German comedian Flula Borg never had to worry too much about being “ripped.” After all, a rippling six-pack isn’t exactly required to be rip-roaringly funny. But his naturally lean genetics has worked in his favor. Fans may recall him dancing in a see-through shirt for Pitch Perfect 2 or a mostly censored nude beach visit with Conan O’Brien in Berlin. That all changed when he got the role of DC supervillain Javelin in James Gunn’s upcoming The Suicide Squad.
“Since he’s a former Olympic athlete, and carries this huge javelin, I knew I was going to need some professional assistance,” Borg tells Men’s Journal. “My usual routine used to be working out for 20 minutes, eating nothing, and staring at the television for the rest of the day. Paolo told me that was not going to fly this time around.”
Borg is referring to Los Angeles trainer Paolo Mascitti, whose custom strength-building program scored him 25 pounds of muscle mass and got him into real Olympic form (try a sample workout from that program here). We spoke to the actor about his newly acquired skills with a bow staff, passion for yogurt, and making The Suicide Squad.
So when did you first hear about the opportunity to play Javelin—an awesome but kind of unknown character in the DC Universe?
I was first asked to audition two years ago, for a project I didn’t know the title or the real plot of. I just knew the character was going to be German, so that was exciting for me, because it meant I could use my actual accent. When I found out what the project actually was, I spoiled my pants several times. I then bought every comic book I could find that featured Javelin and read them all. I was excited to dive in, and James Gunn wanted to make sure the characters truly came through. He wanted it to feel as though each of our characters were worthy of their own movie franchise.
Once you had a good sense of what he looked like, how did you decided to get physically ready?
I’m naturally a pretty skinny dude, that’s always been my genetics. So I knew I needed to add a little beef—or tofu if you’re vegetarian—to the situation. I decided to get a personal trainer, and my friend David Guitoli was training with Paolo already. He said that with our two accents, Paolo being Italian and my being German, we would never understand each other, but it would be a great partnership. And it has been.
How did go about changing the way you trained?
The major change we got into was doing big fundamental movements and Olympic lifts, like bench presses and squats. Every man in my family has had to have back surgery, so I’ve always been worried about developing issues with my back. That’s caused me to be very cautious, but with Paolo coaching me on my form I became a lot more confident. I cut out cardio, because it was causing me to lose too much too quickly. I trained with him four days a week in the weight room. We were doing sessions that were 70 minutes long. I was most surprised with how far we were able to go with the bench press. We were doing three plates on each side, which felt great. I don’t ordinarily want to be that guy who screams at the gym, but I was doing it loudly on the inside, like you do watching a scene from A Quiet Place.
Since you were focused on putting on mass, how did your diet change?
I needed to be taking in a lot more food, like an Olympic level of food. I was eating about 7,000 calories a day, I needed every single one because my metabolism is quite impressive. That was fine because I love food. I love everything about eating food. One item in particular that I love is yogurt. If you told me I had to eat three tubs of yogurt in one setting, I would be excited to do so. That’s how I got through it. If I had to eat a brick of chicken or a bunch of broccoli, Paolo would let me have a snack of yogurt with it. I used to eat that zero percent fat yogurt, but Paolo quickly let me know that that was dumb, so I moved to 2 percent. The brand Fage is very good. Some might call plain Greek yogurt a little boring, but I’m a huge fan.
Do you do anything in the gym for entertainment? Listen to music?
I love training with Paolo, because he’s my entertainment, I don’t need to watch or listen to anything. We’re both very confusing to listen to and understand, so that time goes by very quickly just trying to have a conversation. On my own, I like to try to memorize rap lyrics, from groups like Outcast. I have to say “So Fresh, So Clean” is a particular favorite. Or sometimes “Run The Jewels.” Or sometimes I’m just in the mood to listen to cryptocurrency podcasts, because it’s a chaotic world that fills me with energy.
Javelin has a unique weapon. Did you practice or work with a javelin at all before getting on set?
I actually started by practicing with a bow staff. It looks a bit like a javelin. I was just playing around with it, spinning it and throwing it. I watched YouTube videos of people using the bow staff. The only issue was that I didn’t have the suit, so I couldn’t practice what it felt like to move the bow around while wearing it. I can’t really talk to people about the bow staff a whole lot because I don’t know what any of the bow staff moves are called. I was teaching myself for the most part. I’m like a person who likes a singer but doesn’t know the titles of any of their songs.
There are a few pretty fit dudes in the Suicide Squad 2 cast between John Cena, Idris Elba, and the rest. Did you guys ever discuss training?
You would run into each other at the gym, in which case we would just stare at each other very seriously. We didn’t really talk about working out, it was more about snacks. What we were snacking on next or what our dream snack would be that very moment. Everyone in the cast was funny, even the people you may not expect, just because they don’t play a lot of comic roles. Sean Gunn is playing a weasel, which was hilarious.
Finally, I have to ask what it felt like to actually put on the suit?
They were initially very secretive about the costume and what it would look like. They wanted to keep everything under wraps, which meant they didn’t tell me a whole lot. Once it was done and I tried it on, I was impressed. I have to say, the suit matters. I understand why people wear uniforms. Say you’re a post office worker—you want to be wearing that post office delivery uniform, not a wetsuit. You want to be wearing what is meant for the job. Putting on the suit, which is more of a classic look, I felt like I was walking around with my shoulders back more and standing taller. I became an instant asshole, because Javelin is one. He also has this tremendous blonde hair which was fun for me. I was lucky I didn’t have a crazy helmet like John Cena. I don’t know what it felt like to wear that, but there was definitely no privacy for him, everyone was checking their teeth in his helmet. It’s huge. But after putting all of that work in, getting to put my suit on felt right.
The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max on August 6.
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