The action comedy Let’s Be Cops is the ultimate buddy cop movies, except for the fact that they’re not actually cops. When two struggling pals (Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr.) dress as police officers for a costume party, they get tangled up in real-life crime and become neighborhood sensations.
While at Comic-Con for a presentation in Hall H, actor Damon Wayans Jr. spoke to press at a conference, in which he talked about how much fun the film was to make, that probably 70% of the movie is improvised, how the fact that everything they’re doing is actually illegal sets it apart from other buddy comedies, working with Jake Johnson on this vs. New Girl, going on a scary ride-along for research, how every scene went off the rails but still made it into the film, the great message of the film, and how unlikely it is that there will be any more Happy Endings. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DAMON WAYANS JR: It was a lot of fun. It was a place that I had never really shot anything in. Nina [Dobrev] lives out there, so she showed us around. She really gave us the mom treatment, but it was great. Everybody was funny. Everybody brought their A-game, and I really appreciated that. Anytime that Jake [Johnson] and I did a scene with Nina or [Rob] Riggle or Keegan [Michael Key], we got to relax. We didn’t have to be like, “Oh, my god, we have to make this funny.” We just knew it would be.
Did you do a lot of improv?
WAYANS: We did a lot of improv. Probably 70% of the movie is improvised.
What sets this film apart from other buddy cop movies?
WAYANS: What actually drew Jake and I to the project is the fact that it is different. It’s really buddy comedy, actually. It’s not really a buddy cop comedy. It’s two guys who are dressing up as cops. So, the whole movie is a different premise because we’re not cops. We suck at being cops. And everything we’re doing is literally illegal.
How different is your relationship with Jake Johnson in the movie, compared to your relationship on New Girl?
WAYANS: It almost flip-flops. My character in this movie is a little more reserved. I consider myself a realist, but I’m more of a coward. And he’s gung-ho and wants to “get in the shit.” He doesn’t really think things through. And then, my character in New Girl is a little bit aggro and edgy. He likes to yell. And Jake’s character in New Girl is more reserved. It’s really cool to see Jake jump off the cliff like that. He’s been doing New Girl for a long time, playing that character, so it’s cool to see him step away from that character for a bit.
Even though you’re not playing a real cop, did you still do a ride-along to get into character?
WAYANS: One of the perks of doing a movie where we’re pretending to be cops is that we really can be as bad at being a cop as possible, so we didn’t really learn too much. We did go on a ride-along in the ghettos of Los Angeles, and it was very scary. The cops who were taking us were some bonker dudes doing shakedowns. They were shaking crackheads down in front of us and arresting them. They would rally the crackheads together, put them up against the wall, pat them, take out their crack pipes and smash them in front of us. They were like, “Hey, you wanna smash one of these crack pipes?” I was like, “No, dude! Do you know how hard they probably worked for that?! The things they did?! I’m not gonna take that away from them! I’m not even a cop!”
What sort of trouble do your characters get into, when people think they’re real cops?
WAYANS: Throughout the movie, we do our citizens arrests with the help of [Rob Riggle’s] character, who’s an actual cop that we befriend, and he thinks that we’re cops. A lot of the fun happens because of that.
Was there a time on set that just went off the rails, but actually made it into the movie?
WAYANS: That’s like every scene. We did scenes with Nina, and we’d talk about doing something in between takes, but then she’d do it, and it made it into the movie. It was like that for every scene. I did a dance in one of the scenes and my pants completely ripped on my ass. They ripped right open. It was just fun, the whole way through.
How does this film differ from 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street?
WAYANS: They’re not similar. They’re actual cops. And tonally, ours is slightly more grounded. Our bad guy isn’t funny, at all. Their bad guy was hilarious, and our bad guy is a bad guy. Ours is more of a throwback to those ‘80s movies where the danger is real danger. The jokes are funny, but there’s definitely that feeling of, “Are they going to survive this?”
Why should people see this movie?
WAYANS: You should see this movie because it’s a laugh out loud movie. It’s one of those fun summer movies that you want to see with a lot of people in a theater. It has a great story and a great message. The message is that it’s never too late to follow your dream. That’s what the movie is. It’s about motivating my character to gain the courage to accomplish his dream. Also, it’s about standing up to bullies, as well. It’s got a great message.
Will we ever see any more Happy Endings?
WAYANS: I don’t know. I doubt it. I think once they close those books, they stay closed and get put in a library to collect dust. It might be on Netflix, or something. But everybody is working, so that’s cool.
Click here to watch Steve’s extended interview with Wayans Jr. and Johnson about the film.