Magic Mike XXL has just opened this week and if you’re looking for the best sort of motivation to hit the gym again, you’re looking in the right place. The sequel to 2012’s Magic Mike (that told the story of male strippers, based on Channing Tatum‘s experience in his younger days), continues this time round with the Tampa Kings looking for a bigger push out of Tampa. Matt Bomer, who plays Ken, talked to us a little on shooting the sequel.
Can you tell us a little about your character, Ken, and where we find him in Magic Mike XXL?
Ken is someone who is at a real crossroads in his life when we meet him in the film. What I love about the character is that he is a sort of modern day, twenty-first century hippie. He’s very into meditation, organic food, and all of the healing modalities – he’s a Reiki healer. He freely prescribes them and imposes them on others, which I think is a funny and interesting contradiction about him because no one needs those things more than he does.
Ken, like many of the guys, is really looking at the end of one chapter of his life because dancing for a living is really starting to come to an end, and he’s trying to figure out what’s going to be next for him. I think this is one of those professions where you can wake up, and suddenly you’re in your thirties and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? It’s been an amazing party for fifteen years, but I can’t do this forever.’ That’s where I think a few of our guys are when we meet them. They’re doing the dancing as a side job while trying to figure out how they’re going to pull it together and become grownups.
How does Ken feel about the fact that Mike, Channing Tatum’s character, has already gone through that process in a way?
I think Ken is conflicted because he’s probably the most soulful, sensitive individual of the guys. So I think it was really hard for him when Mike left without a proper goodbye or any kind of communication. At the same time, he has a huge admiration for him because he went and did what they all want to do, which is to go out and carve a path for themselves doing what they love. And Mike went and did it. So there’s a little resentment, a little jealousy, but underneath that, there’s also a huge amount of respect for someone who went and pursued his dream.
What it was like for you to get back together with Channing and the other actors to hit the stage one more time for this movie?
We had such a fun dynamic. Channing is such a great leader on a set, even in the first film. We were just creating a sort of external reality while Channing was front and center, carrying the story, but he made us feel so valued and important, and by and large, we all had a lot of fun stuff to do.
So we really just fell right back into the group dynamic that we created in the first film. I think we were lucky that we got a really great group of guys and everybody gets along so well and is so supportive of each other. There was a really great ensemble feel. We’re all really competitive guys, but it’s more a sense of team competition. We’re all on each other’s side. It’s one of the few films I’ve worked on where people will stay after their work day is done to support everybody else, and watch the other people’s scenes being filmed.
We all were accountability partners in terms of just making sure we ate right and didn’t slip up in Savannah, Georgia – one of the soul food capitals of the world – to just get down on some fried chicken and mac and cheese. We were all working out, and we had each other to kind of lean on, complain to at times, and always support each other.
What was it like to get back into physical shape and back into the choreography, especially after you’d just lost so much weight to transform yourself for The Normal Heart?
I think my body was like, ‘Yo, make up your mind, man. Do you want to be skinny? Do you want to be muscular? What are we doing here?’ [Laughs] Part of the fun of it, and one of the most fun things about both films for me, was getting to work with Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinoza, who choreographed and assistant choreographed both films. They have such a profound and inspiring work ethic, and we were doing our routines for a month-and-a-half before we even started filming. We were just in little rehearsal studios in Hollywood, just sweating it out day after day.
And it was a very interactive experience, which was great. By the time you got there on the day, you didn’t want to have everything set in stone, but you felt like you were prepared for that moment when there would be 2,000 screaming people in the audience because of all the work you’d put in with Alison and Teresa.
And the other guys are so knowledgeable with the physical stuff, especially Joe [Manganiello] and Kevin [Nash]. They know all the things to eat and when to drink the protein shakes and all that, so I kind of leaned heavily on those guys to help me out. We were all there for each other when we’d have a 12-hour day and still have to hit the gym at night. We were like, ‘All right, let’s do this. Don’t go to bed, come on. Have another chicken breast and let’s do this.’
What was Greg Jacobs like to work with as a director? Did he welcome your collaboration?
That’s it. It is such a collaboration with him. Greg is so loving and respectful of the artists. You really want to do the absolute best work you can for him because you know how much he cares and how invested he is in the story. He believes in every one of us. There’s such a sense of love that comes from him. I always say that if everybody had Greg Jacobs as their dad, all the therapists in the world would go out of business because he’s so supportive and chill and loving. At the same time, he has great notes and a great sense of the world he’s creating. He knows how to put you in the movie he wants to create.
Do you have a favorite scene or a moment from the production that was particularly fun or memorable?
Every day – it’s so hard to just pick one. First of all, I loved being in Savannah. The location was so fun. Mostly what I’ll remember, I think, was being in that food truck with the guys. We were really in that food truck rolling down the highway in Georgia doing these scenes in these cramped spaces, and that was so fun to film.
I would say a favorite moment was when we start to get recreational with our habits in the food truck. Just getting to play that while watching Joe, whom I’ve known since we were 18, do his big Mini-Mart number. That was unforgettable. So much fun. We just all had a smile on our faces the whole time.
We learn a little more about each of the Tampa Kings in this film, and with you, Channing and screenwriter Reid Carolin said they wanted to bring singing into Ken’s story. What was that like for you?
Oh, man. That was a crazy dream come true, really. It was one of the situations that I think grew out of the first film. Magic Mike was really a modestly budgeted indie, so in between dance routines we’d go out and entertain the extras.
I remember sitting up there, and Channing hands me the microphone and says, ‘What do you do?’ ‘I don’t know.’ And Joe, whom I’ve known since I was 18, says, ‘Sing something.’ I said, ‘What should I sing?’ Channing says, ‘Sing D’Angelo.’ So I did, and Channing remembered that. He filed it away. So when it came time to do this, he thought I should sing something.
We definitely aimed high. I don’t know if we got there, but it was so fun just to have that experience, doing it live for 2,000 people. It was such a wild, amazing, unforgettable experience. I’m just really grateful for it. Channing and Reid and Greg, they let everybody bring something from their bag of tricks to the table.
Magic Mike XXL is now out in theatres island-wide.