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Meet the Ridiculously Handsome Actor Inside “Imaginary”’s Frightening Teddy Bear Costume (Exclusive)

Dane DiLiegro, a former pro basketball player, has also appeared in the movie 'Prey' and on 'American Horror Stories'

<p>Parrish Lewis for Lionsgate; LISA O

Parrish Lewis for Lionsgate; LISA O'CONNOR/AFP via Getty

Dane DiLiegro is the handsome actor inside the scary bear costume from 'Imaginary'

Imaginary’s Chauncey Bear is terrifying. Dane DiLiegro, the actor who plays him, is not.

Unfortunately for viewers, the 6-foot-8 actor is often hiding his striking face behind a variety of fear-inducing costumes.

Prior to starring in the new horror flick Imaginary, the Massachusetts native played Predator in the thriller Prey, the demon Ba’al in an episode of American Horror Stories as well as a character called Muscle Monster on the Netflix series Sweet Home. He was also an octopus in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

On one of his first days on the set of Imaginary — the new horror movie about Louisiana woman Jessica (DeWanda Wise) whose young stepdaughter (Pyper Braun) finds a cuddly teddy bear that turns out to be the stuff of nightmares — DiLiegro met star and producer Wise, who introduced herself.

<p>Parrish Lewis for Lionsgate</p> Dane DiLiegro as Chauncey Bear in 'Imaginary'

Parrish Lewis for Lionsgate

Dane DiLiegro as Chauncey Bear in 'Imaginary'

“She looks at me and she's like, ‘Oh, good thing we're covering up that face of yours,’” DiLiegro, 35, says with a smile. “She walked away and I [was] like, ‘You're joking?’ She was like, ‘Yes. I was joking!”

Related: The Next M3GAN or Five Nights at Freddy’s? Imaginary Trailer Teases a Spooky Teddy Bear: Watch 

He certainly made an impression all around. "He's such a great guy — and so handsome," Imaginary costar Betty Buckley tells PEOPLE. "You wouldn't believe he's played a lot of monsters."

<p>ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty </p> Dane DiLiegro at the 75th Emmy Awards in January

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty

Dane DiLiegro at the 75th Emmy Awards in January

But playing monsters is not something DiLiegro ever set out to do. One of three kids raised in Lexington, Mass., by his father Frank, who worked for Nike, and his mother Cheryl, an artist and calligrapher, DiLiegro was an athlete who earned a Division I scholarship to the University of New Hampshire.

After college, he played basketball professionally for eight years in Italy, Israel, and for one summer, the Boston Celtics. A few years ago, when he was in Boston training for the upcoming season, he was offered a job as a stand-in on the Ryan Reynolds movie Free Guy.

Related: Why Carrie and Imaginary Star Betty Buckley Is Up for Playing 'Weird, Crazy Ladies' In Horror Movies (Exclusive)

People he worked with on the movie, "recommended I look into acting," he recalls. But DiLiegro, who has a degree in business and tourism, "really wanted to host an unscripted culinary travel show. Anthony Bourdain was kind of my hero."

<p>Dane DiLiegro/ Instagram</p> Dane DiLiegro played an octopus in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3'

Dane DiLiegro/ Instagram

Dane DiLiegro played an octopus in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3'

Shortly after working on Free Guy, he headed out to L.A. to pitch a travel show, "and I ended up booking Sweet Home within a week, and then it just took off. Then playing monsters was kind of my thing, which I love and enjoy."

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, DiLiegro decided to retire from basketball and focus on acting full-time. He enjoys it, but it's not without its challenges. Especially when he's suited up in a monster costume.

The Chauncey Bear outfit for Imaginary wasn't too heavy, says DiLiegro, but he does note that they shot the film in Louisiana in the summertime.

During filming one day, he took a quick break while suited up, “I went to go sit in my chair for 15 minutes. And someone comes up, ‘Are you okay?’ I'm like, ‘Yeah.’ They're like, ‘Okay. Because there's a huge pool of water around here,’” he says.

<p>David Bukach / Hulu / Courtesy Everett</p> Dane DiLiegro as the Predator in 'Prey'

David Bukach / Hulu / Courtesy Everett

Dane DiLiegro as the Predator in 'Prey'

“And I looked down and there was a giant puddle of water around me. I had just been sweating and sweating,” he says. “When I shoot things like this, my weight can fluctuate 15 pounds in a day.”

He might be sweating on his next project, but that's only because he's back to playing basketball. DiLiegro is now filming an upcoming untitled sports comedy from exec producer Mindy Kaling.

It stars Kate Hudson as a woman “who is unexpectedly appointed head of the family business — which happens to be one of the most famous professional basketball franchises in the country,” according to Netflix, which is producing the series.

<p>Dane DiLiegro/ Instagram</p> Dane DiLiegro

Dane DiLiegro/ Instagram

Dane DiLiegro

DiLiegro has a recurring role as a foreign basketball player based in America.

“He tells things like they are, but he also has a softer side. And he's an Eastern European guy who loves America, loves being in America,” says DiLiegro.

“He's enjoying himself and he tries to do things right and work hard," he continues.

The same could be said for DiLiegro. At the moment, he's single and focusing on building his resumé.

“Right now I'm just so completely focused on my acting and storytelling. I feel like I'm 22 years old because I started on this in this brand new industry,” he says.

The Kaling Netflix series "is my first major, I guess you could say, human acting job, which is a major stepping stone," says DiLiegro. "It's very exciting for me because obviously I want to play humans."

No offense to monsters, of course.

Imaginary is in theaters now.

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