During the making of 2012’s 21 Jump Street, a comedic film adaptation of the TV series starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as undercover cops under the supervision of the always-furious Capt. Dickson ( Ice Cube), the cast improvised so much dialogue that many scenes were ruined by actors bursting out into unintentional laughter.
But when everyone (including co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller) reunited for the sequel 22 Jump Street, which opens Friday, things went a little smoother.
“It was like getting the gang back together again,” said Cube during a visit to Miami to promote the film. “We all knew each other now and felt comfortable with each other, so it was harder for us to crack each other up. We were more confident, because the first movie did so well. But we were careful not to lean too heavily on the original and do the same thing all over again. We wanted to do make a different movie.”
In this Jump Street, Hill and Tatum once again go undercover, this time posing as college students to bust a drug ring. Although there are lots of self-referential jokes about how the plot is essentially the same as the previous picture, plenty of differences abound. Even Capt. Dickson gets to get out of their office (this time a Vietnamese church) and take part in the action.
“I think people will love what we did with my character,” Cube said. “The directors gave him as much screen time as they could, so there’s a lot more than me just being an over-the-top sledgehammer and giving Jonah and Channing hell. I’ve worked with Chris Tucker ( Friday) and Kevin Hart ( Ride Along), so I’ve learned how to hold my water during really ridiculous scenes. It’s important, because it’s not easy for these comedians to come up with stuff on the set the way they do, and if I crack up, the magic is lost.”
Although he got his start as a scowling, provocative rapper in the early 1990s with hit albums such as AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate, Cube, 45, has increasingly concentrated on his acting career (he’s set to star in sequels to Ride Along and Barbershop) and starring and producing in the TV series Are We There Yet?, a spin-off of his hit family comedy.
The easygoing Cube admits he’s been lucky to be involved in projects with talented people who had confidence in him and allowed him to hone his considerable comedic chops, a skill that seemed unlikely when he first burst onto the music scene.
“[Directors] Phil and Chris are so cool and easy to work with,” Cube said. “They let you use your talent and let it flow. They have a lot of good ideas, and they’re wittier than a lot of people when it comes to rewriting dialogue on the set and changing things that don’t play funny. Sometimes they would give me a line, and I would think ‘That’s crazy.’ Then you say it, and it’s hilarious. That has been the fun of making both these movies. Those guys help you find the best inside you.”