Since the day a police officer and a convict teamed up to fight crime in the 1982 film “48 Hrs.,” the buddy cop genre has, for the most part, remained unchanged. Until now.
In the new movie “Let’s Be Cops,” the buddies in the buddy cop movie… well, aren’t really cops.
“The movie’s about two guys [Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.] who didn’t become the men they wanted to be at the age of 30,” co-writer Nicholas Thomas told me during an interview. “They’re supposed to be going to a college reunion. They think it’s a costume party and they go dressed as cops, but when they get there, it’s a masquerade party. So, these two guys are left in cop uniforms and they leave the party dejected. As they’re walking away, they realize – ‘Holy s***, people think we’re real cops.’”
Drunk off their newfound attention, the two bumbling friends continue their daily game of make-believe while taking advantage of police freebies, making new friends and responding to real 9-1-1 calls in an emergency vehicle they bought off eBay.
“And then they mess with the wrong guy,” Thomas added. “And the back half of the movie turns into an action comedy where these guys are in serious danger.”
I also sat down with Johnson and Wayans – who currently co-star together on the hit FOX series “New Girl” – to talk about the movie, their penchant for lamb noises and their tragic childhood costume memories.
David Onda: Did you guys end up starring in “Let’s Be Cops” by coincidence, or were you a package deal?
Jake Johnson: We were kind of a package deal. We did the pilot of “New Girl” together, we really enjoyed worked together. I got the script at a certain point, and I was reading it with other actors. It was really funny, good people, but nothing was fully working. Then I heard his name and we talked and I said, “I’ll do it if you did.”
Onda: You guys have great chemistry on “New Girl.” Did you play your characters in this movie specifically different to distance yourself from the dynamic on the show?
Johnson: The story and characters are so different. We actually didn’t have to try. Someone asked that [at a Q&A]. They’re like, “Is there ever overlap?” And there’s just really not because tonally it’s so different. The situations we’re in are so different, so the bits that we do off-camera, we do at work there and we do during this movie – but a lot of that gets cut out of both. [laughs] There is overlap, but people don’t see it. There’s a lot of me or him saying to the other one: “Byyyye.”
Damon Wayans Jr.: [laughs]
Johnson: We had a studio executive come up to us the other day. They were watching a lot of footage and they said, “What’s with the lamb sounds you made during outtakes?” And we go, “Lamb sounds? We didn’t make lamb sounds.” And he goes, “No, you do it a lot – ‘Baaaah.’”
Wayans: We’re not saying “Baaaah.” We’re going “Byyyye.”
Johnson: And he goes, “Oh, bye.” So, that we do on “New Girl” and in “Let’s Be Cops.”
Onda: Do you have any really disastrous costume party stories?
Wayans: No, I don’t. But I remember – I never got to watch “In Living Color” growing up. My dad didn’t let me watching anything that was kind of rated R or edgy. And I went to school one day, and some kid came and hit me in the back of the head with a sock. And I punched him in the face. And he was like, “Dude, what are you doing? I was just being Homey the Clown!” I was like, “I don’t know who that is.” I got in trouble. It’s a weird costume-y type of [story].
Johnson: My mother, growing up – and I told Damon this – when she was pissed at us, would slap at us and say, “Homey don’t play that.” She saw Homey the Clown, liked it, and in her moments of frustrations would go – Pow! “Homey don’t play that!”
Wayans: Another costume story: Any time my brother or I would get anything less than a “B” on our report card, he would shave our heads and put us in suits and make us take briefcases to school.
Johnson: It’s so funny that’s a punishment!
Onda: For such a funny guy, he—
Wayans: He was such a d***.
Johnson: It’s also the weirdest punishment – look like a corporate businessman.
Wayans: But when you’re 8 and 10, it’s the most embarrassing. My brother would be crying. He’s like, “I’m gonna run away, man! I’m gonna run away!” Fixing his double windsor.
Onda: Damon, does your dad still have his “Blankman” costume?
Wayans: Yes. And it’s in a case, folded up nice. He didn’t hang it up, but it’s ready to be hung.
Onda: I love a good buddy cop movie. Do you have a favorite one?
Johnson: I really respect the “21 Jump Street” guys. I did a bit in that with Jonah [Hill] and Channing [Tatum], and I think those dudes are super funny. But my favorite is “Donnie Brasco.” It’s a little different tonally, but I think that’s just as good as it gets.
Wayans: Um, my favorite cop movie…
Onda: You can’t say “Bulletproof.”
Onda: Did you get to do your own stunts in “Let’s Be Cops”?
Johnson: Noooo. No.
Wayans: We didn’t want to.
Johnson: There’s some real action in this. We got to do more stunts than I’d be willing to do on any other job, but we get shot out of windows. The third act of this movie gets crazy. That was a big reason I wanted to do it. I wanted to be in an action movie. The other thing about this movie I like is there’s a love story in there between Damon’s character and Nina Dobrev that’s really nice. And she kills it. She’s really good in this movie with not much to do.
Onda: You guys went on a college tour promoting this movie back in the Spring. Was there anything about today’s college kids that surprised you?
Wayans: You just see the youth on them. Some of them still haven’t quite learned how to wash right. Smelling weird smells. We powered through it.
Johnson: [laughs] There’s some real baby faces.
Thomas: I’m surprised by the film majors – when we did UCLA and stuff – how unspecific their questions were. “You have any advice, bro? I’m a senior.”
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