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Channing Tatum, Vanity Fair

Annie Leibovitz

Channing Tatum—once known as Chan Crawford—says his stripper days are numbered. As the world well knows, long before he became an actor, "I started dancing at Joy, a nightclub in Tampa," the Magic Mike XXL star recalls in Vanity Fair's August issue. "The group was called Male Encounter."

In the sequel, which also stars Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez, "They've been acting like they've been on spring break for 15 years. Now the ride's over," Tatum, 35, says. "Everybody's sobering up, having to figure out what they're going to do with the rest of their lives."

"I think this one is probably more what people wanted in the first film. We just couldn't do it on the first movie. I think we all wanted there to be moments like that in the first film, but the reality of that world is not all giggles and fun," Tatum says in reference to the 2012 film. "We had to let people understand that we knew the world, that it's a real one, not savory at times, at least the one I was privy to."

After filming two movies, does Tatum ever want to strip on stage again?

"Well, we're going to start a [Magic Mike] show in Vegas, and I'll never say never. I wouldn't mind going out there and doing it one more time. Or maybe twice. But, you know, every time I've put on a thong and am getting ready to walk onstage again, I'm like, 'Why do I want to do this?' It's very uncomfortable to be in a thong in front of a thousand people," he admits, adding that it would be awkward to wear one in front of his wife, actress Jenna Dewan Tatum. "That was going to be one of our plot points: To thong or not to thong. But my wife was like, 'You cannot have a movie without these guys getting in thongs.'"

Speaking of his wife, Tatum also praises Dewan-Tatum's parenting skills.

"It was crazy," he says of welcoming daughter Everly Tatum in 2013. "You feel helpless. We like to think of ourselves as big, strong men, and we could handle whatever situation. And reality is [that women] are so much stronger than we could ever be. There's a reason why we weren't given that job, evolutionary or whatever. My wife, she's a warrior. She did it as natural as you can. [As a man], you're basically a cheerleader. 'Come on, baby. You can do it.' I would've tapped out in the first."

"It's scary. You made this thing and have to bring it into the world together. You think people are going to be there, but ultimately you just have each other. Knock on wood, everything goes well, now you have a baby. They're like, 'OK, here you go.' They hand it to you, and you're like, 'Uh, wait a minute. Aren't you guys going to come home with us and make sure we're not screwing this thing up?' I think every parent has that moment where they're like, 'Oh, maybe this was a bad idea; We don't know how to do this.' You can't put it back in there. It doesn't go that direction. But Jenna is a super mom. There's no other way to say it. She is there every single second, every single day. I love being a dad. They're like little mirrors running around. They show you things about yourself you wouldn't pay attention to before. Jenna says it all the time: 'Oh, my God, that is so you right there.' But I don't know if I'm good at it."

He adds, "I now look back on my own parents and have a better appreciation."

Tatum and Dewan-Tatum met on the set of 2006's Step Up and got married three years later. Recently, he tells the magazine, "Me and Jenna just saw Step Up on TV, and we watched it for two seconds. We made that 10 years ago or something. It was hard because you're like, 'Wow, I remember it being so much better.' Then other times you're like, 'I remember it being worse.' Things happen that change your perspective. Not just your opinion but your windshield, your lens. Like you put on a 50-mm. [lens], then take that 50 off and put on a 16. Now you can see so much more, but you're missing the little things. I think for a while I'm going to try to make movies that, even if they don't make a dollar, I'll still be so proud to be a part of them that it won't matter."

For more from Tatum, pick up Vanity Fair's August issue, on sale in L.A., New York City and digitally Thursday. The issue goes on sale nationally July 14.