The college kids, they love Jimmy Tatro. Perhaps best known for his work on the YouTube series, “Life According to Jimmy,” Tatro now takes his comedic talents to the big screen in the Phil Lord and Chris Miller sequel, 22 Jump Street. You can’t miss him on screen, since he’ll be rocking a red fauxhawk and engaging in deliberate douchebag behavior as the appropriately named character, Rooster.
While on a visit to the New Orleans set, our small group of online journalists had a chance to talk to Tatro between takes. He talked about filming a scene in which he harasses newcomers to the football team during walk-on day, his relationship with the other characters, the finer points of fauxhawks, his YouTube series, and his college fanbase. Hit the jump to see what he had to say and check out 22 Jump Street when it opens on June 13th.
Jimmy Tatro: Yeah, well basically, today is the scene where it’s walk-on day, and I am the huge douchebag in this movie that is running the defensive end of the field, and not being too kindly to these new walk-ons coming up in my territory. So I’m kinda lettin’ them know who’s boss and then, there’s a slight jealousy when Wyatt [Russell] and Channing begin their little bromance over their collision with the roast beef sandwich and the Q-Tip. So I start getting a little jealous, and that carries out throughout the movie.
So you and Wyatt are actually on the team and they’re the walk-ons?
Tatro: Me and Wyatt are … I’m not sure if I’m the captain. I don’t want to give myself the captain title, but I’d say I’d be like the defensive captain and he’s the offensive captain, but yeah, so we’re buddies until Channing kinda replaces me as his best friend, and I’m kinda upset about that.
Does that disappointment give you something to bond about with Jonah’s character?
Tatro: No. No, I hate Jonah’s character. [laughs] You would think that we’d both bond over the fact that we’re the outcasts, but no, I’m just not nice enough to bond with anyone. It’s kinda funny, throughout the whole thing, he’s so alone and I’m always so alone, but I’m just too stubborn and I still hate the guy, for no reason.
Can you speak about the casting process? How did you get involved with the film?
Tatro: Yeah, my agent set me up with an audition. I was actually auditioning for the role of Zook originally. And I went in, got a callback, and then thought I did pretty well, and they told me I didn’t get it, and I was like, “Aw man, alright, that’s fine.” And then I found out I got the role of Rooster, and I was like, “Okay, this could be fun.” And they were like, “Yeah! He’s the guy with the red Mohawk.” And I was like, “Do I need the red Mohawk?” and they were like, “The character’s called ‘Rooster.’ You’re not getting out of this one.” So, alright, I’m gonna buy a lot of hats for this trip to New Orleans.
It could be worse though, honestly.
Tatro: It could be worse. I went with like a fauxhawk. Yeah, I didn’t want to go Chuck Liddell, red stripe down the head.
Was there negotiation on that, or…?
Tatro: I don’t know. I don’t know if they had in mind that I’d have the full, red hawk, but I was like, “Can we just do fauxhawk? It could be a little cooler.”
Tatro: Yeah, I mean, there’s more improv on this than I even really do in my videos, which was a surprise to me. When you have a guy like Jonah Hill, who’s just an improv genius, you gotta kinda roll with it. He hits you with unexpected lines, like, “Wow! That came out of nowhere and it’s incredibly random,” but you just have to go with it. You gotta try to like come back with something funny, but you’re trying not to do too much at the same time. It’s been really cool to do the whole comedy thing, because the last one I did was Grown Ups 2, but it wasn’t really the same. This is more of like, it’s an R-rated comedy movie, and that’s just a ton of fun to do.
You were cursing it up a little bit just now.
Tatro: Yeah, exactly. Am I allowed to say the F word this many times? Is that cool? They’re like, “Yeah, cuss away. Do whatever you want. Tell em to suck your dick, it’s fine.”
Can you speak about your viral videos and how you got started?
Tatro: Yeah, I’ve always just enjoyed creating sketches and stuff. I grew up watching Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld; those were my two shows. I never had cable. So I always liked the concept of making sketches and stuff. Then I found out about YouTube and I found out people were making livings off of just making sketches once a week, and I was like, “I can do this. This is something I can definitely do.” Then I just started putting out content. I had one video that went viral, and then after that, it was just a matter of being consistent and putting out content that people could see every week. Before I came out here, I knew I’d be here for a while, so we had a hectic 18-day period where we shot 10 videos in 18 days. For me, that’s just unheard of. One video a week is enough for me, but they don’t know I’m shooting a movie. I can’t just be like, “Sorry, guys. I’m not gonna give you your weekly videos.”
Because of the videos, you presumably have a very strong fanbase that’s just there for you, online. Is there a stigma when you’re trying to get into a major motion picture because of that? Do casting directors know online numbers?
Tatro: Yeah, I think that’s something that definitely helps in terms of negotiations and stuff, in terms of being able to lay down some numbers and say, “We can bring X amount of tickets based on …” I have 2 million subscribers on YouTube so I can make a video and say, “Hey, everybody, go see this movie,” and they’re all fans of me, so it’s going to be a pretty good conversion rate for people who want to see this movie. I think that definitely helps. I’m not sure how the whole negotiation thing goes on, but yeah, couldn’t hurt.
Tatro: They’re great. I had, obviously, never worked with them before, but coming here and just seeing the way they change everything, the way they tailor everything to fit previous scenes and stuff like that … like something added in out of improv will change things throughout the course of the movie. They’re constantly rewriting and constantly adding in things that they think will be funny. They’re really cool, really creative, nice guys.
As somebody who writes comedy and performs comedy, what did you think when you read the script? Also, as a sequel to a movie that was such a big hit?
Tatro: Personally, I saw 21 Jump Street, and that was obviously before I had any idea I was going to be involved with this one, and I thought that movie was just hilarious. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a movie since I saw Superbad in theaters. So I was really excited. When I got to the read-through, I was just kind of hoping for the best with this script. The sequels can be hit or miss. But when I read the script, I was like, “Oh my God, this might be funnier than the first one,” and I think the first one is unreal. So I was super-excited. After coming out of that table read, I was just like, “This is a really, really funny script.” I think they said themselves, it could basically shoot itself, but you have amazing talent everywhere on this, so it’s just going to be very good.
SPOILER: Is there some kind of sub-plot involving you having a tattoo?
Tatro: Yeah, not sure how much the audience is allowed to know about that. Probably not so much. It may or may not be a telltale sign of whether or not I am the drug-dealer. It’s one of the leads they go off on.
We don’t know if it’s a red herring, or … ?
Tatro: Yeah, you don’t know what it is quite yet … but you obviously do. [laughs]
Now, in your YouTube stuff, you obviously have full control over everything. Here, is it hard to just be an actor? Or is it easy? Is this like a vacation for you, to some degree?
Tatro: It is honestly like a vacation being here. It’s hard work, and it’s not necessarily easy, but it is easier than writing, directing, producing, and starring in the videos, you know? I’m only acting in this. They give me some freedom with improv, but for the most part, I just trust what they’re telling me to do, and I have faith in this movie being in their hands. The movie is in very good hands.
Tatro: It’s inspired me to work harder, maybe, to do bigger things. I’d like to be doing this kind of stuff all the time instead of just YouTube videos. Maybe it opened up my willingness to improv in scenes and stuff like that. In the videos I do, we stick to the script a lot. The scripts we write are pretty funny, so we tend to stick to them, but we do improv a little bit, but there’s a lot of improv going on here, so it’s been cool to see how that all goes down.
I like the whole theme of bromance. Did you guys do any bonding, hanging out in the Quarter, stuff like that?
Tatro: Yeah, we’ve been hanging out a little bit in the Quarter and stuff like that. The Quarter’s a fun place … you can get into a little bit of trouble down there. [laughs] But it’s been fun, we’ve been hanging out. When I’m not working, I’m just bored coming up with funny Tweets. Just Tweeting ridiculous amounts. My followers are like, “How bored are you? Stop Tweeting me so much!”
You have a healthy subscribership on YouTube. Can you speak on the most interesting fan occurrence that you’ve had?
Tatro: The weekend of the University of Florida vs. LSU game, my demographic is pretty much all college kids, so I was just getting mobbed on Bourbon Street. Kids come up to me, because I made a lot of frat videos, kids think that if they come up to me and say something fratty, then immediately I’m just going to relate to them and think that they’re the coolest person in the world. So kids will come up to me at bars and go, “Dude, what’re you doing here? You’re better than this man!” And I’ll just be sittin’ there with a couple of my buddies. “Just have a drink, man.” They’ll be like, “Dude, you have to go to this place, F&Ms. Way frattier crowd.” [laughs] Like expecting me to be like, “Yes! He said, ‘frat’! Yeah! I was in one! I was in one!” But I have a lot of weird interactions just because I do a lot of videos on the party scene, so a lot of people will come up to me and say completely out-of-hand statements, and expect me to just think that they’re awesome. In reality, I’m not a huge douchebag, I just like to take it easy. So I’m just kinda hangin’ out.
Tatro: Yeah, until sophomore year, I was convinced I was going to the NBA. And then I realized that I’m 5’10” and white. [laughs] That is definitely not going to happen. I played football freshman year in high school and then I played basketball all four years, and I played volleyball all four years, but I’d say my peak of football was seventh-grade flag football. I was pretty much the man in seventh-grade flag football. There was no stopping me.
Are you channeling that out on the field?
Tatro: Oh, yeah. I’m just reliving the seventh-grade glory days out here.
For more from our 22 Jump Street set visit:
- 35 Things to Know from Our Set Visit to 22 JUMP STREET
- Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill Talk 22 JUMP STREET, Dealing with High Expectations, Returning to College, Collaboration on Set & “Michael Bay” Levels of Action
- Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller Talk 22 JUMP STREET, Managing Expectations, Animation Vs. Live Action, Subverting the Sequel, and Bromance Themes
- Producer Neal H. Moritz Talks 22 JUMP STREET, Its Focus and Scale, Paying Homage to the Original Series and Film, Cameos, and Possible Future Sequels
- Wyatt Russell Talks 22 JUMP STREET, Turning Down THE HUNGER GAMES, Playing Professional Hockey and Overcoming Injury, Improv, and Collaborating on Set