Actor Joe Manganiellogot a surprise of a lifetime when he uncovered his family’s hidden past, including that his fifth great-grandfather was an enslaved Black man and his famous last name isn’t his surname at all, Radar has learned.
The double bombshell came when the Magic Mike star, 45, was featured on PBS’ Finding Your Roots. Before the episode aired, the show’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., called Manganiello with the explosive news.
“My family and I had a betting pool of what it is, like what’s so bad that you can’t announce it on the episode?” Manganiello, who is married to Sofía Vergara, said during a TV critics meeting on Thursday.
The True Blood actor was told the man he had always believed to be his paternal grandfather really wasn’t.
“My grandfather was a Black man of mixed race,” said Manganiello, who is white. “That was fascinating.”
The show’s research went through his family line and discovered the actor’s fifth great-grandfather was a slave who was freed before slavery was abolished in Massachusetts.
Manganiello’s father was born in Boston.
Besides the shock about his grandfather, Gates also told him, “You are zero percent genetically related to anyone named Manganiello in the world.”
Reflecting on the bombshell, Manganiello stated, “If Manganiello’s not my last name, what is?”
“None of us would have guessed that if we’d had 10 years of guessing,” he said about the news.
Manganiello’s paternal side wasn’t the only one who got a shakeup. The show also discovered shocking information about his mother’s side of the family.
His maternal great-grandmother was a survivor of the Armenian genocide. She lost her husband and 7 of their children during World War I.
She survived because she played dead after being shot, only to escape with the couple’s eighth child, who later drowned to death.
Manganiello was told his great-grandma was captured and met a German officer at camp, who got her pregnant. Researchers on Finding Your Roots uncovered that the actor’s mom and aunt were the children of his great-grandmother’s half-German baby.
“That was a really profound moment for me,” he said.
“To think that I don’t look like the other people in m family is because I look like the Germans, OK, now that makes sense,” Manganiello stated. “It’s really wild what we uncovered.”
The new season of Finding Your Roots starts on January 3. Besides Manganiello, episodes will also feature Julia Roberts, Viola Davis, Carol Burnett, Danny Trejo, and more.