Channing Tatum Recalls Dark Days as a Stripper

Brian Bowen Smith/The Hollywood Reporter

Channing Tatum may be capitalizing on his stripper past in "Magic Mike" and the upcoming sequel, "Magic Mike XXL," but the actor said his days as a stripper weren't always rosy.

"I wouldn't say I was losing myself in drugs because I wasn't doing anything habitually," the 34-year-old star told The Hollywood Reporter about his indulgences back then. "Just experimenting. Experimenting, I would say. Never the big ones-crack or heroin. I never OD'd or anything. Never."

He added, "Drinking was probably the biggest [thing]. I didn't look at drinking as a problem. It wasn't at that point, and I still don't think it's a problem. But at that time in my life, it was, 'Let's go out and have a great time.'"

Tatum, who struggled with ADHD and dyslexia through school, was 19 years old and a college dropout when he started stripping.

After moving from one menial job to another and dismissing the idea of becoming a veterinarian because of all the schooling it required, he said he fell into exotic dancing after hearing an ad on the radio.

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The star said he was drawn to the profession's underbelly-the partying, drinking and risk-far more than the money, which he admitted wasn't "as much as you think."

Tatum said, "On a good night, 150 bucks. On a bad night, 70 bucks-even 50 at times."

In the upcoming "Magic Mike XXL," Tatum's character hits the road to attend a stripper convention, something Tatum experienced firsthand in the late 1990s.

"I have no idea why it's called a convention," he told THR. "The 'convention' was not strippers peddling stripper technology or anything like that. It was just a big show with 50 to 70 strippers and 2,000 to 3,000 women. It was crazy. They attacked me every night."

He recalled one incident.

"The lady goes, 'Oh my God! Look at you! You remind me of my nephew!'-and then grabs me," he said. "It hit me like a hand grenade. It was like tick, tick, tick, boom: She's grabbing my butt and saying, 'You remind me of my nephew.'"