Those are Channing Tatum’s words, to Vanity Fair, in his cover interview for the February 2023 issue of the magazine. The quote comes out of the part of the article where he talks about how he tries too hard, especially in relationships, and he’s currently in a relationship with Zoë Kravitz; Chan was busted for following a few of her fan accounts on Instagram.
“I have no chill.” It was innocent, he swears. “I was just seeing what she was up to! Also, I didn’t know anyone would know.”
He wouldn’t be the only celebrity who creeps fan accounts – and probably a lot of their own fan accounts – but at least he’s willing to talk about it, have a sense of humour about it. And that’s generally the vibe of this profile: Channing is not actively trying to conceal himself the way so many stars reluctantly participate in these interviews. And while he doesn’t get too detailed about his personal life he gets personal about his life.
The broad strokes of his divorce from Jenna Dewan come up and he’s willing to share how the breakdown of his marriage affected him. Basically they grew apart and in the aftermath he had to do the work of figuring who he was now that those dreams had come to an end. And what new dreams to pursue. My interest specifically was in his professional goals.
Channing Tatum is well aware that he became famous for his physicality, that he’s known for his physique, that being lusted over was critical to his success. Which means there are all kinds of assumptions about the way he looks in relation to the way he thinks. Most actors, no matter their gender, push back hard on that. Nobody wants to be pigeonholed, misunderstood. But Chan isn’t defensive about it. That’s not to say he continues to actively encourage it, but he can also see the privilege in it, especially since the consequences of objectification work differently for men than they do women.
“In Project Artemis, the movie he’s currently filming with Scarlett Johansson in Atlanta, Tatum plays a NASA launch director during the Apollo program, which one might interpret as an attempt to “transition gracefully into the shirt-on phase” of his career, as Bullock’s character puts it in The Lost City. But, says Tatum, “I doubt that I’ll be able to keep my clothes on forever.”
A matter-of-fact statement that’s also funny. Like I said, he’s not here to take himself too seriously, because he gets it. After all, he can’t complain about having to take his shirt off when, well, he’s promoting a movie that’s part of a franchise that is entirely based on him taking off his shirt. Magic Mike’s Last Dance comes out next month.
Last Dance is the final instalment of the trilogy based on his early life, the movie series that kicked off the live show which has become a celebration of female desire, building off one of the unexpected surprises that came out of the second movie, Magic Mike XXL. Interesting though what Channing says about that now; he seems to not want too much credit for how positively that movie has been received for centering woman’s pleasure – at least that was the takeaway.
Chan seems compelled to clarify, though, that that wasn’t the intention.
“Still, they didn’t have this audience top of mind when they made Magic Mike XXL. As in the first movie, the action centers on the male characters, something that as time went on and the world changed, Tatum began to have misgivings about. “Really, the first two movies are feathered-fish sort of movies, in my opinion,” he says now. “They’re movies about men made for women, or people that like men, but none of them had really strong female characters. So it felt like we sort of hoodwinked people on some level. Like we cheated the code.”
I don’t know that I agree with him that they “cheated the code”. He can be honest about how they didn’t start out wanting to make a movie that ended up as a representation of equal pleasure and it ended up an accidental by-product but “cheating” in this sense is often preceded by premeditation. And calling it that undermines the magic of storytelling, good storytelling, and the surprises that come out of it beyond the storyteller’s expectations. Like, we don’t have to give him a sash and crown and call him Mr Feminism but he's doing better than a lot of other people in his industry. Which also echoes what Roxane Gay contributes to this interview.
Roxane comes up, of course, because she’d been tweeting about him a lot a few years ago and then he replied and that turned into a friendship and now a collaboration. Channing Tatum and Roxane Gay are working on a romance novel together!
That’s what I mean – just the fact that this is one of his projects, a romance novel, for an audience that is almost entirely women, a genre that is always underappreciated…
Because, yes, he’s right. He has no chill. You can’t be chill when you’re writing a romance novel. There is no “cool” in romance, not in any sense of the word. And that’s part of Channing Tatum’s magic, if you will. He’s not too cool to keep taking his clothes off, to lean into the assumptions that he’s stupid, to write romance and children’s books, and open a scene in his movie with his head between Salma Hayek’s legs.
Let him have no chill. Let him never have any chill.