Magic Mike XXL is one of a number of Summer 2015 movies that are either the first sequel to what was previously a one-off box office hit – or, alternatively, just the latest installment in a long-running cinematic franchise.

Filming on the Magic Mike sequel got underway just a week or so ago, which is why we’re now playing catch-up – and learning the identities of the newcomers to the world of Channing Tatum’s onscreen stripper alter ego. The list includes Jada Pinkett Smith, who will also be gracing the small screen in the weeks ahead when she appears as the sadistic mob boss Fish Mooney on Fox’s Gotham (see the image above).

Deadline is reporting that Smith will be costarring in Magic Mike XXL in the role of a strip club owner; it’s a role that was originally intended for a man, so it should be interesting to see how the gender-swapping affects (or doesn’t) the way the character comes across. Meanwhile, The Wrap has revealed that Amber Heard (3 Days to Kill) is onboard for the Magic Mike sequel, as is Groundhog Day alum Andie MacDowell (recently seen in Cedar Cove), according to Variety. Heard and MacDowell’s role in the film remain under wraps for now.

Magic Mike XXL, by all accounts, will be a very different story about the life and times of male strippers than that offered by its predecessor. Tatum, who co-wrote the sequel alongside his writing/producing partner Reid Carolin (who also penned the first Magic Mike), drew inspiration from the former’s real-life experience – back when, as a young man, he attended (or, rather, worked at) a stripper convention – during the process of scripting Magic Mike 2.

magic mike xxl amber heard andie macdowell Magic Mike 2 Casts Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard, & More

Amber Heard and Andie MacDowell have joined the ‘Magic Mike XXL’ cast


The Magic Mike sequel, as it were, features many of the same cast members as the first installment (minus Matthew McConaughey, that is), in addition to the same writer; Magic Mike helmsman Steven Soderbergh as the cinematographer and the editor; and Soderbergh’s longtime first assistant director, Gregory Jacobs, calling the shots. Which is to say, as different as the story of Magic Mike XXL might be from the first movie, the sequel ought to maintain both some degree of thematic continuity and, in particular, a similar visual design.

Moreover, there’s a fair argument to be made that Magic Mike was at its best when unfolding as a thoughtful, but good-humored, workplace comedy – which is something the sequel looks to offer in even greater amounts – and not so much when it was playing through its (sometimes cliche) dramatic story beats. So, all things considered, Magic Mike XXL has the potential to be just as good, if not better, than its predecessor.

… At the very least, we’re just hoping for a Magic Mike followup that doesn’t wind up being an Ocean’s Twelve-style sequel.

Magic Mike XXL opens in U.S. theaters on July 1st, 2015.

Source: Variety, The Wrap, Deadline