Arnold Schwarzenegger's Son Joseph Baena Recalls Media Frenzy After News Broke the Actor Was His Dad

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Joseph Baena is recalling the day the world learned that Arnold Schwarzenegger is his father. The 24-year-old son of Schwarzenegger and his former housekeeper, Mildred Baena, covers the March issue of Men's Health, and opens up about when his paternity became public knowledge in 2011.

"I remember the day very vividly. I was in the eighth grade. Fifth or sixth period. And I get called out of class to leave," Baena says. "And my mom’s there, and she’s like, 'We gotta go -- everyone is finding out about you and who your father is.'"

"I’m 13," he adds. "Your body’s transforming; your mind is transforming. And now my life transformed before my eyes."

Amid the media frenzy, mother and son drove to Texas to hide out with relatives.

"She was really the only person I had, and I was really the only person that she had," Baena explains of his mom. "No one knew, and everyone wanted the details. We had each other’s backs."

As he entered high school, Baena says that "the trust factor became really difficult" when it came to building relationships. He also struggled to find himself, and was cut from the basketball and soccer teams, before discovering swimming, at which he thrived. 

His success in swimming prompted an interest in fitness, something he bonded over with his famous dad. Schwarzenegger even gifted the then-teen the book he co-wrote, The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

"Even though I could call him anytime, I was too proud," Baena says. "I went straight to the book. I wanted to figure it out myself."

Around Baena's 18th birthday, the father-son duo began training together. "I was so nervous," Baena admits. "I was being observant, trying to see what he was doing and the way he was acting."

From his dad, Baena learned that bodybuilding is about "pushing yourself to the limits and going that extra mile, getting those extra reps and half reps till you’re basically dying."

Baena applies the same thought process to his burgeoning acting career -- he's next set to star in an action flick, Lava, and the sci-fi thriller Encounters -- running his lines "over and over again." He doesn't, however, use his dad's connections to land parts.

"My dad is old-school; he doesn’t believe in handouts. He believes hard work pays off, and so do I," Baena says. "I love the word honorand I’m very prideful in the sense that if I use my dad’s contacts or ask him for favors, I wonder what honor is that gonna bring me?"

"When I go to auditions, they don’t know who I am, because we don’t have the same last name," he continues. "[When I book a gig] I know it’s all me."

Joseph Baena
Eric Ray Davidson for Men’s Health

While his interest in fitness and acting draws comparisons to that of his famous father, Baena, who also dabbles in real estate, is committed to charting his own path.

"A lot of guys struggle with trying to make their dad proud or trying to get out of their dad’s shadow," he says. "But as long as you’re doing what you want to do, then that all comes. Of course, maybe those guys don’t have such nice dads."

"It took a little bit for me to realize that I don’t have to do what my dad did. I don’t have to get into acting or bodybuilding," Baena adds. "I’m very motivated and driven. I’m happy about my relationship with my dad. But I’m more happy that I am finding joy in what I’m doing and that I’m doing exactly what I’ve always dreamed about."

Baena even has a clear picture of what he wants his life to look like in 10 years: "I’m an award-winning actor with lots of real estate experience, and I’m on a boat in Miami, sipping a mai tai with my buddies, getting ready for the next movie."

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