Channing Tatum talks Magic Mike XXL: ‘It’s a dancer-stripper movie, not Lawrence Of Arabia’

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Three years after Magic Mike thrust onto screens, he’s back for another steamy instalment. Channing Tatum tells Susan Griffin why he’s happy for his wife to watch male strippers and how he’ll be the first to tell his daughter about his own X-rated past…

Channing Tatum might look in prime condition on the promotional posters for the upcoming sequel to 2012 male stripper movie Magic Mike, but he’s the first to admit it required a “ridiculous” amount of work.

“I hadn’t even started working out for this movie and tWitch [Stephen Boss, his co-star in the follow-up film] just walked in, basically looking how I wanted to, and I was like, ‘Damn!'” recalls the 35-year-old, laughing.

And so he set about whipping himself into shape.

“People have nine-to-five jobs, but that’s my job, to eat right, be on a schedule, go and workout three times [a day]. And guess what, if you’re not getting there on time, you gotta go workout four times.”

Picking up the story three years after Mike, played by Tatum, bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, Magic Mike XXL finds the remaining ‘Kings of Tampa’ – including Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, Matt Bomer as the picture-perfect Ken, Adam Rodriguez as Latin sensation Tito and Kevin Nash as wild-man Tarzan – also ready to throw in their thongs.

But they want to do it their way: with one last blow-out performance in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

And Mike, having realised he traded one grind for another, can’t wait to reunite with his old mates.

“You definitely get the sense that something vital is missing. He’s just not ‘switched on’ the way he was when he was dancing,” says the Alabama-born actor who was raised in Florida and, as with the original, is also a producer on the film.

“The first movie was more about him rejecting that life, because he feared maybe it was holding him back from seeing what else he could do. But now that he’s stepped away and some time has passed, he remembers everything that was good and cool and fun about it and, most of all, about the guys who were on that wild adventure with him.”

The world of Magic Mike is inspired by Tatum’s own experiences as a stripper, including the convention that the Kings Of Tampa are headed for.

“I have no idea why they call it a convention. There are no booths set up or stripper technology, it’s just a big show,” notes the star, who adds that the film’s intention is to live up to its title, with bigger set pieces and even more impressive routines.

“We read the message boards and they were like, ‘Less story, more dancing’, so we take direction well.

“We wanted the movie to be a tease in itself,” he explains. “We didn’t want to get so over-handed with all the gender stuff, or with everybody’s story, it’s a dancer-stripper movie, we’re not going to try and make it like Lawrence Of Arabia. But we didn’t want there to be no story either. It’s a fine needle to thread,” Tatum continues.

“The idea with Magic Mike XXL was to have the guys discover for themselves what’s hot and fun and sexy, and a huge part of that is by asking women what they want, instead of telling them it’s a cowboy in ass-less chaps.”

He describes his time working as a nightclub stripper as “an interesting time in my life”, but while he’d always wanted to be open about his past, he now admits that “my publicist was like, ‘Hell no!'” but adds: “It eventually came out and I was like, ‘Finally we can talk about this’.”

Unlike his move alter-ego, Tatum didn’t reject stripping, he insists. “It was more like, ‘All right, I kind of did this now’. I wasn’t like, ‘I can’t do this any more – I want more!'”

He later moved to New York to try modelling, attending 50 castings a week “for anything and everything”.

One day, his agent put him forward for a Pepsi commercial, suggesting he played up his DJ skills.

“All I knew was how to put a record on a turntable but went along, and every real DJ in New York was there,” remembers Tatum, who was about to leave when a member of the team urged him to stay.

So he borrowed a record, “and basically danced and acted like I was scratching, got the part, and then just faked it pretty much”, he recalls, laughing.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this acting thing is way more fun’.”

In 2006, he received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his powerful performance in the independent movie A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. That same year, he starred in She’s The Man and Step Up, where he met his wife, the dancer and actress Jenna Dewan.

He credits Dewan for being an “instrumental” part of the Magic Mike XXL journey.

“She and Alison [Faulk, one of the choreographers] are very good friends. It’s probably weird to understand, but we were basically choreographing dry-humping down in a gym with her best friend, and saying things like, ‘Don’t put your crotch here; put it more over here’. It was ridiculous.”

He’d have no problem with Dewan enjoying a night out at a strip club. “She can go, I would love her to go. That’s kind of the whole point, I just love when people can talk about sexuality and sensuality, and there’s a difference to just [talking about] sex – I don’t think people talk about it enough.”

It’s why he’s not concerned that their two-year-old daughter Everly will find out what her father got up to in his younger years.

“I’m editing nothing. Life is life,” he reasons. “I can’t change a thing – I was a stripper and I’m not going to keep it from her. She’s going to grow up and know it was what it was. Besides, by the time she’s old enough, there are going to be holograms! You can’t keep kids from anything.”

She’s no doubt going to be proud of all her dad’s achievements. In recent years, Tatum’s starred in the hit comedy 21 Jump Street and its sequel, the stunning 2014 animation The Book Of Life and Oscar-nominated drama Foxcatcher, with upcoming projects including the Coen brothers’ comedy Hail, Caesar!, as well as superhero flick Gambit.

As for whether there will be any more of Magic Mike – “We’re going to do about 40,” he quips.

“Nah, I don’t know whether there’s going to be a third one, to be honest,” Tatum adds. “If you’ve got an idea, write it man, I don’t want to write the third one.”

Magic Mike XXL is released in local cinemas on Friday, July 3

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