Pay Homage: 21 Jump Street

“21 Jump Street” Press Conference – June 3, 1987

21 Jump Street the movie flopped much like Jonah Hill’s former belly off a diving board. And try as pie-faced Channing Tatum might, he’s no Johnny Depp (not even Richard Grieco for that matter). Why or how the classic high-school undercover police drama was reinvented as a wack buddy comedy is baffling, especially when the original was a pioneering effort regarding the TV original’s multiculti cast. For scripted TV, there was nothing like it from 1987 to 1991. Amidst all the racial unrest in the 21st century, it makes you appreciate how ahead of its time the show was in showing how colorful and varied our world really is.

Johnny Depp (Officer Tom Hanson)

Instantly minted to be the show’s star and teen heartthrob–a status he hated (and has forever bucked against). Depp signed on to the TV series for six years, assuming it wouldn’t last more than just one. So he spent the next four years in a state of artistic ennui before ultimately being released. Since jumping off Jump Street, Depp has become a Hollywood superstar of the highest order, while still maintaining indie cred. Besides starring as the epic Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of The Caribbean pantheon, Depp routinely returns to being the muse of his lifelong BFF, director Tim Burton, from Edward Scissorhands in 1990, to 2012’s Dark Shadows. His Cherokee roots show on his glass-cutting cheekbones, while still playing dreamy, creamy-white mainstream leading man.

Holly Robinson (Peete) (Officer Judy Hoffs)

Then the single lady, Robinson brought tall he cute-sexy to the show. While Depp had the girls swoonin’,  Holly’s doe eyes, flawless milk chocolate skin melted into acid-wash jeans brought all the boys to the yard, long before Jungle Fever was cool. It’s unbelievable that not one guy on that show–not even the Black Captain!–was trying to mack Holly Rob. Afterward, she went on to star in Hangin’ With Mr Cooper and For Your Love on the now-defunct WB network, and married pro baller Rodney Peete. This mother of four (including a set of twins and an autistic son) was recently a host on the mom-centric The Talk, and was recently fired for allegedly being too “ghetto.” (Really? The girl attended the Sorbonne in Paris!) But it’s all good. She’s also an author, winning a NAACP award for her children’s book My Brother Charlie.

Dustin Nguyen (Officer Harry Truman Ioki)

From ‘87-’90, Nguyen was one of few Asian-American actors to be featured in a starring role on prime time TV, not in a subservient role. Nguyen’s impressive martial arts skills (Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Jeet Kune Do) came in handy battle crime. These skillz + his fit physique turned him into an unlikely heartthrob alongside Depp and Grieco. Post-Jump, Nguyen starred in a few martial arts themed flicks as well as several stints on series (JAG, VIP, The Unit) and presently hosts the the Vietnam version of The Amazing Race.

Peter DeLuise (Officer Doug Penhall)

The son of famous fat comedian Dom DeLuise, Peter played the hot-headed heavy-set rube, Penhall from ‘87-90.  After this high-profile role, he make his mark as a director/producer/writer for the sci-fi TV series Stargate SG-1 and was executive producer on the spin-off, Stargate Atlantis. In both cases, he’d randomly pop up as an extra. In 2012, He surfaced in a cameo for the 21 Jump Street movie, reprising his role as Officer Doug Penhall (alongside the formerly bitter Depp).

Richard Grieco (Officer Dennis Booker)

Amidst Johnny Depp’s vocal displeasure with the show, Jump needed a new “hair” apparent to watch the Heartthrob Throne. Enter One Life to Live hunk, Richard Grieco. His character was slated to be killed off at the end of Season 3. But Grieco’s brooding looks and James Dean-like attitude proved so popular that not only did Booker stay on, but Booker the series eventually spun off onto his own show for a single season. Since Jump, Grieco has carved out a moderate to middling career, but nothing even close to the brilliance of Jump Street–much to the chagrin of teenage girls everywhere.