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July 9, 2014

Heading 'Strain' cast, Stoll once was an outcast

New York — "I chose a very strange profession for someone who had such body issues," says actor Corey Stoll, who, at 38, not only has a thriving career but also a ripped physique that could shame a couch potato into hitting the gym.

Still, he can't dismiss his past. As a teen he was fat — very fat — he reports, with his 6-foot-2 frame then carrying some 100 pounds more than his current 210.

Starring in the new FX thriller, "The Strain" (premiering Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT), Stoll has leading-man charisma as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hero pitted against a viral outbreak threatening the planet.

Meanwhile, viewers of the Netflix drama "House of Cards" can get a head-to-toe look at him in the buff in the series premiere's bedroom scene. And in episode 5, a tour de force interlude with star Kevin Spacey leads to Stoll, undressed, planted in a bathtub.

In those sequences, filmed a few years ago, he's clearly in terrific condition.

"I'm not quite in that shape right now," he says with a self-effacing laugh. "But I'm OK."

Even so, he still sees a fat kid in the mirror, he says, an admission that should comfort everyone who sees only flaws in their own reflection.

"I chose a profession where everybody looks at me!" he marvels. "But I guess you go toward what's hard for you. I used to think I had to fight to get over it. But at this point, I'm at peace with the fact that I have a certain degree of dysmorphia," that chronic concern over a perceived defect in one's physical appearance.

In a weird way, that remains a useful tool for him to draw on as an actor.

"No matter how successful I get," he says, "I'll always have easy access to what it feels like to be that outcast, to feel separate, with that level of self-loathing. It's not who I am now, but it's there. And it's never gonna go away."

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