Joe Manganiello Chats About Playing Pee-wee’s Partner in Crime in ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’

Joe Manganiello spoke about embracing his inner kid to play Pee-wee’s best friend in his new movie. There’s some spoilers here…

That redwood tree of a dude known for his roles in Magic Mike and True Blood is perhaps not the first person you’d think to play Pee-wee’s best friend in his newest adventure. But, it turns out, the two make a natural duo, on and off screen.

Manganiello spoke with Indiewire about the surreal experience both meeting Paul Reubens, the man behind Pee-wee, and signing on to play a silly version of himself for the Netflix film. The buff actor first met Reubens at a glitzy Emmy’s party, were he beelined to his childhood hero.

“Those parties are really tricky – those big Emmy parties – because you just want to hide. Because they’re just full of people who want to take selfies for like two hours. So you just get in there, you get a chair and you sit back and hide. And my publicist bumped me and was like, “Oh my God, it’s Pee-wee Herman.” Paul was nominated for the Emmy for HBO (for “The Pee-wee Herman Show On Broadway”), and I was working for HBO. So, I’m like “Ohmigod, I got to go say hi.” So I got up and braved the crowd, just worked my way through that crowd over to him with as much passion and genuineness as I could possibly muster.”

The two hit it off and when Paul began preparing for a new Pee-wee movie, only one guy came to mind to play the childlike hero’s onscreen friend and mentor.

“Well, Paul had called me. And he prefaced with saying like, ‘I shouldn’t be calling you. I shouldn’t be doing this. But I want to give you a heads up. I’ve been planning Pee-wee’s comeback for years. And hopefully in the next year or couple of years, I’m going to be able to get this thing off of the ground and I when I do, I’m going to call you back and I want you to play this role.’”

So who would Joe be playing? A famous brawny actor, of course! “Well, it’s not really me. It’s funny. It’s like a 10-year-old’s version of the tabloids’ idea of me sort of.”

So what was it like shooting this raucous romp?

“Well, it’s one thing when you come home and your wife asks you how work was and your answer is, ‘Well, I put on a Pee-wee Herman suit. I climbed on top of a life-sized piñata and jousted with Pee-wee with giant pinwheels of fire while speaking Spanish.’ Like drop mic.”

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is available on Netflix now.