Channing Tatum on His 4-Year Break from Hollywood and Directorial Debut 'Dog' : 'I'm Having Fun'

The actor tells PEOPLE he's enjoying living in the moment and is excited about his very busy 2022

After taking a four-year break from acting, Channing Tatum is back with a full slate of 2022 projects.

The star is about to release his co-directorial debut Dog, followed by the adventure comedy The Lost City opposite Sandra Bullock and will soon begin production on Magic Mike's Last Dance, the third film in his Magic Mike franchise.

"I'm just [living] in the moment of it," Tatum, 41, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue of his feelings on his career. "I don't have this grand plan, I don't think I ever really did have a grand plan. Before I took some time off, I was on a pace that just was untenable. It was not something that I could really sustain. I don't even know if some of the last stuff that I was making, if I was really and truly my best in it in some of the movies. I wanted to make sure that I still had something to offer, and I wasn't just doing it just for a career."

The actor says the break helped him reframe how he wanted to prioritize future projects, like co-directing the road trip movie Dog with his longtime producing and writing partner Reid Carolin (Magic Mike, Magic Mike XXL).

"Right now, I feel really in the pocket. I'm having fun," he says. "Reid and I really needed to direct. We've been talking about it for a really long time, and I didn't want to just take a job to take a job. I wanted for us to direct first, to see how that went. Then I took another job after that. I got to work with Sandra Bullock [on The Lost City], It was so much fun. Now I'm just seeing what happens. I don't want to take too much on, so I can really enjoy my life and enjoy the actual projects that I do take on and just give it all I have."

dog attack
Taylor Hill/WireImage

Tatum admitted that certain aspects of directing came more naturally to him than others.

"Developing the story was really natural," he says. "There were certain aspects, talking about the characters, talking about the actual acting inside of the scene was really easy for Reid and I. Plus we didn't have a ton of other actors, it was just me and the dog mainly. What was not intuitive was editing. I did not enjoy it. I don't think it was good for my mental health to watch myself onscreen and pick apart what we should use and what we shouldn't use."

Watch the full episode of People Features: Channing Tatum on or on the PeopleTV app.

The production employed three "actor dogs" for the movie and Tatum says he enjoyed watching the individual trainers work with each dog.

"I've had dogs my entire life. I knew a significant amount about training them as well, but these kind of dogs are a different breed," he says. "They're just extraordinary. I would watch the trainers with their dogs, specifically. They're realizing and noticing things in the dog that I wasn't even noticing. It's more like this tether that they have with them, that they correct and stop the behavior before it even happens. They're keeping the dogs focused which was really fascinating to watch. It's like having that sixth sense with your kid, you know if they've been quiet for too long, that something's off in the matrix."

Dog is loosely inspired by Tatum's rescue dog Lulu, a pit bull Catahoula mix who died in 2018.

"Lulu was my little shadow. She was everything. She was my best friend," he says. "She got cancer and she gave up a good fight. I kept her in the fight for way too long. I do regret that. Towards the end, I took her on a little road trip to Big Sur and we camped and watched the sun come up. It was everything that you probably imagined it to be. She almost passed away the next day. You never want to lose them. I was losing my best friend at a time that I really didn't want to be losing anything."

He continues: "Someone said to me: 'They're not supposed to be here forever.' And that really helped me with my sadness. I was just like, 'Right, right. They're not.' She was here for the exact amount of time that she was supposed to be here and she did a great job."

Dog opens in theaters Feb. 18.

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