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A behind-the-scenes look at the talented and diverse cast of Magic Mike XXL

By Michael Miller
Updated July 01, 2015 12:00 PM
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Credit: Finlay MacKay

There’s a lot more to the all-star cast of Magic Mike XXL than just chiseled torsos and gyrating hips – and after filming two movies (and spending a whole lot of time shirtless together), they’ve become a seriously tight group.

From industry vets like Andie MacDowell, to newcomers like So You Think You Can Dance star Stephen "Twitch" Boss, the sequel to Channing Tatum‘s stripper odyssey brought together a diverse and talented cast of actors, who bonded over grueling diets and countless lap dances before posing for this exclusive photo in PEOPLE’s July 13 issue.

Playing male strippers meant plenty of crunches and plates of “chicken and broccoli” (Tatum’s go-to healthy meal), to the point that Matt Bomer theorizes if he kept up the regimen he’d become “the most miserable, horrific, grumpy human ever.”

Of course, not everyone in the cast hated the workouts. Joe Manganiello, who reprises his role as Richie, tells PEOPLE, “I love training or having a movie that gives me an excuse to train that way.”

He adds, “It sounds like everybody hates it, but I love it! I know Kevin [Nash] loves it.”

Nash, a former pro wrestler, who at 55 jokes, “I could be everybody’s father,” adds, “It’s flattering to be asked to come back.”

Fortunately, all the hard work paid off in the body department – but that didn’t make it any easier for the guys to strip down on set.

“I don’t think the pressure is ever really released when you’re having to get naked in front of strangers,” Bomer, 37, says.

But after the initial shock, the actor admits being naked around friends can help team building.

“We have such a bond in a real way that you don’t get on most films,” he adds. “Directors out there, I highly recommend having your cast get naked on day one.”

Channing Tatum on Why He Isn’t Afraid to Show His Daughter Magic Mike

As for Adam Rodriguez, baring all was easier the second time around. “I had stripped down to almost nothing before, so I knew I wasn’t going to die or be shamed into oblivion,” the actor, 40, says. “You have your brothers around you.”

In addition to the group exhibitionism, the cast spent some time reflecting on the morality of the strip club, and the gender role reversals at play in the film.

Jada Pinkett Smith, who plays Rome, the manager of a palatial strip club in Savannah, says she felt the film was “a way in which men and women could share this sensual space.”

“It’s okay for women to look at men. I mean, guys have been doing this to us forever!” MacDowell, 57, adds.

Amber Heard, who plays a photographer with a crush on Tatum’s character, Mike, says she liked that the movie was “not afraid to take risks and challenge gender norms and stereotypes.”

Donald Glover, who joined the cast as Andre, says he felt right at home in the exotic dance world. “I’m from Atlanta, I was born in a strip club,” the actor and rapper jokes. “You go to the strip club after graduation!”