Lou Ferrigno was the original Incredible Hulk, but he didn’t stop helping people once he stepped away from that role 40 years ago. We were gifted some time with Lou Ferrigno the night before Wizard World ComicCon 2016. He got Val Kyrie and I up-to-date on what got him into weightlifting, lessons he’s learned, and how he unwinds.
We start by making no illusions about how corny we are.
Me: First things first, can I touch your biceps? Is that okay?
He agrees. I get my hand roughly half away around Ferrigno’s bicep; Val’s hand gets almost a third of the way.
FH: How many years has it been since you did the original ‘Hulk’?
FH: Forty?! And you still have biceps like that! How do you do it?
LF: I’ve been working out for 52 years.
FH: What’s a workout you’ve done since day one?
LF: I do a lot of heavy lifting. When I began, I wanted to put on size. I was very skinny. I couldn’t gain weight, but I had a lot of anger in me. If I didn’t have the workout with weights, I probably would have done a lot of bad things in my life.
FH: What do you do outside of the spotlight nowadays?
LF: I’m a deputy sheriff. I went to the academy 12 years ago. I’m certified now. I enjoy doing a lot of search and rescue.
FH: What was the last thing you did on duty?
LF: I was saving someone who was trying to commit suicide.
FH: Take me through that situation. Did you save him?
LF: The person tried to commit suicide off the side of a cliff, so we came through with a helicopter. That was my job with the first responders, checking out how injured they are. Other times I deal with gang violence, other times with drugs.
FH: What from your Hollywood career prepared you for that line of duty?
LF: My father was a lieutenant, NYPD. I grew up with law enforcement, so I’ve always been attracted to it.
FH: Let me flip that around, then: when your father was in high-pressure situations like that, what did he convey to you that eventually helped you succeed in Hollywood?
LF: He taught me a lot of work ethic. He told me about the situations he was in, and how he used his best judgement and not overreact.
VK: Tell me something interesting about yourself that you wouldn’t find on, for instance, Wikipedia.
LF: I’m a worldwide motivational speaker, talking about overcoming fear [and] maximizing your personal power; and how many thousands of people whose lives I’ve affected because of my life and the things I’ve done. It’s affected their lives too.
VK: What got you into that?
LF: My whole life is about overcoming adversity. People like to hear good, positive, encouraging stories. I like to talk about people, and how they can better their lives, motivate themselves to not get involved with drugs or do stupid things in their lives.
VK: Do you have any personal stories of people who have come to you after [hearing you speak]?
LF: Yeah. They have anger issues, anxiety, depression, so they understand when they see someone like myself and can walk away saying ‘I’m not the only one.’
VK: Is there any one in particular that touched you?
LF: There have been several stories. One person came to me, and said to me that he came to one of my talks. He said that he went back and talked to his father, and bonded with his father before his father died. He said I gave a speech that gave him the momentum to do that. He said it meant a lot, and it meant a lot to me, too.
FH: On a weekend like this, when you’re off the clock and you’re not scheduled to be someplace, where do we find you?
LF: I have a nice dinner, and I go to my room, watch TV, and go to sleep. I’m not into partying, stuff like that.
FH: What TV show puts you to sleep?
LF: Banshee. It’s about a guy who takes over as a sheriff, [but] he’s an ex-convict. It’s an incredible series.
FH: What’s the last YouTube video you watched?
LF: I think, believe it or not, I found some old footage of myself when I was 17. I was in Brooklyn, and Don Rickles was in Brooklyn telling jokes. They were filming, and I said to myself, ‘I’m gonna walk in the background, and maybe I’ll be noticed in the background.’ I remember, when they aired that on TV, I saw myself. This was 50 years ago, maybe less. I found on YouTube Don Rickles with me walking in the background when I was 17 years old! YouTube has everything!
FH: How do you handle the pace of social media these days? Does it add a different layer of paranoia, or are you less worried about it because of how quickly people move on to the next thing?
LF: It’s got a negative side, because you could be picking your nose and someone could see you picking your nose. You’ve got to be extra aware, but a huge advantage is you bring more and more people together. It’s wonderful.
FH: All of this: what do you do, where do you go, to get away from it all?
LF: I have my own man-cave. I’ve got my stuff, all my toys that I can play with, shoot my gun. I find that therapeutic. I’m not the kind of guy who needs to have an entourage 24 hours a day. I don’t need attention. I can chill out.