Atlanta stuntman Austin Arizpe in HBO’s ‘Finding Magic Mike’

Austin Arizpe of Atlanta is competing on HBO Max's "Finding Magic Mike" for $100,000. HBO Max

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Austin Arizpe of Atlanta is competing on HBO Max's "Finding Magic Mike" for $100,000. HBO Max

Original ‘Magic Mike’ actor Adam Rodriguez is a judge.

The 2012 film “Magic Mike” and its sequel “Magic Mike XXL” propelled Channing Tatum into the stratosphere and led to a popular “Magic Mike Live” show in Vegas. (Take that, Thunder Down Under!).

The brand has now been transformed into an HBO Max reality competition show called “Finding Magic Mike” featuring 10 regular guys seeking their inner confidence through strip dancing on stage in front of screaming ladies. The winner pockets $100,000. The judges include “Magic Mike” actor Adam Rodriguez.

One of those 10 guys is Atlanta stuntman Austin Arizpe, who even tried out for that “Magic Mike” live show years ago but didn’t get far.

Austin was actually a dancer in his younger years but suffered a career-ending back injury in 2015.

For years, Austin said he felt his own magic was snuffed out and he battled depression. He eventually found a new career doing stunt work in film and TV out of Atlanta and met his girlfriend earlier this year.

Having largely recuperated from his injuries, Austin said this was also the right time for him to try dance again in a very different venue via “Finding Magic Mike.”

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Austin Arizpe of Atlanta competed on the show 'Finding Magic Mike" on HBO Max for $100,000. HBO Max

Credit: HBO MAX

Austin Arizpe of Atlanta competed on the show 'Finding Magic Mike" on HBO Max for $100,000. HBO Max

Credit: HBO MAX

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Austin Arizpe of Atlanta competed on the show 'Finding Magic Mike" on HBO Max for $100,000. HBO Max

Credit: HBO MAX

Credit: HBO MAX

The seven-episode show, which debuted earlier this month on HBO Max, explores different aspects of what it takes to be a desirable man. Celebrity guests like Whitney Cummings, NIkki Glaser and Nicole Scherzinger provided support. Two finalists perform at an actual “Magic Mike Live” show with pro dancers at the Sahara in Vegas.

“it’s great to have your body in great shape and have great dance moves,” said Rodriguez, who played Tito in the “Magic Mike” films and lived in Atlanta for five years out of college. “But becoming a complete person is so much more than just your outside appearance.”

Some of the men are truly ripped. For instance, Ross, the military guy, has swagger and is stacked in multiple ways. Atlanta’s Austin has abs for days.

Some, though, are cast more for their personality. Ricky is sweet and funny and has never spent any time in a gym. Then there’s the delightful charismatic dude Adonis, who has what might be charitably dubbed “the dad bod” of the bunch.

In the opening minutes of the first episode, 50 contestants are asked to strip down to their skivvies and introduce themselves. (One man went commando so the producers had to provide him with a pair of underwear.)

Austin, who has the locks of a Fabio-type character in a romance novel, sheepishly says on the show he chose the wrong underwear because they are needlessly revealing.

After intros, the men try their hand at choreography. First up: the signature “Magic Mike” move dubbed the “dolphin dive” that Channing Tatum did to Ginuwine’s “Pony.”

The judges immediately see Austin’s potential.

“So much energy,” said Alison Faulk, who choreographed the 2012 movie.

“He’s got all the tools,” said Rodriguez.

It doesn’t hurt that Austin’s parents are choreographers. “Dance was very much part of them falling in love,” he says on the show. “That’s magic and I really want that.”

The judges cut the 50 to 25. The next day, the men do lap dances with women before they are cut to 10. Austin makes the cut, which isn’t a surprise given the way the show is edited.

Subsequent episodes focus on themes, be it confidence, attractiveness and charisma.

In episode three, the men talk about what it means to be men and how so many life pursuits were labeled “gay” by boys when they were younger, be it swimming or dance. Johnny says kids mocked his big nose.

“I was bullied relentlessly in high school for wanting to dance,” Austin says. “They called me gay all the time. I got shoved in locker. These people suck!”

The judges by the third episode notice Austin is too much in his head and isn’t expressing enough joy on stage. His dancing skills are clearly good, they note. But “he feels like someone who is afraid to let go,” Rodriguez says in that episode.

Austin, now 28, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the draw of the show for him was redemption. His parents were both choreographers at the Houston ballet. “I grew up around dance,” he said. “Dance was my life.”

At age 21, he was a principal ballet dancer for Viking cruise lines out of college. While in Mexico, he was riding his bike and a car hit him. He rolled over the hood.

“I heard a large pop in my legs. I felt something was out of whack. I was in pain. But it wasn’t a full thing so I went back to the ship and did a show,” he said. “When I caught my dancer partner, I heard a snap and my legs stopped working.” A disc had ruptured. He didn’t get feeling back in his legs for three months, took a year to walk normally and three years to do weights again.

He chose not to do surgery and was able to regain almost all his flexibility through intense rehab.

Not long ago, his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had to retire from the ballet.

“He has had dance taken away from him,” Austin said. “We both did. I want him to see this. He is so incredibly proud of me. I’m sure he’ll cry when he sees the show.”

Austin said despite his relative experience with dance compared to the other nine men, it didn’t matter so much in the end. “They wanted to see your charisma, your spark and whether you could find that magic,” he said. “Dance is just a vehicle.”

Win or lose, “Austin left a better person than he showed up and left happier,” Rodriguez said.

Austin agreed: “I found my magic again.”

And in a rare move, HBO Max flew all 10 men and some of the coaches to Vegas to screen all seven episodes together.

“They formed a true brotherhood,” Rodriguez said. “They shared so much discomfort and vulnerability. It was the first time they had experienced watching themselves on screen. It was great to hear the feedback. Some guys loved it. Some had mixed feelings. Some were still processing. It was fun to watch. They all got to experience what I get all the time as an actor.”

WHERE TO WATCH

“Finding Magic Mike,” available on HBO for subscribers

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