Actor Gregg Sulkin was in the worst shape of his life when he was first cast as Chase Stein in Hulu’s upcoming Marvel’s Runaways. “It was just after the holidays and I had put on a few pounds, surrounded by nothing but chocolate cake.” When the role in the widely-publicized Marvel series came his way, the 25-year-old actor realized he needed a change—devoting months to the strict dieting and strength training necessary to play the high school jock of superhero proportions. “After being cast, I had to force myself to have a celery stick instead of cake.”
Sulkin came to the gym with the ultimate goal of building muscle and working on his core. His trick to a six-pack? A two-minute plank. “It attacks the core, it’s perfect for getting a quick ab workout in, along with a series of planks and burpee sets,” he said. Like any actor, he also knew the importance of working the showier muscles.
“I focus on bicep curls and 21’s for arms, but I change it up. It’s important to adjust your routine so your body doesn’t become accustomed to it,” he said.”I’ve also never been the one at the gym who lifts the heaviest. Weight was never my goal, so much as form, volume, and making sure I don’t get injured.”
His dessert-heavy diet similarly required a drastic change, substituting that coveted slice of cake for greens, lean proteins, fish, and less red meat. Ultimately, he did gain a few pounds of muscle. “Healthy pounds,” he emphasizes, “But it was hard to get the balance right.” With some four million followers on Instagram, Sulkin is no stranger to both the enormity and impact of social media, with opportunities for mishaps and relentless comments about his physicality (which he liberally posts) abound.
“I definitely feel the pressure of staying in shape,” he says of his social media presence, “I’ve never felt confident taking my shirt off. [On social media] There’s apps, there’s face-tuning, there’s lighting. You never get the real image. It’s easy to get caught up in body image, but it’s important for me to just feel healthier.”
Since filming of Runaways has wrapped, he’s taken a much-earned break from the gym and indulged in a cheat meal or two—“I’ve had the occasional quesadilla,” he admits—though he’s still conscious of his weight and the possibility of a second season around the corner.
“My trainer makes me lift my shirt after every session and he either has a smile or looks at me with huge disappointment,” Sulkin says with a dry laugh, “He’s happy now—thankfully—but there’s always room for improvement.”