tWitch talks Channing Tatum, stripping and "Magic Mike"

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Actor Stephen Boss attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Magic Mike XXL' at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on June 25, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

"SESAME Street Live," reality TV, stripping for Jada Pinkett Smith.

That's the strange but true path to success for "Magic Mike XXL" star Stephen "tWitch" Boss - he does the movie's climactic striptease with Channing Tatum - who grew up in Montgomery, Ala., a place known more for football than dance.

"I tried sports, and it just wasn't my thing," said Boss, star and current street-dancers' team captain on "So You Think You Can Dance," and frequent guest DJ on daytime TV's "Ellen." "But dance, I knew it was my passion before I even knew the word 'passion.'

"If I saw a music video with dance in it, or if I happened to be somewhere where people were dancing, I would think about that for weeks on end."

This was before YouTube and the Internet. You took dance where you found it. Boss remembers exactly where he was when he caught the bug.

"I was six years old and vividly remember going to the Montgomery Civic Center to see 'Sesame Street Live,' and there was this section where they were playing the drums on Oscar the Grouch's garbage can cover, and Grover and Cookie Monster did a little dance break. I had this feeling I've never had before, my heart jumped out of my chest."

Boss did some acting in high school, won a spot on the school dance team, took dance in community college and moved to L.A., where he studied dance, then won a spot on "So You Think You Can Dance," which led to work on some "Step Up" and "Stomp The Yard" movies.

It was while working on "Ellen" that he ran into "Magic Mike" stars Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer and heard them talking about a sequel.

"As soon as I heard that, I knew that somehow, some way, I was going to be in that movie."

Turns out he was already on Tatum's radar.

"Lo and behold, on that season of 'So You Think You Can Dance,' Channing's wife, Jenna [Dewan-Tatum], did a guest judge spot and pulled me to the side and said, 'They're doing a sequel, and Channing has a role in mind for you.' "

Channing Tatum, a lifelong dancer, was a fan of the show, and of Boss in particular.

"So we set up this meeting, and there is Channing Tatum, and he sees me and he's like, 'tWitch, get in here!' " Boss said.

"He knew me as a dancer. He'd been watching. He said, 'This is what I'm thinking,' and he explained the movie, and he said, 'At the end of the movie you and I are going to do this dance together.' I was floored. I said, yes, absolutely, of course," said Boss, who spent three weeks rehearsing the intricate routine.

During the sequence, Tatum and Boss are virtually naked, and doing mirror-image moves of a highly suggestive nature.

But, make no mistake, Boss said, it's dance.

"It's very carefully choreographed movement. It's very specific for the occasion and the audience, but everything is elaborately choreographed."

Boss first appears in the movie as a performer in a striptease speakeasy operated by Jada Pinkett Smith, a scene that allowed him to improvise in front of a room full of women holding dollars bills.

"I like to give myself room to freestyle," he said. "I'm a freestyler. And based on what I was feeling in the room in those scenes, it wasn't hard to do at all."

Also helping - Pinkett Smith, who plays a sort of emcee whose words tantalize the onlookers and motivate the dancers as she introduces them.

"Jade was amazing," Boss said. "What she was saying, her commitment as she was saying it, it made you feel like you could do anything."

Boss spoke with professional strippers to learn about their craft.

"What our characters say in the movie, that's what these guys really believe. That's how they look at the audience: 'We're here to worship you, to take away all of your problems for the day and to make sure you have the absolute best time you can have. You want a song? We have a song for you. You want dance? We have a dance.' That's no B.S. The guys really believe that."

Dance has raised Boss' profile in Hollywood, and he wants to use it to make inroads into acting. It's his new dream, certainly more accessible than a career in dance for a kid from Montgomery.

"You can't be afraid to dream," he said, "and to seek it out, even if nobody else understands it."


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