Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill Talk 22 JUMP STREET, Dealing with High Expectations, Returning to College, Collaboration on Set & “Michael Bay” Levels of Action

     April 3, 2014


The surprise success of 21 Jump Street was due, in no small part, to the on-screen relationship between Jonah HIll’s Schmidt and Channing Tatum’s Jenko.  The boys are back in 22 Jump Street, the follow-up film that finds them graduating from high school to college in an attempt to infiltrate a criminal organization … when they’re not drinking, partying, and wooing the ladies.

During a visit to the New Orleans set, our small group of online journalists had a chance to talk to Hill and Tatum about the sequel.  They talked about the expectations for this film, their characters’ thoughts on returning to college, working with directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller again, adding a Michael Bay-level of action to the film, and cameos.  Hit the jump for our interview with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and check out 22 Jump Street when it opens June 13th.

22 Jump Street - Jonah Hill and Channing TatumQuestion: Talk a little bit about the expectations. The first movie came out and it was so awesome, so funny. Now, you guys have those expectations. So as producers/actors/writers, talk about that.

Jonah Hill: When we were writing this one, the biggest thing to keep in mind, like we did on the first one, was we called ourselves out for …

Channing Tatum: How lame it was.

Hill: The lameness for the idea of taking a TV show and recycling it into a film. I think that worked to our benefit. We call ourselves out right out of the gate in this one, that sequels are bigger and crappier than the first ones. So, that’s kinda the approach we’re taking with this, to have a very aware attack at ourselves for making a sequel in the first place.

Is there a sense this time around that your character, Schmidt, kinda peaked in high school, so to speak?

Hill: No, but do you want to write for the movie? [laughs] We could use all your input. Where were you when we were writing it? No, I don’t want to give too much away about what happens and stuff.

Tatum: Yeah, in my opinion, you’ve given away too much already.

At the end of the first movie, Schmidt is extremely excited about the idea of going to college; Jenko is not so much excited. I’m curious as to where that leads into this film.

Tatum: It leads right from there, right from that exact place. [laughs]

Well why is he not excited to go to college?

Tatum: It’s the same thing, you know. It’s just going to be an extension of high school, and it’s obvious because Jenko hates reading and he knows that, ultimately, there’s going to have to be reading in college.

Hill: Again, we don’t want to give too much away, but it dives in to what our college experiences were like initially, and why we’d want to change and rewrite the past of that.

Tatum: And why you would want to college to begin with: to have sex with the girls, to go on Spring Break, stuff like that … I don’t think we’re giving away too much, saying that stuff. But, there might be that in this movie. [laughs] Maybe!

22-jump-street-channing-tatum-jonah-hill-jimmy-tatroWell, talk about how the college backdrop is different from high school. You guys had the high school parties, and you had to read and stuff in high school, as well. So how is college different for these guys?

Tatum: How do we answer this one?

Hill: It’s interesting to do an interview while you’re making a film because usually when we’d be doing these interviews, you’d have seen the film and would understand some of that stuff. Again, I just want it to be fun for everyone to watch it, so you don’t want to know too much going into it.

Tatum: I don’t want you guys to be knowing what you’re going in to.

Hill: Yeah, but a lot of the stuff about college is figuring out who you are, your identity. A lot of the movie is about our relationship and about going to college with your hometown honey [laughs] and then the world opening up to you once you get to a new place.

Tatum: We’re still in a girl/boy relationship.

Hill: Exactly.

Tatum: I don’t know who’s the girl, but…

Hill: Well, Schmidt is probably … I don’t know, more feminine.

Can you talk about collaborating with Chris and Phil again?

Tatum: Dude, they’re awesome. They come from an animation world where, all this is almost painful for them. They’re like, “God I just want to get in there and edit.” They’re just like, “Put me in a dark room with an editor and a screen,” and that’s when they really want to make a movie. This is their second movie, really, and they’re so much more comfortable than the first time, but still when we get here, we’re just like, “Alright, there’s infinite possibilities about where the camera could go, where you’re going to set the people, what you’re going to have in the foreground,” and they’re just amazing to collaborate with because they’re not like, “It has to be this way. This is the way we’ve envisioned it.” They’re kind of like, they really want everybody’s input and they like to go on the fly. It’s just a lot of fun.

22-jump-street-channing-tatumSo, without giving stuff away, does this movie have bigger action scenes and bigger everything? Was that the aim when you were writing it?

Tatum: Yes.

Hill: Yeah, the basic idea is that, from Bad Boys to Bad Boys II.

Tatum: But more ridiculous.

Hill: The idea is that … the initial thought when I was starting to write the first movie was, “Bad Boys meets a John Hughes movie.”  And then, the only way to make fun ourselves in this movie is that sequels are more expensive and shittier than the first ones, so the idea is that, and what the guys have really been pulling off, Phil and Chris, is that it really does feel like a big giant movie, but with really stupid jokes in it, which is kinda great and super entertaining, hopefully.

Tatum: I straight-up got to ride on a semi at like 90mph on top of it. It was crazy.

Hill: Yeah, it looks like a Michael Bay movie, you know? Pretty awesome.

Can you talk about collaborating with Ice Cube again?

Tatum: Oh man. He comes in every day and goes, “Yay yay!” And my day is made then. [laughs] I’m just like, “Cool. Check the box.”

Hill: Yeah, he was my childhood hero. When we wrote the first one, the first thing we wrote down was that Ice Cube, the guy who wrote “Fuck Tha Police” should play the police captain. I grew up in L.A. and he’s my actual hero from growing up, so yeah, it’s a true childhood dream to be able to hang out with him. I ask him all about N.W.A., and his career, and Kendrick Lamar and all the rappers now. I love to hear his opinion on everything. He’s so smart when it comes to all facets of the entertainment business. He’s been successful in so many different areas.

The movie is called 22 Jump Street. Does that mean that the building that Ice Cube ran is literally across the street now?

Hill: Uh, yes. [laughs] Well, yeah, because … I don’t want to give too much away!

Tatum: Yeah, we’re screwin’ it up.

Hill: Seriously, it would just be less fun for people if they know all the jokes, you know?

22-jump-street-jonah-hillFor college students, music is the soundtrack to their life when they’re in school. What would be your character’s soundtrack?

Tatum: Oh man. We make a lot of jokes, especially in the first one, that no one knows the movies that we know because we’re so old, and our music references are so old.

Hill: We deal a lot in this movie with that we look older. Older than a couple of years ago when we made the first movie.

Tatum: [laughs] It was actually the first thing he said to me when we did the first take and went back and looked at the shot. We were like, “Goddamn we’ve gotten old in three years!”

Hill: Yeah, it sucks to watch. I had watched the first movie the night before and we started with the same set that we did on the first film, the same set and actors. I watched the first take and I was like, “Chan, we look a lot older than we did in the first movie.” [laughs] And so we had to kinda incorporate that into the film. But to answer your question about music, a lot of the music our guys listen to, it’s funny to us because the kids now wouldn’t know the bands and rappers in the same way, and that’s part of the fun of it. My character ends up listening to The Cure in this movie and Robert Smith; it gets very emotional.

Tatum: My character listens to a lot of ::drum and bass sound effects:: and electronic music.  It’s very complicated stuff.

Is there any reluctance on your part to do a sequel? The first one was sort of an ambush; no one expected the take on it. Now, you can’t surprise us, or can you?

Hill: Well, I had a meeting with the studio probably half-way through shooting the first one, and they came down here and said, “Would you want to start writing a sequel?”  I’d never done a sequel before to any of the movies that I was in, because I thought that it couldn’t be as good or better, and I thought that the premise of the second one is going to college, and there hasn’t been a great college movie of our generation yet … there have been Animal House and all these great college movies, but there hasn’t been a really memorable one from around now. I thought, when you take all the rules of high school away from these guys and put them in college, that seems a lot more comedically fertile, and so I was like, “Okay, that could actually be funnier, or as funny as the first one.” But of course that’s why we call ourselves out because we feel like we’re going to disappoint everyone inevitably, you know?

Tatum: Because people kinda want it, but then they want to have it how they envision it or how they remember it, but you want to give them something different. So you kinda have to take some risks. I hope they like it.

22-jump-street-channing-tatum-wyatt-russellAfter the first one, are a lot of your friends and fellow actors bothering you to come on and do a cameo?

Tatum: Pretty much everyone that I … they’re like, “Dude, I want in.” Even people who aren’t in the industry, the acting industry, or other industries that are well-known, they’re just like, “Man, this shit’s awesome. We want in.” But you know, we don’t want to have every single person; it kinda takes you out of the movie. But there might be some people.

You guys are doing the football thing out there. Talk about the prep you had to do to look believable out there … or unbelievable, I guess.

Hill: I did no preparation. [laughs] This is my only football scene and I basically get murdered out there and end up going a different direction.  But Jenko is…

Tatum: Maybe cheerleading? [laughs]

Hill: Yeah, but Jenko was a great football player in high school, and he kinda finds his first love again.

So have you been prepping for the football scenes?

Tatum: Oddly enough, no. I’ve kinda hurt both of my feet, so I haven’t really done very much, and we’ve been shooting, so… It’s not going to be like The Program, or anything like that. There’s not going to be like massive games or anything, but we’re going to have enough that you believe it.

Have either of you ever played before?

Tatum: Yeah, I played like 10 years, I played one year in college, 10 years total, so… For what we’re doing, I don’t need to really go out and be like…

Does it feel like a flashback or is it so far removed?

Tatum: Yeah. The couple practices I did go to, I was like, “Wow, I forgot,” I forgot what this was like and how fast everything is, and some of these kids are like ridiculously, ridiculously talented. Some of them played D-1 and what not.

22-jump-street-jonah-hill-ice-cube-channing-tatumOne of the biggest challenges to the sequel, other than the drop in quality and repeating the story, is that, generally, you have less time to put it together. In the second one, they’re like, “You have to be out by this date.” Was that a challenge this time?

Hill: I think bands have it a lot, or rappers and musicians, this like sophomore slump, where you have all the stories and experiences from the first one. For this movie, for me, this was a lot of the experiences I’ve had for the first 25 years of my life that I put into this movie, and then, you’re right, you have a year and a half or whatever it is to make a second one.

Tatum: Yeah, you should have heard the studio’s date that they wanted to shoot it. As soon as the first one did well at the box office, we had a meeting.

Hill: Like a month later.

Tatum: Yeah, they were like, “So, do you think we could have it by, I dunno, two months? Like, a month?” We’re like, “You guys are smokin’ crack.”

Hill: Luckily, they weren’t like, “This is your date.” They were like, “Here’s when we feel ready to make a good movie.” And they chose a date that was reachable from that point. Neither of us were gonna come back and just make a second movie, so everyone, all the writers and all of us, put the time in to make sure that it was going to be something special before we even agreed to go forward.  It’s so nice to make a movie that you think people might actually go see before they know anything about it. It takes a lot of the pressure off.

Tatum: Yeah, I think a lot of you guys asked, “Are you gonna make a second one?” before the first one came out, and we were like, “Oh, we just want the first one to do alright.” Now it’s like, “Alright, that happened.”

So are you guys looking forward to doing a third one? [laughs]

Tatum: You know the answer to that. [laughs]

Hill: Well, everyone will really expect the third one to suck, so we could only do better than the expectations.

For more from our 22 Jump Street set visit:


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