22 Jump Street: Channing Tatum

Though Schmidt and Jenko forged a successful partnership in 21 Jump Street, in many ways they have not changed.  Schmidt remains neurotic and clingy; Jenko is still plagued by the doubt that he’s not smart enough to solve a case.


Though the characters are inventions, the heart of the relationship between Schmidt and Jenko is modeled after the two real-life relationships behind the cameras: the one between Lord and Miller, and the other between Hill and Tatum.


“The biggest influence we bring is understanding what it’s like to be in a long-term partnership where you don’t sleep together,” says Lord.


In fact, Lord and Miller’s friendship dates back to their own college days, and like Jenko and Schmidt, they had different commitments even as they ran in some of the same circles.  In 22 Jump Street, Jenko goes Greek and Schmidt finds friends in the arts.  In real life, Miller notes, “I was in a fraternity, and Phil was in more of a socially progressive type of society.”


Let’s not mince words.  “It was hippy-dippy,” says Lord.  “And guess which one of those institutions is still standing?  The one that’s fun.”


Still, to get a handle on how much things have changed since their college days, Lord and Miller visited a UCLA fraternity for research.  As it turns out, no research was required.  “It’s all the same today as it was when we were in college,” Miller concluded.  “They rage and party and take terrible care of themselves.”


Meanwhile, Hill and Tatum became very close while filming the first film, forging a strong friendship.  “So much of the humor and heart comes from the fact that Channing and I have a really great friendship in real life,” says Hill.  “Channing has no boundaries with me, and I feel the same way – I trust his opinion on things.”


“Jonah and Channing love each other,” says Lord.  “They’re very different, but their instinct is not to compete with each other – they each admire what the other brings.  I think that warmth is what makes it gel.”


“When I watch an action-comedy – like 48 Hours or Bad Boys – I want to believe that those guys hang out after the movie, chilling at the bar,” says Tatum.  “That’s how Jonah and I are for the most part.”


As anyone who saw the first film can attest, Hill and Tatum share a warm and natural onscreen chemistry.  “Before we shot the movie, some very smart people told us there was no way anyone would buy them as friends – they’re too different and they look so strange together,” says Lord.  “So we planned a bunch of scenes that would explain their friendship and we wound up taking them out of the movie because we didn’t need it – their chemistry was so strong from the get-go.”


“Channing is a physically gifted Adonis – our stunt guys can’t believe he can do the things he does.  Jonah, I’m sure, would prefer to do his comedy sitting down,” says executive producer Tania Landau. “They couldn’t be more opposite, but they love each other.  We try to tap that in the script – it’s in there before they even read their lines.”


Lord says that despite Hill’s screen persona, the actor shares an off-screen confidence with Tatum. “Jonah likes to play a lot of underdogs, but he’s a movie star,” he says.  “He has so much confidence.”


In 22 Jump Street, Schmidt is still having trouble forming new relationships and holding on tightly to the ones he has.  “He is so clingy that he drives people away,” says Miller.  “He’s the guy who won’t let go and makes the people around him feel suffocated.  He drives Jenko right into the arms of Zook.”


On the other hand, “Jenko feels like they have done the one big bust, and they’re ready for something bigger,” Tatum explains, “while Schmidt is happy as long as they can stay partners, doing whatever they have to do to get by.””


In the first film, as the characters went back to high school, their expectations were turned around – the nerdy Schmidt was now in the popular crowd, and Jenko was on the outside.  Landau says that as the guys go to college, “we wanted to flip it,” she explains.  “Like a lot of people who didn’t fit in when they were in high school, Schmidt expects that everything will be different in college.  And Jenko worries that he’s not up to snuff.  But their expectations are turned around again.”


Maybe those expectations were misplaced – after all, why wouldn’t a football god like Jenko find a home in college?  As it turns out, Tatum has a real history with the sport: before he became an actor, Tatum had a brief college football career.  “I had a really good school in the SEC that was ready to give me a full ride – until they saw my transcripts.  My coach came up to me and said, ‘They just don’t think you can do the work.’  I ended up going to a small school in West Virginia, played for a year, and it wasn’t what I wanted to do.  So I came home and wrapped it up.”


Still, that was long ago, and Tatum isn’t 19 anymore.  “I hadn’t played football in 14 years,” he explains.  “I’ve got a torn ligament in my right foot that has become a chronic thing.  And I rolled my ankle two weeks into the football scenes.  Even so, I loved it – it was nostalgic for me to get out there and bang heads again.  It was interesting and weird to relive that time in my life, but also fun – if I’d ended up going to that school, there would have been great parts, like my parents would have been able to see me play.  But who knows if I would be acting today?”


Since working on the first film, Tatum has gained the confidence that he can perform in a comedy alongside Hill.  Hill was always a believer in Tatum’s comedy skills, but says Tatum has even raised his game.  “We always knew he had the ability to be funny and great in this kind of film, but it was great to see him have the confidence of knowing he wasn’t going to look bad,” says Hill.  “He went in there and he killed the scenes even harder.”