He is a yeti … and a gentleman.
Channing Tatum, looking lean and mean these days, says the lessons he learned growing up in Cullman, Alabama, still inform his life. “I’m from the South. If I don’t say ‘Ma’am’ and hold open the car door, then I’m in trouble. My mom or my sister will still slap me in the back of the head.’ ”
The 38-year-old actor plays a perfectly honorable yeti named Migo in the new hit animated film “Smallfoot,” about a village of these creatures that want to discover whether elusive animals known as humans really exist. Tatum’s footprint is also in Las Vegas with the show “Magic Mike Live,” a dance and acrobatic experience he conceived based on the films “Magic Mike” and “Magic Mike XXL.” It plays at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Review-Journal: What is a great Sunday for you?
Channing Tatum: If I’m not working, it’s about relaxing and spending time with my daughter (5-year-old Everly). I love being a dad. Kids are like little mirrors, and it’s fun to just hang out on a Sunday. I love watching my daughter just do her thing. She owns her world. She came out that way. I wish I could take credit, but it’s all her. I think kids come out how they’re going to be. She’s so cool and I’m always proud of her.
You sing in “Smallfoot.” Did you know you could sing?
(Laughing) No! When I got the script, me singing wasn’t in there. But then I was led down this path of thinking about the big musical numbers. The director told me at first, “Channing, all you have to do is talk-sing. Just sing-sing the first line of it and the village voices will kick in. You don’t have to do anything else.” As it kept progressing, I asked to listen to the song and it was just one voice singing the entire thing — me! I was told that if I completely sucked, then someone else would sing it for me. I worked with a voice coach for a few weeks and sang the song.
What is the appeal of the film?
It has such a fun story about this village of cooperative and fun-loving yeti existing in peace. But we do have some lessons in there about needing to get along with other creatures. I loved that this had a tone I hadn’t seen in animation in a long time. Pixar movies are beautiful masterpieces, but they don’t have that zany Looney Tunes thing I grew up watching as a boy. “Smallfoot” wanted to go back to that joyous feeling you got when you watched Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff. It just makes you laugh like crazy. If you can sneak a message in there about accepting one another, it’s a great thing.
What does your daughter think about Dad being a yeti?
She wasn’t sure it was me at first when the commercial started airing but then figured it out. I tried not to tell her during production because she doesn’t like any of my movies. I’ll say, “Want to watch Daddy on screen?” And she will say, “No, I want to watch a real movie, Dad.”
Thank God she liked “Smallfoot’’ or I’d be saying, “I don’t know who did the voice of that yeti. And he sang the songs, too! Really!”
“Magic Mike Live” is a great tourist attraction in Las Vegas. How do you look back on your past when you were dancing for the ladies?
I think everybody knows somebody who at one point looked in the mirror and said, “OK, what do I do now after high school or college?” You have your dreams, but sometimes you have to do other jobs to get to the dream. I was 18 and I was working three jobs. That was just one of them. I really enjoyed performing. It was actually my first performance job and I really like to dance. It’s amazing that for me, it developed into something including movies and a great show in Vegas.
What’s the appeal of the show?
The performers are amazingly talented. They kill it. And it’s a fun night out that might just defy expectations.
Does your dancing background from films such as “Step Up” still help with acting?
Dancing has helped me in probably everything, especially acting. When you’re comfortable in your body, you can relax. You can’t get tight or tense when you focus on moving.
How have you avoided letting stardom get to your head?
You try your hardest to stay out of the spotlight. Also, I don’t read what’s written about me because I think it can warp you. I don’t want to know what people write about me. I just keep doing the things I’m doing and hanging out with the people who know me.
And if you get stressed out?
I always remember this one day getting pissed off about something. I had my friend’s little boy with me. I was like, “God, I hate it when that happens.” And this little kid looks up at me and says, “You shouldn’t hate anything.” He was right. I have a great life.