Channing Tatum Talks Childhood ADHD, Dyslexia: I Was “Lumped in Classes With Kids With Autism and Down Syndrome”

Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum opened up about his childhood poverty and ADHD and dyslexia diagnosis with T Magazine. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

After years of starring in hit, top-grossing films, Channing Tatum is about to debut what’s buzzed to be his most demanding, critically acclaimed role yet. His upcoming drama Foxcatcher, which is based off the true story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, has already received some of the best reviews and raves of the year. Though the part is definitely physically demanding, it will show off the Magic Mike star’s body in a new way. 

“I’ve always negotiated the world very physically, from football to tussling at the playground to taking my clothes off,” Tatum, 34, told The New York Times’ T Magazine. “My dad’s a physical guy. I think that’s how I wanted to see myself as a kid, how I won approval, and it’s no secret that that’s how I got into this business. But over time I’ve been able to develop other aspects of myself, sort of on-the-job training.”

The Alabama-born actor, who used to be a male stripper, related to his character’s struggles with poverty and desperation. Schultz, who becomes the center of coach John du Pont’s (Steve Carell) attention, is forced to do things that put him in a bad situation. 

“Personally, I like being pushed into corners,” he continued. “It forces you to be creative. Being a stripper exposed me to a lot of people I might never have met, and that has turned out to be a gift. There are lots of characters I feel I can play as a result. So when people tell me they want to act, I’m like, ‘Okay, if you want to act, go see America. If you can afford gas money, go talk to people and see how they really live.’” 

Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher

Coming from humble beginnings, Tatum was forced to make use of his meager resources growing up. 

“Sure, you can go to theater class at a young age. That’s not how I did it,” he added. “I would have loved to learn things earlier than I did, but then maybe I wouldn’t have gone and done the things that gave me insight into what it is to be human — to have fears and wants. Like the fear of asking a girl out on a date when I can’t afford dinner at Chili’s, so instead maybe we go to Checkers and I make it cool by turning it into a picnic, put the burgers in a basket of my mom’s and try to make it romantic. That’s the kind of worry I used to have.”

In addition to his family’s finances, the star also faced obstacles in the education system. Tatum was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia as a kid, which hurt him in a classroom setting. 

“I have never considered myself a very smart person, for a lot of reasons,” he told the magazine. “You get lumped in classes with kids with autism and Down syndrome, and you look around and say, ‘Okay, so this is where I’m at.’ Or you get put in the typical classes and you say, ‘All right, I’m obviously not like these kids either.’ So you’re kind of nowhere. You’re just different. The system is broken. If we can streamline a multibillion-dollar company, we should be able to help kids who struggle the way I did.”

His past, coupled with his present-day successes, have prepared him for fatherhood. In May 2013, Tatum and his wife Jenna Dewan Tatum welcomed their daughter Everly. The 22 Jump Street star admits that caring for his little girl is a challenge, but he takes the task very seriously. 

“You notice your behavior, like, ‘Wow, I don’t have much patience right now. Why is that?’” he explained. “You spend the day watching this thing constantly taking in information, and you have to be sure you’re making that happen. At the end of the day when I put her to bed, I feel glad to have some peace but say to myself, ‘That was so much fun.’”

Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Want stories like these delivered straight to your phone? Download the Us Weekly iPhone app now!