Steven Krueger is the versatile actor who first found fame by appearing in “Pretty Little Liars” and “Two and a Half Men” before bagging the memorable role of “Josh Rosza” on “The Originals.”
Now, as “Ben Scott” in “Yellowjackets,” Krueger plays the assistant coach to the young women’s soccer team, but tells Muscle & Fitness that building his physique up to the point that he is believable as a sports coach has not been easy. Fortunately, having played tennis seriously in his youth, Krueger has a competitive spirit that still influences him to this day.
So, ahead of the highly anticipated return of “Yellowjackets” (Showtime, March 26), we sat down with the star to find out more.
“I started playing tennis when I was 4 years old,” says Krueger. “I played all the way through high school and started to get very competitive with it. The problem with me, growing up, is that I was the same height as I am now. I was 6’ 1” and weighed around 140 pounds so I was a twig. All the traditional sports that you think of; football, baseball, and even basketball, I was just too small to play them and got pushed around a lot. Soccer and tennis were the sports that I naturally veered towards.”
While scholarship offers for Steven Krueger to play tennis at college became a reality, a love of acting had developed and stolen his heart, and so the desire was no longer there to chase Division I play. Still, the competitive spirit developed through tennis has been of great value to a career in theatrics. Starting with a wish to fill out that six-feet-plus frame. “I grew up in Florida with a bunch of guys that were hitting the gym,” he says. “The summer after my first year of college, I felt tired of being this skinny, tall, gangly kid, essentially. So, that entire summer I made a very concerted effort to put on as much weight as I could.”
Steven Krueger Is Focused on Being Screen Ready
As a hard gainer, Krueger says that he was eating upward of 6,000 calories each day to fuel weightlifting sessions. “I accomplished my goal,” he shares. “I put on about 30 pounds that one summer. I filled out.” But even today, the actor says that he finds cutting weight to be easier than gaining it. “I still think, if the opportunity arose to do a superhero movie, or something like that, I would work with a trainer and I’d be able to get there, and I’ve done that a couple of times in my career.”
While Krueger no longer trains his body primarily to be match ready, he’s always focused on being screen ready. “I think actors exist in only two states as far as physicality and fitness goes,” he shares. “I’m either in ‘character shape’ or ‘Steven shape.’ Yellowjackets is actually a great example because before we started Season 1, I was working on another show at the time (“Roswell, New Mexico”). I play a former college soccer player (in “Yellowjackets”), and that nineties look is maybe a little bulkier, and so I made a concerted effort to put on around 12 pounds or so before we started filming because I really wanted to have that look.”
In “Yellowjackets” the soccer team, staff and coaches are forced to try and survive in the woods following a plane crash, and so Krueger understood that by starting out the season carrying a little more bulk, he would be able to lose weight as the show progressed, helping to present the illusion that he was starving in the woods. Krueger says that when taking on new projects, there’s often very little notice or time to prepare, so he likes to stay in shape all of the time, so that he can be ready to shoot at a months’ notice.
For “Yellowjackets” Season 2, Krueger dropped around 12 pounds in order to maintain the audience’s belief that he was going without food in the woods. “I do think its an important part of being an actor,” says the star. “Physicality is so important when it comes to embodying playing a character, so I think anything that you can do to help yourself feel like the character, the better your performance is going to be.”
Steven Krueger has Competitiveness in His DNA
There’s no doubt that Steven Krueger approaches his scenes with the same gusto that he did with sports. “I think any athlete, growing up, there is that natural competitive nature,” he shares. “I competed in a lot of stuff when I was younger. I even competed in debate tournaments. I think competitiveness has always been in my DNA. I think that acting probably has replaced sports, in a certain way. This is an incredibly competitive industry.”
In “Yellowjackets,” Krueger has more to concern himself with than just his weight. He also had to face a new acting challenge because early in the show, his character loses a leg due to the aforementioned plane crash. “They didn’t tell me that, until after we had filmed the pilot episode,” shares Krueger. “It actually happens in episode two. I panicked a little bit, honestly, because I had never done anything like that and there’s two elements to it. There’s the physical element and you have to deal with all of the pain and how to move and how to function and of course [in real life] I still have the leg, so what do I have to do with it to make it look like I don’t have a leg?” he notes. “Then of course, there’s the psychological elements as well, that come with a traumatic injury like that, so I spent several months researching and talking to people and learning as much as I possibly could.”
With unpredictable filming schedules, Krueger has to be flexible about where and when he trains. “In any given week, I may do yoga once or twice per week, I may do some interval training a few times during the week, I may do a couple of cycling classes, go for a run, or I may just get on a treadmill and set it to the highest incline. Constantly keeping the body guessing is so good for it,” says the actor.
In addition to his gym work, where Krueger also likes to undertake traditional exercises such as the bench press and squat, he is also a huge advocate of getting outside. The busy actor finds that nature provides him with the balance he needs to put the intensity of working in Hollywood back into its proper context. He’s also developed a love of pickleball. “Now, honesty, I play a lot more pickleball than I do tennis,” shares Krueger. “I still pick up the tennis racket once in a while but I’m so much more into pickleball because it’s just easier on the body. It’s a smaller court, you don’t have to run quite as much. Pickleball is great, you can pretty much play with anybody.”