Credit: Frank Ockenfels

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Usually. But when you’re in a Sin City bar with the six stars of Magic Mike XXL—Channing Tatum, 35, Matt Bomer, 37, Joe Manganiello, 38, Kevin Nash, 55, Adam Rodriguez, 40, and franchise newcomer Stephen “tWitch” Boss, 32, of So You Think You Can Dance fame—all bets are off. The sequel to 2012’s male-stripper hit (based loosely on Tatum’s real-life stint as an exotic dancer) picks up three years later and follows the gang as they take a road trip to a stripper convention in South Carolina. Along the way, the dudes pick up a host of new pals, including club owner Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), her dancer Malik (Boss), an alluring photographer (Amber Heard), and a lonely Southern belle (Andie MacDowell).

Viewers who found the first film’s darker twists a bit of a drag will be pleased with XXL’s lighter, looser tone, its renewed emphasis on the guys’ group dynamic, plus its serious uptick in dance numbers. “We didn’t want to repeat ourselves,” says director Gregory Jacobs, taking over for Steven Soderbergh (who still served as cinematographer). “Having this opportunity to go on a road trip enabled us to literally go in a different direction tonally. We could be funnier.”

The fact that they’re even doing a sequel is still somewhat shocking to the cast given that the original film was shot on a tiny budget and with little hype. “We just won the lottery,” says Tatum of the first film’s success. “Like, we had no idea. We truly honestly had no idea. I don’t know we could have seen it.” Adds Manganiello, “I remember Warner Bros. bought it and announced they were going to release it as their Fourth of July movie. That’s when it hit me. I was like, ‘Oh my God, what we just did to these girls, everyone is going to see this.’”

But it was a no-brainer for these guys to want to return for a second time. Apparently, nudity really bonds a cast. “I think anytime you want to form a rock solid ensemble, make everybody get naked,” says Bomer. “Instant trust happens.” Adds Tatum, “I’ll forever be able to see them across the room and be like ‘You!’ [Points across the table] If ever sh-t goes down, I know who’s willing to go hard—no pun intended.”

Over drinks in Vegas, they let it all hang out about everything from getting naked to getting hurt to keeping things, um, extra-large in an extra-cold room. And—because we’re geniuses—we filmed some of it!

Credit: Frank Ockenfels

To continue reading the cover story on Magic Mike XXL, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on newsstands Friday.

Magic Mike XXL
2015 movie
  • Movie
  • 115 minutes