On a beautiful day in New Orleans in November 2013, we found ourselves on the set of “22 Jump Street.” These scenes were shot at the Tad Gormley Stadium. In the sequel, Jenko and Schmidt are now in college continuing their undercover mission and hilarious antics. In order to blend in, they are participating in all aspects of campus life. In these scenes, they have joined the football team. We are also introduced to two new characters: Rooster (Jimmy Tatro) and Zook (Wyatt Russell).
While Wyatt may be a new kid on the block, he is the son of hollywood royalty Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson are his half-siblings. Acting is clearly a calling for Russell as we watched him improvise and chop it up with Channing and Jonah. He plays Zook, who is football player, but is not necessarily the smartest. He takes a shine to Jenko (Tatum), which makes Schmidt (Hill) jealous. There is a bromance in midst! In one scene, Zook complements Jenko on his catch. He invites Jenko to his rush party and pretends Schmidt doesn’t exist although he is clearly with Jenko and standing right there. Zook does not invite Schmidt until Jenko says they are together.
Wyatt joined us for an roundtable where he talked about joining the “Jump Street” family, making the transition to acting from professional hockey and more!
Q: This is your first scene in the movie?
Yes, it is. This is when Channing and I meet each other and realize that we might have been long lost brothers or something like that.
Q: I get the sense that he’s not the brightest guy?
Yeah, it’s taken on that feeling. It started off as, they’re quarterbacks and they’re football guys and it’s evolved or devolved into something less intelligent.
Q: Did you see the first movie in theaters?
I did! I saw the first movie and like everybody, I had sort of tempered expectations, no one really knew what to expect, but you know that they’re both really good, not just funny, but really good. There’s a big difference between people who are just funny and these guys, the story that they always talk about it’s more about that then the comedy comes with what the story is. So when I saw the movie it was actually really good, it was a really funny, really sweet, really nice movie. They did a good job with something that was really really difficult.
Q: We saw there was a lot of changing in dialogue and improvisation on the fly, what are your skills with comedy coming in and how comfortable do you feel with that side of this?
Everything is just absolutely off the cuff, you really have to be based in what the scene is about, you have to know who your character is because if you fly off the rails it could be bad. Before I came in, I’ve never done any improv training or anything like that, but the things I’ve been able to do leading up to this have been improvisational stuff. When I was young with my brothers, we would make movies all the time and that was never scripted. I think the way that they do it is really simple and anybody can do it in a way where you can come up with something your character is going to say, and if it’s in line with what your character says and who he is, then it’s going to be right.
Q: Do you know when you do a good take, when you said something and you nailed it?
Yeah, I think you can feel it! It’s really hard not to laugh in those moments, or they throw something at you and you’re like “Oh this could be funny” and as you’re saying it for the first time, it’s actually really funny to you, but you want to get through it, so you won’t have to do it again and recreate the moment. But they’re really good at letting you do what it is you’re good at or what you feel you’re good at.
Q: Is that more coming from working with Channing and Jonah or coming from the directors?
Everybody, they’ll say stuff and yell stuff, telling us to say this or say that. Obviously, not everything is going to work, but something will land, and then Jonah will say, “say this” and an AD or a grip you’ll overhear him saying something funny and you’re like “That’s funny, I’ll say that.” There’s really no bounds to what they’ll let you do, which is great, which is awesome, really fun.
Q: How prevalent is your character in the rest of this movie?
My character in particular is a football quarterback, and him and Channing create a relationship, a bromance develops and it’s how to deal with that side of a relationship. And all the the stuff that ensues in that relationship in a bromance that is really funny. I think there’s stuff that’s really crazy and really out there, but at the same time it always sort of touches something grounded.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about the tough decision you had to make between this movie and “The Hunger Games”? Could you talk about how you negotiated that decision? Why this one over that?
Really hard! I was more honored than I think I have ever felt in my life, doing anything to be presented with a decision like that. It basically came down to a lot of it was scheduling and a lot of it was other films that I want to do after this that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was doing “Hunger Games” because the shoot is so long. It’s an impossible decision to make, I was literally asking friends and asking family, “What do you think I should do?” The end of it just came down to what my gut was and really some of these other movies that I really want to do afterwards that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if I would have been in Atlanta for that long.
Q: You seem pretty comfortable in that gear there, were you a football player back in the day?
Never, I was a hockey player, I played hockey forever, that was my life, my job, until I got injured. So I get sports and I get the sports atmosphere and the feeling around other athletes, but I never played football. I can throw a football. I played professional hockey in Europe, I played in the German Third League and the Dutch Elite League.
Q: Talk about Phil and Chris’ directorial style.
It’s really cool, I personally have not had one bad experience and that’s the honest to god truth. … The way that they’re different is because they’re a team, they can look at each other and can bounce it off each other first and really involve you. It’s a big movie, you can feel intimidated and there’s moments where you don’t know if what you’re going to say is right, and you don’t want to screw anything up. They really involve you to a point where you feel like “Oh yeah, this is something that I can do, I can do this.” As opposed to other people who sometimes have it really thought out, just because of the subject matter. Sometimes you have to follow much more through line. You have to get across the point of the movie, is a much more serious subject or something like that. This there’s just so much room to play … What they do great, this is exactly it, they hire the perfect people, Jimmy is the perfect guy to play this guy Rooster. Really nice guy, too. Just the way he can carry himself on film, the way he looks, the way he is. He’s as good of a dude as he is a dick right there. [referring to the scene]
Q: Can you speak about making the transition from sports to acting? Maybe how sports has helped you with your acting?
I was able to go into the room for this and be like “Yeah, I played sports.” It was hard, it’s hard for anybody when they get injured to make a transition to anything else. I tried other things, you think you’re going to do it for the rest of your life. You feel invincible, you’re like “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life, I get paid to do this, why is it ever going to stop?” and then it gets ripped from underneath you. You don’t know what you’re going to do. I stayed in my room for four days, and just looked at the wall and cried. And then you realize “I gotta do something else with my life, I don’t want to get a real job, I’ve been playing the game for my life,” and my family was involved in it, and I never wanted to do it, I wanted to stay away from it, it’s what everybody expected I was going to do. Kind of just shied away from it for a long time, and then afterwards I realized I could do this, as a job, what it brings, the happiness and joy, it could bring your family and your friends, fans and people around you and I just decided to give it a shot.
Q: Was there one personal moment that motivated the switch to acting?
Yeah, I got hurt, when I was 19. I thought I broke my neck and I couldn’t move my hands or feet and I had a very bad experience. They had to cut off my gear and it was just a bad time. I remember rolling through the hospital and looking up at the ceiling and thinking, “Ok. So I’m not going to play hockey anymore, I’m not going to be able to do this anymore, what am I going to do? I thought I’ll direct or I’ll do something like write. I didn’t know” and then later I had a severely pinched nerve in my neck and feeling came back, and everything came back. But after hat I realized I’m not going to play hockey forever and I’m not going to be doing this, maybe if I’m lucky until I’m 35. So I started watching a lot of movies. I wanted to direct, but then I realized that getting a movie off the ground is impossible, so I’ll try something else. But that was a moment for me when it kind of flipped a switch.
Q: Did you have any physically challenging scenes in this movie like big action sequences or something?
No, I don’t have any big action sequences, but a lot of working out. A LOT of working out, just a lot of physicality.
Q: Do we see your character solely on the field and in the gym or do we see him around campus and things like that, too?
Yeah he’s doing everything with Channing a lot, most of it with Channing. This is just the football side, there’s a lot of stuff.
Q: It sounds like Schmidt might be a little jealous?
I think maybe, possibly.
Q: Was it easy bonding with Channing and Jonah?
They’re the nicest guys in the world. It’s so easy. The minute you meet them, they put you to ease right away because they’re such nice people. Channing and Jonah both understand when new people come into a situation like this especially, they did it before and were successful. You’re coming into something you’re like”I want to do good, I want to be good for these guys, they hired you to do a job, I want to be as good as I can, I don’t want to disappoint them.”
Q: How long did they wait before they bothered you about your dad?
Not really, they haven’t really asked or said anything. They’re bigger than he is now. He’s going be asking about them.
Q: There’s a really strong connection between your and Channing’s character. So how did you navigate the levels of bromance?
I don’t know! Just go to all levels and then see what they put in the movie. I think you just give them every choice you could possibly think of, Phil and Chris know what’s funny more than anybody I have met in my recent history, they just know what’s funny, so it gives you confidence being like “I can just go crazy, say whenever I want” and it’ll probably not be in the movie, or they’ll take that little piece of it and put it in the movie and make me way funnier than I actually am.
Q: How do you like New Orleans? Have you been here before?
Never been here before, went to school in Alabama for two years, when I was playing. Now that I’m here, it’s really a special city. I can see why so many people really dig it so much, and want to move here, and be here and experience the culture. It’s really different, I’ve never been in a city that’s like this, you have very conservative folks and the most liberal people that I think I’ve ever met and living right next door to each other and working in the same environment, it’s really cool that way. Like Magazine Street, and I was living in the Quarter at first, at the hotel and did that whole thing. Quarter got old, when you’re there for three or four weeks you can’t just do it everyday. So I moved across the way to the Garden district and got that feel, it was awesome, it was so cool … But the way it’s recovered has been pretty remarkable.
This week the film’s final red band trailer was released. See below: