The Magic Mike star tells Jane Mulkerrins about fatherhood, wrestling, stripping… and Mexican puppets
‘Animated movies are like vacations for actors,’ Channing Tatum says with refreshing honesty. ‘I got to show up in my sweatpants every day. Zoe [Saldana, his co-star] jokes that she didn’t even brush her teeth. And there are no wrong lines. I could have spoken French and they’d have probably been like: “Maybe that’ll work”.’
He’s not denigrating his own relaxed, ad-lib-heavy efforts in The Book Of Life; he’s merely acknowledging the light relief from his usual 15-hour days spent on set for films such as 21 Jump Street and White House Down.
Based on the folklore surrounding Mexico’s Day Of The Dead, the eye-poppingly colourful 3D film ‘looks like a magical piñata burst open and Mexican culture fell out’, he says.
Tatum is the voice of Joaquin, a swaggering, moustachioed Latin spin on Captain America. Like all the characters, Joaquin’s a wooden marionette-type figure, with hinges for joints, but his broad chest and shoulders – larger in every way than the rest of the ‘cast’ – still manage to mirror and, perhaps, ever so gently mock the famous physique of the man bringing him to life.
Today, in a hotel in New York’s SoHo, 34-year-old Tatum is covered up in a long-sleeved grey T-shirt and jeans. The T-shirt, admittedly, is snug, and I can confirm that Tatum’s upper body, even clothed, is as impressive at close quarters as millions of women the world over have imagined. In contrast to his narcissistic animated hero, however, Tatum comes across as self aware and sweetly humble.
He is also very much a family man. His wife of five years, the actress and dancer Jenna Dewan-Tatum, gave birth to their daughter Everly 16 months ago. ‘Making a children’s film wasn’t a conscious decision but I can feel the sway that fatherhood has on my creative projects,’ he says. ‘It definitely changes you. When you’re a parent, you want the person you’re responsible for not to make the same mistakes you made. I’m very competitive but I’m going to have to try to let her find her own way.’
This is at least one of his films Everly can see before she comes of age. ‘Yes, there’s almost nothing of mine that she can watch any time soon,’ he laughs. ‘Maybe Step Up – she’s going to end up watching that a lot.’
It will certainly be some time before he’ll let her watch his current project, Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to the 2012 hit which reunites most of the original male strip troupe, including Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello. His wife, however, remains untroubled by his thong-sporting performance. ‘She loves Magic Mike, believe it or not,’ he laughs.
‘Obviously, my job in that film is to do things that wives would not want their husbands doing but she’s cool like that.’
The original film was based on Tatum’s own experiences as a male stripper in Tampa, Florida. ‘If I was just doing any old movie about strippers, she would probably ask why I wanted to do that,’ he says. ‘But it really is just me telling a part of my life and she understands that.’
The Book Of Life is released in cinemas on Friday