COVER STORY | Men’s Fitness | March 2009
By Andrew Vontz
There’s no doubt Shemar Moore has ultra endurance. Born in Oakland, CA and raised by a single mom, Moore was a standout baseball player at Santa Clara University before he opted to change games and started swinging for the fences in another ball park—Hollywood. In a land mine-strewn town where today’s supernova can become tomorrow’s straight-to-DVD invisible man in the batting of a fake eye lash, Moore has kept himself at the top of the game for 15 years straight. He started his career as a male model then moved on to an Emmy winning turn as Malcolm Winters on The Young and the Restless followed by a stint as host of Soul Train before landing on the hit CBS drama Criminal Minds playing FBI Special Agent Derek Morgan.
Breaking out of the soap heart throb mold and cracking prime time network TV was no easy feat. Moore, now 38, starred in seven pilots that didn’t make it to network schedules before landing the Criminal Minds gig. Fifteen years after joining the cast of The Young and the Restless, Moore is living the prime time dream with legions of fans that look forward to seeing Special Agent Morgan solving crimes and getting physical hunting down killers in the field every week. His hard work has garnered him accolades and all the accoutrements that come with making it in Hollywood including a chic spread high in a tony Los Angeles neighborhood in the hills not far from the Getty Center museum with a pimped out white Lexus sitting in the driveway next to a white Mercedes that looks fearsomely fast.
Success hasn’t made Moore complacent, though. He asks Men’s Fitness to show up at 10 a.m. sharp on a Sunday morning for a 70-mile road bike ride from his enviable bachelor pad to Palos Verdes and back, but Moore answers the door in a robe squinting at the brightness of the Cali morning and wiping sleep from his eyes. “Sorry, I took my dog for a walk last night and got lost. I didn’t get back here until two in the morning,” he says, working one of the most potent weapons in his acting arsenal, his infinitely expressive eyebrows.
Moore’s leggy, blonde 21-year-old girlfriend, Daisy saunters into the foyer in micro shorts joined shortly by Suge, Moore’s beloved all-white bulldog who trundles down the hardwood staircase into the room two front paws at a time. Moore met Daisy, a microbiology student at UCLA, during a Hollywood function she was bartending a few months back and she’ll be making the jaunt to Palos Verdes today as well. While Moore heads back upstairs to pull on his kit, Daisy brews coffee while MF drools over Moore’s rig, a $10,000 carbon fiber Look road bike that rests among antique furniture in his tastefully decorated living room against French doors that lead out to the kind of backyard pool spread you’ve only seen on Cribs. It’s good to be Shemar Moore, no doubt. And while the genetic lottery and luck have played a part in his success, he’s never stopped pushing himself as an actor or athlete.
“When I got bit by the acting bug it fascinated me but it scared the shit out of me. When I was young I was shy and the only place I could come out of my shell was on the athletic field.” A natural athlete, Moore grew up participating in soccer, track, and baseball and has never lost his passion for fitness and sport. “What I love about Criminal Minds is that Morgan is an ex-Marine, ex-Swat. To do those things you have to be a pretty badass dude. It’s a great incentive to stay in shape.” For the past twenty years, he has lifted weights, run, boxed, and worked with trainers to stay in shape, sometimes logging five hour days in the gym. But now he trains himself. “We have a trailer at work that’s basically a gym on wheels. It follows us wherever we shoot.” He spends his time between shooting scenes in the mobile gym jumping rope, working the stair master, lifting free weights, and doing bodyweight exercises. “I’m not perfect. I’m not a machine. I get really motivated then I fall off the wagon and want to eat Chinese food and sit on my couch and gain five or ten pounds!”
It’s become easier to stay motivated since he joined the cast of Criminal Minds, though, because it stepped up his dormant passion for cycling. “I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper when I was 15. I used to ride that bike everywhere but I used to think these guys in tights were sissies,” he says with a laugh pointing at the Criminal Minds-logo’d cycling kit he and Daisy have slid into. When he landed the Criminal Minds gig and discovered that some of the crew members were cyclists, he told them that he rode, too, and joined them on a weekend ride. Moore didn’t know enough about cycling at the time to know exactly what he’d gotten himself into—CM’s key grip John Hatchitt and director of photography Greg St. John’s both had several decades of experience riding and road racing at an extremely high level. On that first ride with his Criminal Minds cohorts, “He had a bit of an awakening,” says St. Johns. “The tempo was new to him. He had to learn how to ride in a group but he was always solid. We were impressed.”
For his part, Moore found much to love about cycling beyond just fitness. “In four hours of riding you see parts of the world that you would never think to see from a car window.” When Moore’s riding buddies learned his mother suffered from MS, Hatchitt, who raced for a team sponsored by the MS Society, encouraged Moore to do a 100-mile charity ride for MS. Moore completed the century, his longest ride ever, and raised awareness for the disease afflicting his mother. He’s done the ride for the past four years straight and the number of Criminal Minds cast, crew and friends participating in the MS ride has grown over the years to nearly 70 riders this past summer. “This is my way of helping my mother fight,” he says. In the months approaching the century, he’ll ride back and worth to work, which sometimes means struggling up the hill to his house in total darkness at 3 a.m. The hard work has paid off. “It’s a night and day difference since he got on the bike three years ago. He could be a great rider if he didn’t have to log the hours actors do,” says Hatchitt.
As MF would learn shortly, at 38 Moore still has enough snap in his legs to pour on the hurt and the endurance to go long, too, from years of hardcore training. Out of Moore’s driveway, it’s a two-minute dive bomb down a plunging series of switchbacks followed by a sharp right onto a punishingly steep climb to the top of Sepulveda pass. The severity of the grade calls for moderation but Moore immediately leaps out of the saddle and uses the substantial, muscular upper body on his 190-pound frame to toss the bike back and forth and power up the hill at an altogether unreasonable pace. A few hundred yards back Daisy, a former soccer player and model who is in supreme shape, cranks along steadily spinning a small gear while MF struggles in the no man’s land between the two.
Looking in from the outside it’s easy to make the mistake of assuming that Hollywood’s leading men have no excuses for anything less than perfect fitness and Adonis-like physiques. They have the best trainers and nutritionists at their disposal and all the time in the world to train, right? Hardly Moore is riding with MF on a day off from what will eventually be eleven straight months of shooting the 28 episodes for season four of Criminal Minds. While he’s not always in front of the camera for 10 hours straight every day, his character is in many scenes requiring him to be on set frequently plus he has to make appearances and fulfill other obligations.
Still, there’s no doubting Moore is one fit dude. Approaching the most substantial topographical challenge of the day, a two-mile climb to the turnaround point in Palos Verdes, he’s out of the saddle and givin’ ‘er just as hard as he did the moment he left his driveway two and a half hours earlier. It’s an impressive attack, but there’s no way it can last and it doesn’t. Fifteen minutes later, Moore halts the train for a coffee stop at a café in Redondo Beach. Daisy’s rear wheel is so out of true that the tire has dug into the frame and started wearing away a layer of carbon fiber. A quick examination of the problem reveals a broken spoke and a plan is hatched for Daisy to grab a cab to Helen’s bike shop in Venice, Moore’s home shop, to have the spoke repaired. But first, coffee. Moore hasn’t even made it to the front of the line inside to order a latte before an enthusiastic fan approaches. “I just love Criminal Minds, you’re so great on the show,” she says through an ear-to-ear smile. Moore is gracious and handles the potentially awkward situation with aplomb. She leaves a happy fan and Moore sits down to enjoy his latte. “Brad Pitt says he likes riding his motorcycle because he can leave his house and be totally anonymous,” he says. “Cycling is the same way. Sometimes people recognize you, but it’s tough with the helmet and shades and clothes. Most of the time I can just go out and do my thing.”
The cab for Daisy on the way, Moore drags MF back onto the road and it’s not long before he’s setting a vicious tempo down a stretch of false flat overlooking Dockweiler Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Ouch. Twenty five miles per hour is nothing when you have a Starbucks in your hand and you’re working an accelerator with your big toe, but on a bike, it’s a pace that’s hella hard to sustain. Moore keeps cranking for one minute, two minutes, three minutes, then eases off. He’s driven the pace so hard that he gets to Helen’s before Daisy arrives by cab. The staff greet him warmly even though it’s near closing time and when Daisy rolls in they work like an Indy car team and quickly have her sorted for the final push, an 8-mile climb back to the top of the Sepulveda pass and the short downhill run before the turn onto the quad melting road up to Moore’s house.
It’s past dark now and Moore has put in nearly five hours in the saddle but when he hits the final climb, he again rises from the saddle and stomps it to the top of the hill first. Daisy arrives a few minutes later and Moore retreats poolside to enjoy a cocktail with his neighbor Steve who goads him into trying his specialty drink—a white Russian and Rocky Road milk shake. Moore gives it a sip and puts his feet up. “I’m so grateful for athletics in my life because it taught me that if you want the prize, you have to practice. And even if you practice, you still might get beat but the only chance you have of getting to the prize is doing the work. You don’t get there by luck. You get there because you’re ready. ”
There’s no victory without suffering—on the bike or in Hollywood—but it’s good to be king of the hill.