Dany Garcia on matching The Rock's work ethic, 'Titan Games' and bodybuilding
Dany Garcia is one of the executive producers of NBC's "The Titan Games," a show in which male and female competitors face off in a series of endurance-based challenges, many of them modeled off the workouts of host Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who also is Garcia's business partner.
And take it from Garcia, a professional bodybuilder: The women aren't training any less or any differently than the men.
"They don't treat themselves differently," said Garcia, who also is training for the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness' Professional League Atlantic Coast Pro in June. "As a female athlete, I don't treat myself differently from how Dwayne trains or how my husband [Dave Rienzi], who is also a bodybuilder, trains. I'm just as intense and just as motivated. It was important that conversation was a consistent one when it came to our female athletes."
"The Titan Games" is hardly the first project on which she and Johnson have worked together. As co-founder of Seven Bucks Productions, she has been at the production helm of major motion pictures such as "Jumanji," "Baywatch" and more recently "Hobbs & Shaw," the upcoming spinoff centered on Johnson's character from "The Fast and the Furious" franchise, set to bow this summer.
It was at the University of Miami where Garcia met Johnson, then a football player. The two married in 1997 and divorced in 2008, and while much has been made about their working relationship as a former wedded couple, Garcia said it's mostly media hype. The reality is much simpler.
"People look at our history, and they're like, 'You were together, so you're both exes. You're "ex-people."' That was how many years ago? We're not even those people anymore," said Garcia, who met Johnson when she was 21 and he was 18. "What it feels like is two friends who work together and have big dreams. That's the secret sauce. We have so much history. We were so broke together. We've always had respect for each other, and that respect allows a friendship to continue."
Fellow "Titan Games" executive producer Arthur Smith said Garcia and Johnson were integral in whittling down a list of more than 100 proposed challenges to about 15 that made it to the show, including one dubbed "Lunar Impact" in which competitors attempt to push each other off a crescent-shaped platform while suspended several stories in the air.
"One of the great things about Dany is that with her background in bodybuilding and training, and Dwayne with his athletic background, every challenge was scrutinized to make sure we were having the right athletes win and the right athletes be worthy," Smith said. "It was a constant back-and-forth. Sometimes it was, 'Can that be heavier? Can that focus on this muscle group?'"
And then there are the compelling backstories, specifically among the female athletes: a firefighter, a trauma nurse and a NASCAR tire-changer are just a few of the competitors who will be featured on the show, all culled from a variety of backgrounds and ages.
For Garcia, she felt it was crucial the women competitors face the same physical tests that the men did, as it echoes her own passion for fitness. She remembers at age 13 that opening up a fitness magazine featuring female athletes sparked her appetite for bodybuilding.
What it feels like is two friends who work together and have big dreams. That's the secret sauce. We have so much history.Dany Garcia on her relationship with Dwayne Johnson
"That just hit me in the solar plexus," Garcia said. "I had never seen female athletes being able to look that way, and it messed with my norms. I was like, 'Oh my gosh.'"
Garcia knows the demands of an elite athlete well. After all, she became one ever since she ran track in high school, rowed crew in college and began lifting weights at her then-120-pound frame.
The discipline required of both an athlete and a businesswoman is one Garcia has instilled. She grew up as the daughter of Cuban immigrants who, she says, achieved the ultimate American dream. But that also meant little room for unnecessary pursuits, like the time Garcia took a modern dance elective in college. Neon jumpsuits were involved.
"My family went crazy," she said, laughing. "They were like, 'What?' My dad could not wrap his head around it. I think I got a B-plus."
Now, to ready herself for her upcoming competition, her days usually start with a cup of coffee before hitting the StairMaster or treadmill for 20 or 30 minutes of slow-state cardio in order to not overtax her nervous system and avoid what she calls "cortisol issues." She follows up with a high-intensity interval training workout, avoiding long stretches of cardio, and eats six times a day.
She said she owes much of her professional success to training for and participating in competitions -- like when she placed fourth in the 2015 Atlantic Europa Games, then jumped right into working on the Project Rock partnership with Under Armour.
"If you look back at my competition career and correlate that to projects and different brands, you'll see a spike in productivity right after I finish competing," said Garcia, who earned her professional bodybuilding status -- her "pro card" -- in 2014.
Garcia also is the founder of The Garcia Companies, which manages a roster of A-list clients that includes Johnson and Henry Cavill.
And she is widely credited for helping Johnson transition his career from wrestling star to bona fide Hollywood powerhouse. That's a big deal, as Forbes named Johnson its highest earner ever in total acting earnings on its 2018 Celebrity 100 list; he pulled in $124 million in 2017 alone.
However, Garcia hasn't always been down this path. Raised in Belleville, New Jersey, Garcia earned her bachelor's degree in international marketing and finance from the University of Miami, then spent many years in finance.
Now, being at the helm of an athletic competition show is just icing on the cake.
"Living and breathing what you're actually speaking and producing," Garcia said, "it adds an additional layer of what I like to consider just magic."