Few actors can boast they’ve worked for both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Fast franchise, but Andrew Koji balances between two worlds. Zooming in from London, the 35-year-old Englishman, with a healthy playoff beard and Buddhist prayer beads looped around his wrist, describes a remarkably varied career. A classically trained martial artist, his taekwondo and kung fu background made stunt work straightforward. But by his mid-20s, searching for more, he’d abandoned action, instead half-starving as a British stage actor (and booking the odd TV gig). The big break came when Koji auditioned for and landed the lead in Warrior, which combined his pedigree for punching dudes in the face with the lean acting chops. With season three’s debut on Max on June 29, he’s grown comfortable with the contrasts.
While the theater may be a workout for the acting chops, it did little for Koji’s body, and as he tells GQ, it took an overhaul of his entire lifestyle, from diet to workouts, to get into shape. He added high-intensity interval training. He cut sugar. And after weighing whether to give the whole acting thing up, he’s found both a robust role and a vision for the future of action movies.
For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and other high performers about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
GQ: Your mother is English and your father is Japanese. So, growing up, which culture’s food did you favor?
Andrew Koji: I grew up with my mum, so I grew up eating English food. My dad I’d see every now and again. On the weekends, we’d have fish and chips, and occasionally Indian food and Chinese. I wasn’t exposed to Japanese food that much until I went to Japan later in my life.
Health food is actually quite new for me. When I went out for Warrior, season one, being in South Africa, they’ve got a huge health food culture there, and that was completely foreign to me.
You were training in martial arts at a young age, though. Were food and diet not part of that culture?
I remember when I went to Thailand—I was 19, 20, 21—and I was training with high-level people. Some of the guys, they were going to McDonald’s all the time, drinking sugary drinks. Even back then, it wasn’t that healthy. I think that they thought if you’re training hard enough, when you’re that young, you can get away with just enjoying life.
What got you into martial arts?
I really liked the kicks of taekwondo because of Hwoarang from Tekken—he was my favorite character. But I had a huge injury—I tore my ass in half, my gluteus maximus, minimus, and my hamstring. For six months I couldn’t walk, and then for two years I had to go through physiotherapy. That’s when I found kung fu. It was gentler on the kicks, more circ