With movies as diverse as “Step Up,” “The Vow,” “Magic Mike,” and “White House Down” on his resume, Channing Tatum has already proven he can do just about anything.
But one of his best skills has gone unreported, at least until now.
“I’m solid at diaper changing,” says Tatum, who has a one-year-old daughter named Everly with wife Jenna Dewan. “If a guy isn’t good at changing a diaper, I don’t know what he’s there for really, because for the first seven months or so, the mom is the end-all, be-all of everything.”
Not usually one to boast, Tatum says he’s a master at diapering on the go.
“[Everly] does not like sitting still, but I can [change the diaper] even when she’s crawling, standing up, doing the whole thing.”
And, yes, there have been some mishaps along the way.
“There’s always mishaps,” he says with a laugh. “The whole day is just a big ol’ mishap. I find it really fun. It’s always a different thing every day. Watching her experience things for the first time is amazing. She just saw a kite for the first time the other day and she was just, like, ‘What? What is it?’ It was crazy.”
“Crazy” is a good word to describe Tatum’s 2014 schedule. He began the year voicing Superman in “The Lego Movie,” which is one of 2014’s top-grossing films with $250 million in box office booty.
This autumn, the actor will pop up in “Foxcatcher,” the true story of wealthy Philadelphian John du Pont (Steve Carrel) who killed Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz during a bout of paranoid schizophrenia. When the film premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival, critics predicted it would be a major contender in this year’s Oscar race.
And now playing in theaters is “22 Jump Street,” a sequel to “21 Jump Street,” which was a $200 million hit back in 2012.
Picking up right where the first film left off, “22” sends undercover cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) to college where they’re tasked with – what else? – busting up a drug ring.
“We really wanted to do another one just because we had so much fun with the first one,” says Tatum, 34.
In between fighting crime, Schmidt and Jenko do their share of partying, stretching from the campus frat houses to spring break in “Puerto Mexico.”
Jenko is quickly drafted onto the football team, where he befriends a Big Man on Campus named Zook (Wyatt Russell) who might or might not be the drug dealer that Jenko and Schmidt are hoping to bust.
After filming the 2013 movies “White House Down” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” Tatum was feeling “banged up,” but he still insisted on doing most of his own stunts in “22 Jump Street.”
“I just got off back to back movies that were by far the most physical I’ve done,” says the actor. “This movie, there was no preparing, but I played football for, like, 10 years of my life, so I wasn’t really worried about that. I was just worried about keeping my body together.
“I like doing [stunts]. We used to do stuff growing up, like in a really unsafe manner, and now I get to do [stunts] with some of the best safety guys and stunt guys in the world. So, it’s just fun for me.”
The biggest challenge for Tatum was pretending to be a football hero when he was nursing “two bum wheels,” as he calls his ailing feet and ankles.
“I had a rolled left ankle that was taped up [a few inches] thick and a torn ligament in my right foot,” he recalls. “You always just wish, ‘Man, I want to play football again.’ But I couldn’t do as well as I wanted to. But I think it worked out OK [for the purposes of the movie].”
If Tatum excels at physical comedy, then his co-star (and the movie’s co-writer) Jonah Hill is a master at firing off one-liners. Tatum says he’s learned a lot of comedy lessons from Hill but he still can’t adlib jokes effortlessly.
“No, I’m absolutely not as quick as Jonah,” says Tatum. “I’ve only seen one person, and she’s in the movie, be able to make Jonah take a little step back.
“I think he realized he was in a fight. Jillian Bell [who plays one of the college kids], she brings the pain. … I didn’t have many scenes with her, but I was so excited [when she was on the set] even though I knew I’d take some hits along the way.
“It was… like being in the ring with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and just being, like, ‘What’s gonna happen next?’ Jillian and Jonah would just battle it out, and it was awesome.”
When Tatum signed up for “21 Jump Street” back in 2012, he was largely untested in comedy. He credits the movie with giving him a big confidence boost.
“I did the first one because I really wanted to work with Jonah and also I wanted to try to sort of tiptoe out into the comedy world, with a very capable net underneath me,” recalls the Alabama-born, Mississippi-raised actor.
“You just try to challenge yourself with every single part and try not to do something derivative or something you’ve already done.
“If it’s going to be another action movie or another love story, I try to let it be a wildly different character than the last one. So, I’m always trying to challenge myself to be better and to do different things.”
Tatum is still intent on challenging himself. His upcoming films include a diverse slate of projects, including a film about daredevil Evel Knievel, a “Magic Mike” sequel, the Wachowskis’ latest sci-fi extravaganza “Jupiter Ascending,” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” in which he’ll play the superhero Gambit.
“I chose Gambit because it was [a reminder of] my childhood,” says the actor. “It’s the only X-Men [character] that I followed. I’m not a big X-Men head but… he’s just the coolest one to me. He’s the smoking, drinking, woman-chasing, cussing one.
“He’s not even a good guy; he’s a thief, so we’re going to hopefully try and maybe change up the superhero movie and give it a different look. Who knows if that will be something that people will like, but we’re going to try and change it up.”
Once his role as Gambit is completed, Tatum is planning on taking a short break from acting.
“That’s it for a while; I just want to spend some time with the family,” he says. “[Producing partner] Reid [Carolin] and I want to start our very slow climb up the mountain of learning directing. I’d like to start taking our journey through that.
“And that’s really it. I want to slow down. If I don’t miss my child’s first 10 years of life, that would be really nice.”