Joe Manganiello is recounting the terrifying Armenian Genocide survival tale of his great-grandmother. The Magic Mike actor discussed the tragic experiences that his great-grandmother once went through in PEOPLE’s exclusive look at Tuesday’s Finding Your Roots episode.
“The Turks came into her home in 1915 under the guise of World War I and tried to enact the genocide that they had begun,” he said. “They shot her husband dead, shot her. She laid on the ground, pretended that she was dead while seven other gunshots went off, which were her seven children.”
Additionally, his great-grandmother was able to avoid the invaders’ suspicion by pretending to be dead. Manganiello, 47, explained, “She laid there unmoving and the Turks left the house and left the eighth child, who was an infant in the crib, to starve to death, which is just the way that they did business.” The mother “strapped the baby onto her back” and fled.
Furthermore, Manganiello said, “For people who don’t know, there were these death marches where they would just handcuff, chain the Armenians together and march them out to the desert, and release the Kurds, give them military coats, horses and guns, to then go do what they wanted with their mortal enemies, the Armenians. She escaped that.”
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Joe Manganiello also revealed that his great-grandmother had to swim across the Euphrates River to escape. And when she finally reached the opposite side, she saw that her youngest kid had drowned while riding on her back.
Moreover, he revealed, “She had a bullet in her still, and to my understanding, she lived in a cave with other refugees until she was picked up by German military.” Manganiello’s great-grandma was then impregnated in a military camp by a German officer. The actor continued, “She gave birth to a very blonde, half-German child.”
On another note, Finding Your Roots employs DNA technology, just like in earlier episodes, to identify celebrities’ lineage. As they trace the celebs’ familial lineages, the series promises some surprising revelations. Lastly, Manganiello’s narrative will be featured alongside that of retired football tight end Tony Gonzalez on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.