childhood camp directors—and one learned by watching his parents onstage as he grew up. Most studied a variety of techniques, and most say they choose from among those techniques to suit the needs of each role.

Jordan’s now extremely pleased by the show’s message.

“The story is so spot-on about what’s going on,” he says.

You know, when you come from very humble beginnings, you always have that fear that everything could go away at any moment.”As it turned out, this fear found expression in his breakthrough role in Ryan Coogler’s Oakland-set , the Sundance-winning 2013 art-house hit about 22-year-old Oscar Grant III, a real-life African-American father who, though unarmed, was fatally shot in the back by a transit officer.

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We may run your training tale online.—Dany Margolies, Executive Editor The following Backstage staffers contributed to this feature: Jamie Painter Young, David Sheward, Simi Horwitz, Daniel Holloway, Frank Nestor, Suzy Evans, Dany Margolies, Les Spindle, Jenelle Riley, and Jessica Gardner. And we went to the theater a lot; she took me to the RSC when I was about 7. And then, at [the University of Bristol], I did an English degree and I just fell into doing a lot of shows. I had a fantastic voice coach there, very inspiring. She was just about getting in touch with the body and letting go and relaxing.

“He wants to go from being an A-lister to a superstar to a legend.

A lot of people in the industry look at skin color and say, ‘He’s the next Denzel Washington’ or ‘the next Will Smith.’ Mike thinks he could be the next Tom Hanks.” That is, the 30-year-old actor doesn’t aspire to be a “crossover” black star but rather, like Hanks, to be viewed as the very exemplar of the things we love about American culture—good humor, instinctive decency, and an inner grit.

“I grew up in a tough neighborhood,” says Michael B.

Jordan, the actor with the preternaturally sweet smile.

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