Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum on 21 Jump Street | Interview
The stars of the cop-drama spoof talk Chicago—and Trump.
More a spoof of the late-’80s TV series than a relaunch, 21 Jump Street finds Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill going undercover to bust a high-school drug ring. In the process, they get a chance to relive their formative years: Hill’s character takes a drama class, while Tatum’s turns brainiac. We talked with the actors (both dressed in their cop costumes) overlooking the skyline from the Trump International Hotel & Tower, three days after Hill lost a Supporting Actor Oscar to Christopher Plummer. Hill sips from a bottle of Trump Ice water.
Jonah, you lost. What the fuck?
Jonah Hill I dunno. I just tried my hardest.
Channing Tatum I’m gonna chalk it up to experience.
JH He’s the oldest Oscar winner ever.
CT That’s a lot of years of experience.
JH He was great. I was just honored to be there. For real.
Were you in a high-school drama club?
JH No, I wasn’t. People ask us a lot what we would do differently if we went back to high school—it’s a common question for this film. I would have done more drama because I didn’t do any. I was scared my friends would make fun of me. Now I wouldn’t have cared. Obviously. I’m an actor. I also think I would have tapped into a group of girls I didn’t get to tap into.
Channing, just after high school, you had a brief period working as a stripper. And you’ve now made Magic Mike, a film about the experience, with Steven Soderbergh.
CT My high-school sweetheart thought I was going to marry her. Everything just sort of turned upside down. I made the decision to go and lose myself. To sort of rediscover myself. I decided to do it for a year—male stripping. I just heard a radio announcement that they were looking for dancers. I was just like, I can dance. That was the craziest nine months of my entire life.
JH Isn’t it funny that you could be in a car, listening to a radio announcement, and years later you’d be making a movie? It’s so weird to me. That just hearing that announcement could change your whole…
CT Hopefully you’ll get something that you’re not expecting [from Magic Mike, which opens in June].… It’s Saturday Night Fever. We took that template and we tried to re-create it in the modern world.
You’re both a little young for sort of the heyday of watching 21 Jump Street. What was your familiarity coming in?
CT I have a six-years-older sister. We watched it every Friday. It came on right before Friday the 13th. I think it was about haunted antiques.
JH Record players that, like, slice people’s heads off.
CT It was like the teacup that had vines on it and the cartoon vines would come out and kill [someone]. But we would watch it every single Friday.
JH Look how stupid this water is. I’m sorry, I keep passing a glance at it and like—
The water says Trump Ice and it has a picture of Donald Trump on it.
CT Why does it say ice though? I don’t understand why it says ice.
JH [Mimicking Trump’s voice] It was ice and then it melted and now it’s water. [As Hill] I keep catching a glimpse of [his face]. It’s just so fucking stupid. What makes him think anyone wants to see him while they’re drinking water? What a weird thing. Even if his name’s on it, that’s fine. But what makes you think you want to catch a glimpse of this man’s face so close to your face, while you’re putting liquid in your mouth?
He’s paid for the accommodations here. This is one of the most hated buildings in town.
JH This is? Why?
Well, it depends on how much of a purist you are.
JH Because it’s a big ugly piece of shit, that says crap on it?
CT The architecture here is a huge thing. You can look out the window and see how beautiful it is, but I think he sticks out like a sore thumb.
Yeah, a couple of things: This building used to be the Sun-Times so you used to come over the hill and see the Sun-Times and the Trib face each other—see the cross-town paper rivalries. And the other thing was that [the Trump Tower] disrupted sight lines and the way buildings interact with each other.
JH So, he’s a douche.
Who puts his face on bottled water.
JH No other way to slice it, really. You’ve got to print this thing in your article because it’s so stupid. When I have a break I’m actually going to tweet a picture of this and say, “How fucking stupid is this?”
Channing, you filmed The Dilemma here. I felt like that movie didn’t quite get a fair shake. It was a much darker, more sour film than it looked like it was going to be.
JH He’s great in it.
CT It had a weird tone to it. It was sort of a miss in a way—not a miss because I thought the movie was great, I love the film. But I think when [people] go to a Vince Vaughn film or a Ron Howard film, they have different movies in mind.
JH I think even Vince said to me once they marketed it differently than how it actually was. They marketed it as a big, broad comedy.
CT It’s like when you’re going to go take a sip of Diet Coke or something, and then it turns out to be milk and you’re like “ugh, what the?” You’re just like, How did I pick up the wrong glass?
JH Milk’s still an awesome drink.
CT It’s awesome but not what you want. Not what you had in mind.
JH Prepare yourself for dairy.
Did you two do drugs in high school?
CT I’m sorry, what? My parents are probably going to read this, man, so I can’t answer that.
JH I mean, I don’t know.
JH No. [Laughs.] You know, I’m not shy about it, but you know everyone tries things in their life. High school was fun.
If you could go back and relive it, what would you each do differently?
JH I said the drama thing. That was mine.
CT I don’t know if I would change anything. It was hard. After high school I got lost. I don’t know what I wanted or where I was going to go. But without that, I don’t know if I would be here. If college worked out and I played football for all four years, I don’t know if I’d become an actor.
And Jonah [who’s still playing with the bottled water], when you came onboard, that’s when 21 Jump Street really became a comedy?
CT Ice, Trump Ice!
JH Trump Ice—it’s so good it makes you splash it all over the place.
Where’s it from?
JH Hell. Hades. Let’s see, Stockbridge, Vermont or Morgan Spring, Bennington, Vermont. Bottled at Adirondack Beverages, in Scotia, New York. All right, so it’s legit. It’s Trump’s bathwater, it’s his whole bathwater and he’s like, “People are going to love this, just bottle this, they’re going to want my juices in their mouth.” Trump soup. What was your question?
Just about why you decided to do it as a comedy.
JH It was actually my agent’s idea, to be honest. Sharon, my agent, she said, You should turn 21 Jump Street into a comedy. I was also a lot more self-righteous when I was 22, 23 than I am at 28. I had a real chip on my shoulder about being an artist and not someone who remade television shows. I thought I was a lot cooler than I actually was.
CT Everybody does.
JH And especially when you become a successful person at that age or whatever. But still I roll my eyes, just like everyone else when they hear someone is remaking a television show into a film. It seems like a corporate cash grab deal. It wasn’t the show, really—it was about the idea of getting to relive the most important part of your youth. Thinking you have all the answers and then getting back there and you have none of the answers.
21 Jump Street is in theaters now.