Training for Echo 3 Wasn’t Easy on Luke Evans. That’s How He Likes It.
WATCH A FEW OF Luke Evans’ films, and you can tell he’s an actor who gives it his all in every scene. Look at Luke Evans’ Instagram, and you can tell that he’s also a guy who gives it his all in the gym (and in the occasional beach thirst trap). It’s called versatility, people, look it up. You may have seen the 6-foot-tall Welsh actor in one of his many projects and thought, “He could probably hold his own in a fight,” but it’s only when you’re in the his presence that you truly understand just how big the guy really is—and how he still manages to stay low-key. He’s well-kept and composed, despite just finishing a sweaty workout in the Men’s Health office gym, and there’s an airy calm to his voice that betrays his bulk.
Taking a quick scroll through the 43-year-old Evans’ IMDb page makes it clear that his roles through the years have drawn on the size he’s worked so hard to attain. He’s done everything from challenge mythological Titans as the lightning bolt-throwing Greek god Zeus to baring fangs as the infamous blood-sucking Dracula, to playing a live action version of a raw egg-gulping Gaston. Oh, and let’s not forget when he drove very, very fast cars in the sixth Fast and the Furious installment, where he learned the hard way that you never go against the Toretto family. In Apple TV+’s new action thriller Echo 3, he plays a man defined by his skills in the military world. That sort of physically-demanding role meant he had to prep for more than just the lines.
Before filming began, Evans’ goal was just to get into the right place where he’d be able to properly carry a rifle and wear a Kevlar vest. But as the months of preparation went on, he just kept training, and training, and training, heading to new gyms wherever he found himself. “I just signed up to any gym—gyms in the jungle, gyms in the desert, gyms that I made up in a forest, gyms in my home,” he says. “I just kept the physical stamina up by keeping the routine going.”
Evans’ fast-paced career—he’s appeared in over 20 movies and shows in the last 10 years—isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Still, he’s managed to perfect the art of winding down after an extremely hectic day: with a crisp glass of vino, as one does. “I open a bottle of red, preferably a Malbec or a Syrah or Shiraz, I put on the TV, light the fire and drink a glass of wine,” he explains with a smile. “I’m usually asleep by 10:30.”
But before he could go home and pop a bottle, we talked to Evans about Echo 3, training for such an intense role versus training for himself, being an openly gay man in Hollywood, and what it was like duetting with Nicole Kidman.
Men’s Health: Echo 3 has you in the thick of South America as man with substantial military experience on the rescue mission of his life. You’ve done your fair share of nitty-gritty stuff, but what sets this apart from all the other things?
Luke Evans: I’ve never done anything within this world of the military elite forces. I knew that the whole thing was going to be a learning process, and I love learning new things and having different challenges, and where we were going to shoot it and what my character was going to go through just seemed like such a big adventure. I knew that [creator Mark Boal] was going to put me through my paces, and he did.
What’s the training program like for such a stunt-heavy series?
It’s intense, because you don’t get a break when you’re shooting a TV show. You start and you don’t finish until the final episode has been done. I knew that I had to stay in a place in my head, but also a physical place, so that I would be able to keep doing the stuff that I was doing in Episode 1, and be as agile and as fit as I was to do them in Episode 10.
How was working out to be physically ready for Echo 3 compared to an everyday gym session?
The training after a while was about just keeping maintenance, but with a Columbian diet, it was quite easy for me because they’re not a dessert-based cuisine. They do have desserts, but I didn’t like them as much. Sugar is not something big there, and that’s my vice.
Physically, working for 12, 14 hours a day in humidity of 95%, wearing full uniforms for soldiers, it was very real. There were weapons, and helmets, and night-vision goggles, which weigh a ton, so that kind of stuff on top of the diet and training just became my daily life. I would work all day, and then I would just be dropped off at the gym in the evening. I’d train, go home, have some food—which was always very simple meat, rice, and salad—and go to bed. I did that for 10 months.
You’ve been a part of large franchises in your career, and your name’s even been thrown into the ring as a potential contender to play the next James Bond. Do you feel like there’s an appeal to being in these larger multi-film projects, or does it feel limiting when you’re signed on to several movies at a time?
If you’re in a very successful franchise and you’re playing a character everybody loves, there’s a guarantee that you’re going to get a wage, which is nice. And you’re going to be working, and you’re going to be doing something that millions of people are going to see.
You just then hope that the writing is going to be good enough to keep you interested in the character, because that’s often the problem. I think I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve jumped from independent films, to television, to film, and I never get bored because I’m always doing something different. But I don’t mind the idea of being in a franchise at all. I think it’s a great thing if you’re in something that’s super successful and you’ve got a character that you see has potential to do so many things. It’s quite cool.
As a gay man, when you accepted Attitude Man of the Year Award in 2020, you said sexuality shouldn’t be compared to someone’s skills and attributes. How can the industry help to alter that thought process, which continues to be an ongoing topic of conversation when it comes to casting?
The problem is it’s still something people want to talk about all the time, which clearly infers that it’s still not accepted, and it’s not just not interesting. Until people stop having to ask me about, “How’s it feel being in Hollywood and being gay, and has it affected your career?” and all that stuff… the fact that it’s still asked means it’s not normal life.
I want it to be normal. I don’t think it should matter who you are. I’ve played Billy Porter’s husband in a Kramer vs. Kramer gay story, but then I can go and play a Delta Force Special Operative solider in the U.S. Army. I feel that my journey is definitely sending out a positive message, that your ability as an actor should be above all in the reason why you play the characters and get cast in these roles.
You didn’t really make a huge statement when you came out, right?
Everybody else seemed to make a big deal about it, and it didn’t mean anything to me. I am unapologetically myself, and I always have been. Contrary to whatever people may think, I am very comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin as the years have gone by.
I’ve proved to myself that if you really work hard, you can achieve your goals and your dreams and break boundaries. And that’s what I’ve tried to do—break that glass ceiling. And it’s still happening for me.
My career has not taken any kind of nosedive or turn for the worse—it’s always interesting stuff I get asked to play, and I love that. But everybody has their own journey, and I can’t dictate to anybody else how they should go about it, but I feel like you have to be your true self. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to being gay, especially in this industry; it’s ridiculous. I’m living proof it means fuck all.
Was there someone, as you continued this pursuit into the acting world, who shared words of wisdom that’s stuck with you?
Not really. I come from a working class family, so there wasn’t an idea that this could be my life. I never looked up to anybody and thought, “Oh, I want to be that person.” I didn’t have dreams like that. Every step I’ve made in my career I’ve made myself. I worked to get into college, I worked to get a job, I worked to get that first play that changed my career. and got me a Hollywood movie agent. I did all of that with no knowledge as to whether I was going to be a success or not. I went for it. Challenges are there to be taken.
You just released an album that’s in top five on the UK charts. What’s the experience like in a recording studio compared to when you’re behind a camera?
It’s completely different, it’s like two different worlds. People don’t think the same, the business doesn’t work the same. To jump into the music world at 40, then come out with an album which has landed at #4 in the British album charts above Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles, that’s really cool.
I had to really look after my voice. I was singing all the time live, and I didn’t choose easy songs to sing on my albums, so when they asked me to sing all these songs, I’m like, “Okay, that means I’m going to bed at 6:00 PM this evening, I’m singing at 6:00 AM in the morning, and I’m going to be singing at 11:00 AM on a breakfast show.” Music definitely has been probably the first love of my life, so to be able to do it on such a platform as that was really special.
And, I mean, how many people can say they’ve sung a song with Nicole Kidman?
Right? I mean, it’s sick. I can’t even believe that she actually said yes. I still can’t believe it, but she did, and yeah, it’s mental that she’s on my album.
What do you owe her now?
Oh, I owe her my life. She’s so kind, and so generous to have found the time to do it. Keith got involved as well and we recorded in Nashville. It was a super awesome experience.
Even with an overflowing plate, is there something that you’re still striving to do that you haven’t done just yet?
While I’m still loving what I do, I’m ready to do plenty of other things. I’m busy, but I’m enjoying it. I’ve got nothing to complain about.
With all this success, was there an instance of someone telling you “no” that actually pushed you even harder?
Well, sometimes someone saying no in retrospect an amazing moment. And it hasn’t bothered me at all not getting something. I challenge the failure into something positive. Because what can you do when somebody says no? What can you do, lick your wounds for two years? You’ve got to be resilient. This industry is ruthless, and it can break you because you’re constantly analyzing yourself. “Am I good enough? Am I good looking enough? Am I fit enough? Am I talented enough?” There’s always someone who’s coming up through the ranks who will probably surpass you at some point.
But finding success in my 30s, I’d already lived. I’d worked very hard and I’d struggled, doing shitty jobs, but I just feel like you’ve got to just keep going. If you stop, you start to stagnate. You’re like your own therapist in a way; you’ve got to keep telling yourself that you’re good enough, and don’t just feel like one knock-back is going to mess you up. It’s like relationships—sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Grooming: Jessica Ortiz using Sisley.
Sean Abrams is the Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement at Men’s Health. He’s a former hip hop dancer who likes long walks on the beach and large glasses of tequila. You can find his previous work at Maxim, Elite Daily, and AskMen.
And now there’s an excellent new Speedmaster adding even more fuel to Omega’s fire. By Cam Wolf February 2,…