Exclusive: Mark Henry on his 'Risky Biz' appearance, acting and current work with WWE
Few athletes have had anywhere near the amount of success that Mark Henry has. He is a two-time Olympian, a Pan American Games medalist, a three-time U.S. National Weightlifting Champion, and the holder of world records that still stand. Within professional wrestling, he was a multi-time World Champion and a 2018 inductee into the WWE Hall Of Fame. He has also been enshrined in the International Sports Hall Of Fame, which inducted him in 2012.
While Mark Henry is retired from athletic competition, he is not short on projects. Beyond working with WWE as an ambassador, Henry is pursuing a number of film and television projects. He is also co-hosting the SiriusXM show Busted Open Radio.
One of Henry’s television projects that can be revealed is an appearance on the third episode of the Facebook Watch series Risky Biz. In such, Henry joins the Risky Biz team to create the ultimate test of strength where two contestants push their muscles to the max for a chance to win $25,000. Interestingly, Risky Biz was inspired by a story in The New Yorker and is produced by Condé Nast Entertainment and MAK Pictures.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Henry by phone and below are highlights from that chat – part 2 can be read via The Hype Magazine. More on Risky Biz can be found online here, while the hard-working WWE Hall Of Famer himself can be followed on Twitter via @TheMarkHenry.
How long did you spend filming Risky Biz? Was it filmed in one day or over the course of a few days?
Mark Henry: It was over the course of two days, we shot one day in L.A. in the studio where we tested the strength mechanics. Then we went back a few weeks later outside of Santa Barbara where we shot the competition under the big top.
You are obviously a real natural for that kind of show. Was that your first game show of any sort?
Mark Henry: That was my first time doing a game show, yeah.
I understand that you're also looking to do more on-camera roles and also animation voiceover kind of work. Was that something that you wanted to do during your WWE career as well? Or more of a recent development?
Mark Henry: No, it was, but the WWE drove my availability. I turned down a lot of stuff as I couldn’t do it with my WWE schedule.
To me, it's very interesting that somebody like you who's been on television for more than 20 years in a high-profile role, in this part of your life you're finally now getting to pursue all that. Do you ultimately have a goal for your career as an actor and an on-screen performer?
Mark Henry: Being around a lot of the comic-book writers and artists, at the Comic Cons... I admire those people. I’m kind of a comic-book, cartoon nerd. So when I see the shows, I kind of have an idea when I read a character, who they are. I try to become that character in the voice world. You can make the ugliest face that you want, be animated, and they'll adapt to it being like you and that that's something that I love and I hope to do a lot more of.
Being widely known as “The World's Strongest Man,” is that something that you are hoping to continue into your acting career? Or are you really hoping to play against type?
Mark Henry: I’d love to play against type. I’d love to be a schoolteacher. I’d love to be a nurse. I’d love to be a doctor or a mailman or anybody. Any character that is what the world is, I want to be one of those people, like just a guy walking down the street that hops up with a briefcase and then the adventure starts. Whatever it is, I want to be prepared for it.
As somebody who was on the road for decades for hundreds of days a year, at this point in your life, are you hoping to be on the road or employed that much? Or are you going to be more picky about what it is that you do?
Mark Henry: You know what? It depends on the role. I see a lot of roles as being type and I don't want to just be a bouncer or musclehead. That character has no depth, it’s not going anywhere, he’s not involved in something from an intricate point. I could see myself doing that but it’d have to be a special case.
Another thing that's notable about your career is the co-hosting role that you've been doing on SiriusXM’s Busted Open Radio. When exactly did you first get interested in the broadcasting side of things?
Mark Henry: Well I've always been a fan of sports-talk radio and even in college I wanted to move down the radio… I just got to the point that I listened to so much sports-talk radio, the ability to analyze the sport means you know the sport, but you’re also prepped for the sport.
That was something that I wanted to do specially with SiriusXM because they had the show Busted Open. I was actually one of the first callers when the show aired, the debut show, I was a guest-caller. Now here we are 10 years later, I’m a host. It was very premeditated.
Does doing that kind of broadcasting with Busted Open also lead you to be interested in the podcast world?
Mark Henry: It does. I've been very cautious about that, because I don't want it to just be about wrestling if I decided to do it. Or just being strongmen or Olympic lifting. I want it to be everything. I've been blessed to have maintained really good relationships with people from so many different worlds. And I want to bring those people into my world on my own podcast one day, but it is going to be right.
Is your ambassador work with the WWE with the understanding that you're going to be doing a lot of different projects and just representing the company that way?
Mark Henry: Yeah. Well, the direct work with the WWE is that I deal with the charities, all the corporate events, all the pay-per-views. We have an international marketing department as well as our local national department. I work with both the talent development side, as we go hunt down great athletes from different places in the world in different sports, and we try to convert them to be professional wrestlers and make them professional wrestlers, male and female. I work with that department too. So there are two different departments where I'm doing a lot of a lot of work.
What kind of fitness regimen do you keep up with these days?
Mark Henry: I just had knee surgery so I could get 100 percent before the beginning of the year, and my regimen is usually five days a week. I swim, I bike and I do light weights. I don't do heavy lifting anymore. I try to do as much per body part, 50 to 75 reps, and then go to the next exercise. It’s cross-training.
But not CrossFit.
Mark Henry: But not CrossFit!