Hanging with the Hulk: A Conversation with Lou Ferrigno


By: Gwendolyn Y. McNutt, CSEP (@gmcnuttplans)

Since 1977, Lou Ferrigno has been an important member of the Marvel family through his portrayal of The Incredible Hulk. Ferrigno played the Hulk in the television series during its successful five-year run, followed by several made-for-TV movies, and most recently he voiced the Hulk in the Avengers movies. However, it’s not easy being green, or so says the man himself, when asked about his biggest challenge as the Hulk. According to Ferrigno, his toughest challenge was, “Sustaining the makeup for five years,” as he was painted green from head to toe. “I was the first one on the set, and the last one to leave,” Ferrigno said. “The makeup also had to be retouched all day,” he added.

Since his time on the television series, he has become an author, motivational speaker, fitness trainer, and anti-bullying advocate. He has embraced not only being the Hulk, but has also become a role model for his legions of fans. I caught up with him at Wizard World Comic Con Chicago’s 20th anniversary event at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. Ferrigno was one of the featured guests and he graciously indulged me with a quick conversation for Nerd HQ. Tens of thousands of people attend the annual four-day pop culture convention for fans of comics, sci-fi, movies, gaming, and more. This year’s event featured a variety of panels, movie screenings, vendors, actors, and other celebrity guests, and even a sci-fi speed dating session (go figure).

Ferrigno has had great success; he’s overcome challenges and adversity. So I had to know: how does he stay so grounded?

Ferrigno answered, “Just by embracing my passion every day. I maximize bodybuilding and fitness – and I maximize my own personal power.”

Ferrigno is a regular on the convention circuit, and attends Wizard World events often. When asked what his favorite part of Wizard World is and why keeps coming back, his answer was simple, “Connecting with the fans.”

The 65-year-old actor and retired professional bodybuilder has had both ups and downs throughout his life. As a child, he lost 80% of his hearing, which affected his speech – and caused him to be bullied by his peers. As a result, he retreated into his comic books and immersed himself in the powerful stories of superheroes, with Spider-Man, Superman, and The Incredible Hulk among his favorites. He also began weightlifting as a teen, as a way to feel good about himself and build muscle onto his small frame. He is still in great shape, and maintains his healthy lifestyle by adhering to a good diet and continuing a consistent workout regimen.

Years after using his comic books as an escape, Ferrigno would become one of the superheroes he read about as a child. He explained to me why he thinks the Hulk is still such a relevant and beloved character today. “Every one of us has a little Hulk inside,” says Ferrigno. “We relate to him because he releases our anger, our aggression and our fears. The Hulk does that for us, and because he’s green – every nationality embraces him,” adds Ferrigno. After talking with Ferrigno for a few minutes, you can tell that he is genuine in what he believes. He connects with his fans with sincerity, and shares his story of how he turned what many would consider a negative into a positive in his life.

Finally, because I am a Chuckster at heart, I couldn’t let him get away without asking him about guest starring on the show. Ferrigno appeared in “Chuck vs. the Suitcase,” the second episode of the fourth season, in which he portrayed a lovesick bodyguard. “Yes, I remember it, that was some time ago,” said Ferrigno with a smile. “But I enjoyed doing it, and I liked the confrontation between us [Ferrigno’s character vs. Zachary Levi’s Chuck] in the room. And I got to show my off my dark side!” Ferrigno joked.

Ferrigno will next be voicing the green hero in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie, and has a few other projects in the works as well.

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