Unless actors are able to parlay a start as a child star straight into a long term career as an adult, they will generally have grafted at all manner of mundane jobs while waiting for their big break.
Hollywood is filled with wannabees waiting tables as they wait for the casting call that could change their lives.
Channing Tatum was no exception, but instead of taking meal orders he earned a buck taking his clothes off, working as a male stripper in his teens and showing off the enviable abs earned as his high school’s star athlete.
He always said he would like to make a movie about his experiences and finally Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh helps him accomplish that in Magic Mike.
“I mentioned that I’d worked as a stripper for eight months when I was 18, 19 years old,” says Alabama-born Channing.
“I’ve always thought about doing a story about that life, because whenever the subject comes up, guys always want to know about it. ‘How’d you get into it? What was it like? How much money did you make?’.”
In the film he plays the titular Mike, a jack-of-all trades who has a dream of setting up his own business, and meanwhile works nights as the hot headliner in an all-male revue at Club Xqusite, run by Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas.
If the promise of tear-away trousers isn’t enough to entice you to the cinema, the sight of the sharp street-dance moves that the Step Up star pulls off should be.
“We had some incredible choreographers who’ve worked with Britney Spears, Madonna and Pink. They really did the heavy lifting. I was just there for technical support,” says the 32-year-old actor.
Steven encouraged Channing to write the story himself and a series of brain-storming sessions ensued, which formed the basis and inspiration of writer Reid Carolin’s final script.
Reid has teasingly hinted that his friend’s own experiences were a lot crazier than those depicted on screen, saying: “If we put in the stuff that really happened, no-one would believe it!”
Rather than illustrate actual events from his past, Channing says he tried to capture the atmosphere and energy of it. “That feeling of being at a time in your life when you’re trying things out, and up for anything. You might have a plan for the future, but for now it’s about that next pay cheque, that next party, and just having a good time.”
Despite having donned a thong or two in the past, Channing admits he still felt nervous before shooting the stripping scenes.
“You’ve got to summon up that confidence when you’re about to go out and get butt-naked in front of about 350 people. You just have to hope it’s a warm room,” he deadpans.
Channing spent his teenage years in Tampa, Florida, and has described himself as a bit of an outsider, until he discovered football and street dance.
“When I was about 15, my sister was friends with the manager of this club and I remember going to deliver flyers,” he says.
“There were these guys in this circle who were flipping and doing all this crazy stuff. I was just like, ‘Oh, my God. I want to do that’.”
Later, Channing heard a radio advert for guys who liked to dance, and he auditioned for the male revue.
“I thought, ‘Why not’? I could dance and it sounded like something I could do for fun for a while,” he says.
Soon he was making $150 for a couple of hours work – “a ton of money for me at the time”.
“I really enjoyed the performing aspect, although being in a thong can be a humbling experience,” Channing admits, chuckling.
“The more you try to look sexy, the lamer it is, so you just have to commit to the comedy.
“But the women love it! They scream and laugh and stuff money into your underwear. It was wild.”
Channing hung up his thong after eight months and moved to Miami where he was discovered by a modelling scout on the street. He then hit the audition trail, landing roles in the TV series CSI Miami and films such as Coach Carter and Supercross.
But it was his role in the independent flick, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, in 2006 that got industry insiders talking.
Later that year, landing the lead in street dance movie Step Up confirmed his commercial bankability. It’s also where he met his wife, Jenna Dewan, 31, who also starred in the film. The couple now run the Iron Horse Entertainment production company.
Channing’s been careful not to become too typecast, and in the past few years has starred in romantic films such as Nicholas Sparks’ Dear John, dramatic projects like gangster movie Public Enemies, Roman epic The Eagle and action romp GI Joe. He also showed a real flair for comedy in 21 Jump Street.
He’s come a long way since his own stripper days, but Channing still has ambitions to conquer. He admits he has a way to go before he’s sought out for “the lawyer roles”.