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Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill on their roles in '21 Jump Street'

By Steve Persall

Times Movie Critic

Channing Tatum is playing good cop, in a three-way telephone chat with the Tampa Bay Times and his 21 Jump Street co-star Jonah Hill. The recent Oscar nominee isn't exactly the bad cop but he sounds a bit groggy and later, briefly perturbed.

"We've got Tampa's finest on the phone," Hill says when Tatum clicks into the conversation.

"Tampa uuuup!" says Tatum, a shout-out to where he grew up and graduated high school, before becoming Hollywood's current go-to heartthrob/action hero. And maybe its next hilarious hunk, after 21 Jump Street.

Tatum's comedic role is nestled between the romance of The Vow, which has grossed more than $100 million, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which will, when it debuts June 29. That is the same opening day as Magic Mike, a comedy inspired by Tatum's experiences dancing for dollars in Tampa nightclubs that filmed locally for two weeks in 2011.

We'll discuss Magic Mike later ("Done and done," he says to the invitation). For now it's 21 Jump Street getting the attention, particularly Tatum's surprising turn as a bumbling cop going undercover in a high school drug sting. "He walks away with the movie," Hill declares, and nobody will argue.

Hill explains how Tatum nailed it, Tatum gives credit right back, and both talk body types in comedy and making a Tampa Bay visit, in these interview excerpts:

Jonah, your body type is traditionally funny. But Channing, is it tougher being funny when you're a stud?

Tatum: I don't know, man. When I hear people say stuff about (having) the body type to be funny, I don't get it. I mean, Chris Farley was funny and he used that (overweight) thing, but Jonah's more about smart writing.

Hill: I think Jump Street is my funniest movie and I'm in really good shape in that movie. Or pretty good shape. You're making a false statement because in 21 Jump Street I'm funny. … Steve Martin and Bill Murray aren't overweight. Richard Pryor wasn't overweight. It's such a dumb argument. I mean, you're not dumb but the stereotype is stupid.

Tatum: But I do know what you're saying. People are not apt to get behind a person (in a comedy) who's like an athlete or something. When I started the movie, I asked Jonah a lot: "How do I do this?" If I couldn't find my way into a joke Jonah would always remind me to just play it real. Play it like you mean it and it'll all be funny.

Hill: And with a good character you don't worry about it being funny. You have to define what's heartbreaking about somebody before you find what's funny about them. Channing's character is someone who really wants to be smart but isn't, like a Fredo Corleone type. It works amazing with someone with a body type like Chan.

So, you guys are buddies now. Why not bring Jonah to Tampa Bay for a visit?

Tatum: Yeah, man, I'd love to show him the sights.

Hill: I've never been there. That would be good.

Where would you take him?

Tatum: Definitely we'd have to go to Ybor (City), obviously I want to go to a Bucs game and to Clearwater. That would be three little tags I'd take him to.

Hill: What's Ybor?

Tatum: Ybor City is like a club district, almost like Bourbon (Street) or something like that, with a Spanish vibe.

That's a night of drinking, a football game and beach time. Anything else you'd want to do, Jonah?

Hill: What else is there in life?

We could probably find something else for you here.

Tatum: That's probably true, actually. Very true.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill on their roles in '21 Jump Street' 03/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 4:30am]
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