Some people were just born to entertain. Take dancer-actor-TV personality Stephen “tWitch” Boss: At a time where it seems like anyone can stretch out their fifteen minutes of fame via a reality show vehicle, tWitch has proven he’s got the endless charisma to back up his success in the limelight.
A professional dancer on the fourth season of Fox’s dance competition So You Think You Can Dance, Boss didn’t take home the title that year, but he found the stage he needed to launch his career. Quickly after, he found footing in the Step Up franchise, and now he has a major presence in the stripper bonanza sequel Magic Mike XXL. New to the film, Boss plays Malik, the principal dancer in Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Savannah-run house of male entertainers.
tWitch spoke to Paste about the journey that’s been his career, his part in this season’s So You Think You Can Dance, and matching Channing Tatum move for move in the new Magic Mike.
Paste: When you first started dancing did you know that you would go into acting or become a television personality?
Stephen “tWitch” Boss: I definitely hoped. That’s what striving artists basically push for. It’s a way that your art can sustain you and also thrive. I wanted to do movies and television since I was little.
Paste: You’ve made such a name for yourself after So You Think You Can Dance. Was that a difficult transition or did the show really open up doors for you?
Boss: It really did start opening up doors for me. Since Season 4 the ride has been awesome. There’s been ways of connecting the dots that I never would have thought about before. Things just kind of fell into place, even with the All Star season, and leading into my relationship with Ellen [DeGeneres], and what that’s turned into. [Editor’s Note: Boss has served as Guest DJ on Ellen’s show, appearing in nearly 50 episodes.]
Paste: It seems like So You Think You Can Dance has just given you so much. You seem to have such a loyalty to it. Is it a family atmosphere?
Boss: Always. My loyalty is on a couple of different levels because if I wouldn’t have made my competing season on Season 4 I was going to go into the Navy. Everything that I’m doing now … It’s incredible because my life would be totally different. So You Think You Can Dance showed me so much love, so it’s always like coming back home.
Paste: What can viewers expect with the new format?
Boss: They should expect new things. It’s a whole new twist. In the past you get used to the partnerships that go on week to week. The top 20 is usually ten girls and ten guys, and they usually pair up the guys with the girls, but this time it’s not necessarily ten girls and ten guys. It doesn’t have to follow that format. On every show it’s not going to be all duets. It’s going to be trios, group dances, and things like that. It opens up a whole new possibility for choreography.
Paste: I’ve only seen the audition rounds right now and already the wacker dancer Jasmine is a personal favorite.
Boss: Absolutely. I’m not going to lie. It’s a strong, strong, strong season, as far as the Street Team goes for the girls. We have some really strong girls coming through. I’m still a fan of the show. When you watch the auditions, you get married to people, and you have to go through the emotion[s] of hoping that your favorite ones make it. Then you’re pissed when your favorite ones don’t make it. I wish I could tell the viewers that they’re going to be immune to that, but it was a tough casting process—which just means the show is going to be greater.
Paste: Obviously you’re coming to Magic Mike XXL with a big advantage. How did you get involved?
Boss: Channing [Tatum] and his wife Jenna [Dewan-Tatum] are both big fans of the show. Jenna did a guest judging spot last season, and during one of the breaks, she pulled me aside and told me that they were making a sequel for Magic Mike and my name was being tossed around for a role that they had, and if I would be interested. So, I said of course I’d be interested … and as time went on we set up a meeting with Channing and the director Gregory Jacobs, and they brought me in and explained the role that they had for me. Malik’s a dancer under Jada Pinkett-Smith’s camp.
Paste: This movie was a blast. Was there anything that surprised you about this experience?
Boss: One of the biggest surprises was finding out how cool everything went down, and how professional everything was. There were no ego trips whatsoever, which provided for a great work environment. I didn’t know what it would be like for me coming into this group of guys that had already bonded over the first movie. When I got there it was all open arms and everything was cool. I never felt like an outsider.
Paste: Your choreography has a lot of the pop and lock style that you’ve brought to the stage before. Were you asked to incorporate your own moves?
Boss: The choreographers, Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa, did a really good job of taking the nuances and strengths that everybody had and incorporating that into the routines. There’s a scene where I’m dancing by myself and that’s a stretch of improv. We did three takes of it and each one was a little different. We had a choreographer on hand to let you know what landmark spot to hit. For the entire finale they choreographed everything from top to bottom.
Paste: Was there any awkward research involved?
Boss:: [Laughs] Extensive research! Lots of videos! I didn’t visit any strip clubs but I watched more videos of male entertainers than I would like to say that I did. It’s a whole subculture, yo. They really go full out. I’ve seen videos where there are really extravagant costumes, which is ironic because it all eventually has to come off. [Laughs]
Paste: Despite what anyone may think, there is something here for everybody. There’s a lot of humor in it.
Boss: Yeah. While it might not be a first date night movie by any means, for any dude that’s comfortable in his manhood, if you go to see Magic Mike with your lady you could kind of use that to your advantage. She might be feeling a certain way after the movie.
Magic Mike XXL grinds into theaters on July 1, 2015. You can currently watch So You Think You Can Dance on Mondays at 8 PM on Fox.