Magic Mike XXL: Sequel to Soderbergh’s Superior Film, Starring Channing Tatum

Magic Mike XXL is a weak, repetitive sequel to Soderbergh’s far more entertaining picture, starring the same sexy cast headed by Channing Tatum.

Looking for change, Mike, Ken, BDR, Tito and Tarzan make an unscheduled stop at Domina, Mike’s pre-Tampa stomping grounds, though it’s not like he remembers.  A private club in a gated Victorian mansion with a hint of classical Greek, it bears an elegantly rendered “R” for its proprietor, Rome.  Inside is another realm, at once dazzling and sensual, earthy and refined.

The sprawling compound is composed of two buildings that appear side-by-side but were actually found eight blocks apart in different Savannah neighborhoods: one an occupied family home from which production borrowed the first floor, and the other an empty house on the market, which required completion of renovations and landscaping. A restaurant adjoining the empty house, Elizabeth on 37th, allowed them to break through a wall to create an impressive archway through which Rome escorts her guests.  Its interior décor is eclectic and sumptuous, with patterned wall coverings, rich draperies, glittering drapes and interesting details like a panther statue that figures in one of the dances, while the exterior offers sensual play of light and shadow under a canopy of trees.

“This is Rome’s interpretation of what she believes the world should look like – an equal playing field of feminine and masculine energies and a place where men and women can explore and enjoy those energies together,” offers Jada Pinkett Smith.  “She’s not selling sex; she’s celebrating beauty.  It’s a place where women have the opportunity to enjoy their fantasies in the way they choose, rather than the way in which people tell them they should.  It brings what’s in the dark into the light.  Nobody’s getting hurt.  Nobody’s getting exploited.  We’re able to come together as adults and bask in this energy and have a good time.  That was my foundation for this character and what she does.”

Discover What’s Sexy

Rome’s attitude encompasses one of the film’s main themes.  Channing Tatum explains, “It’s about these five guys not doing what so many others are doing in the world of male stripping.  The idea with ‘Magic Mike XXL’ was to have them discover for themselves what’s hot and fun and sexy, and a huge part of that is by asking women what they want, instead of telling them it’s a cowboy in ass-less chaps.  The beauty of Rome’s domain is that it’s designed to be a unique experience.  You walk from room to room in this traditional southern house and you don’t know what you’re going to find.”

It’s a concept all the more spot-on considering the evolution of the part.  As Pinkett Smith recalls, “When I first got a call from my agents, they said, ‘Just listen.  There’s a role in “Magic Mike XXL” that’s written for a man but Greg and Channing would like to talk to you about it.’  In that first script, Rome was a guy.  And an interesting guy, at that.  But I loved the possibility I saw with the character and the opportunity to work with Reid and Greg to figure out who this woman was who would have this club.  That was really intriguing for me.”

“Jada was a revelation,” says Jacobs.  “We introduced that character but she made it special.  And because her Rome is so strong, feminine and smart, you buy the backstory of her with Mike in a huge way.  She’s a jolt of electricity when she enters the story in the second act.”

Rome also brings her headliners to the party: Andre, Augustus and Malik, played, respectively, by Donald Glover, Michael Strahan and Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss.

Donald Glover

Not a traditional strip-club act, Andre, in an open jacket over his bare chest, gets hearts racing by greeting fans with a romantic song they know, followed by a piece he composes on the spot for whichever lucky woman Rome has singled out for some special attention.  Getting inside the character, Glover says, “He’s a guy who sees himself as a healer.  Not that he doesn’t want to meet some ladies and ‘get down,’ but I think he really sees himself as providing a service for women.  It’s not really about the sex as much as it is the fantasy.”

Glover was cast after Tatum heard him perform a freestyle rap on a radio show and brought him to the attention of “Magic Mike XXL” casting director Carmen Cuba.  He wrote the piece his character sings as an impromptu tribute to a shy club patron.

Andre also motivates Ken, who has been privately nurturing his own vocal aspirations.  Says Glover, “Andre opens him to the possibility of working song into his act since it’s one of his strongest talents, in keeping with another of the movie’s themes, which is recognizing what you’re good at and what you really want to bring.”

Michael Strahan

Strahan’s casting had a similar spontaneity, harking back to an appearance Tatum made to promote “Magic Mike” on Strahan’s first day hosting ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Michael.”  Says Carolin, “They got to talking about stripping and Michael said he’d do it if he had the chance.  Channing said if there’s a second movie he should be in it, and Michael agreed.  Three years later, he was as good as his word.  He did it, and he was fearless.”

“I didn’t know what to expect,” says Strahan, making his feature film debut.  “When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t even know myself anymore.  There were a whole bunch of hot women there, but the guys were stealing the show.”

Faulk initially envisioned a lower-impact, sensual massage sequence for Augustus but, after viewing Strahan’s Hall of Fame highlight reel, her choreography escalated to an athletic exhibition that made full use of his killer physique.  “Nobody came in here half-stepping,” attests Kevin Nash, another actor who made the successful transition from the sports world.  “Michael looked like he was ready for training camp.  He was in good shape and he gave it everything he had.  There’s a scene where he leaps over a table and I’m thinking, ‘That dude could still play in the NFL.’”


The filmmakers knew from the start there would be a role for tWitch.  Tatum had a hand in bringing him aboard, as an admirer of his hip-hop and “popping and ticking” technique.  A fan of the first film, tWitch had been looking forward to a sequel and perhaps a chance to participate, saying, “‘Magic Mike’ was close to my heart.  When they asked if I’d be interested, I said ‘Absolutely!’”  It’s a comedy about male exotic dancers, but what people are also going to witness is art.  We really infuse the art in there.  It’s a lot more than taking your shirt off.  Learning choreography reprograms your body to move in different ways and it’s incredibly difficult.  I’ve been doing it for 16 years and my hat is off to every actor in this movie.”

Though he and Tatum worked with Faulk for their grand finale, tWitch’s solo at Rome’s was entirely his own, delivered with a passion and inventiveness designed to put the fear into Mike.

Says Tatum, “Watching Malik makes Mike realize that as much as he might have thought of himself back in the day, if this is the competition, he’ll have to prove himself again.  When Rome calls him out, in a room full of women who have a strong opinion of whether or not you can actually dance, he finds himself on that terrifying precipice.  He either has to jump and go through the fire or back out and fade into the background.”  Of course, Mike chooses the fire.

As Rodriguez observes, “The last time you do something ends up being the first time you start moving in another direction, and that’s the way this odyssey is heading.”

For each one of the former Kings of Tampa, director Jacobs notes, “Rome’s club and the performances they see there really inspire them and make them realize what is possible, and what they need to bring to their own routines and to the convention.”