Channing Tatum on Overcoming Learning Disorders: ‘I Have Never Considered Myself a Smart Person’

Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum opened up to T magazine about overcoming learning disorders as a kid, saying, "I have never considered myself a smart person" Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Channing Tatum is one of the most bankable stars in the biz, but growing up he was a struggling student whose multiple learning disorders made his schooling a challenge and left him with low self-confidence.

"I have never considered myself a very smart person, for a lot of reasons," the 34-year-old Magic Mike XXL star, who was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, told The New York Times's T Magazine. "Not having early success on that one path messes with you."

Tatum did poorly as a schoolboy in Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, and was ultimately prescribed study drugs to keep him focused.

"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," he said. "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."

[Related: Katy Perry: I Could Really Use a Better Education]

Looking back, Tatum — who played football in high school and, briefly, at college before dropping out — wishes he had been directed toward the arts.

"It's just weird that for some people art is a luxury," the star, who comes from blue-collar roots, said. "My parents had no artistic outlet. Some people pass down music to their kids, but I couldn't tell you what my mom's or dad's favorite song is."

So when Hollywood came calling — the one-time stripper started as a dancer, then modeled, and ultimately became an actor — he absorbed all he could from his global travels.

"When I started going out into the world, I was drawn to people who knew about movies, art, even fashion," he said. "I went to New York and did the whole modeling thing, and I just learned everything I could from anybody who knew something I didn't… That's one thing I'm pretty skilled at: I can look at a person and say, They’ve got something that I want up there in their head. I’m going to do my best to get in there and absorb it. My mom said, 'Be a sponge.' And so I've learned more from people than I have from school or from books."

Tatum, who has a 1-year-old daughter, Everly, with his actress wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum, has spent a lot of time thinking about his baby girl's education as well. Last year, he told Vanity Fair that he would never give her study meds if she ends up having learning disabilities.

"I truly believe some people need medication," he told the magazine. "I did not. I did better at school when I was on it, but it made me a zombie. You become obsessive. Dexedrine, Adderall. It's like any other drug. It's like coke, or crystal meth. The more you do, the less it works… I would go through wild bouts of depression, horrible comedowns. I understand why kids kill themselves. I absolutely do. You feel terrible. You feel soul-less. I'd never do it to my child."

[Related: Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello Double Date With Channing and Jenna Tatum]

In the same interview, he said he works extra hard at his acting career because of his learning disabilities, but that also gives him a special insight into his roles.

"I read so slow," said Tatum, who appears in the upcoming film Foxcatcher. "If I have a script, I'm going to read it five times slower than any other actor, but I'll be able to tell you everything in it."

While Tatum may not consider himself "smart," he made a rather brilliant decision self-financing his 2012 movie Magic Mike, which is based on his stint as a stripper, with director Steven Soderbergh. The movie, which cost $7 million to make, has earned over $167 million to date, making Tatum a millionaire many, many times over. He's currently shooting the sequel, Magic Mike XXL, in Georgia and it is expected to hit theaters next year. His next film, Foxcatcher, arrives in theaters on Nov. 14.

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