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How were you contacted for 21 Jump Street?

It was kind of an amusing, topsy-turvy process.

In March of last year, my agent submitted me. I was up for a small part in one scene. I auditioned and was called back to meet the directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, two very funny gentlemen who previously directed the animated family movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. After meeting them and playing the scene in a variety of ways, I was cast.

Several weeks later, I was getting ready to fly down to New Orleans and start work –literally zipping up my suitcase, in fact- when I received a phone call explaining that (a) the script was being rewritten, and (b) my scene had been cut.

No scene, no job. It happens.

About a week after that, I was surprised to receive another call from my agent explaining that the rewrite was in and I’d been cast in a new role. Still a small role, but it was funnier, and no audition was necessary.

When I arrived on location, I met the directors again. They graciously commented that, after umpteen weeks, the couple auditions, and that false start with casting, it was nice to have me finally playing a part. Considering the fact that they were calling the shots on this big movie, I was amazed they remembered who I was.

Do you have much screen time?

No idea! The movie opens later this week, and I’ll find out then. I’m just in the one scene for a very short amount of time, and that’s if I’m in it at all. I suspect that I am, but you never know.

Any lines?

One, but it’s a good line.

Do you have much screen time with the main actors, Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum? If so, what was it like working with them?

Who knows how much screen time I have with anybody, but I did work a little bit with Jonah Hill and Brie Larson (The United States of Tara, Rampart), who plays a significant character in the movie. They were both very polite and welcoming, as were the other cast and crew that I had time to meet.

Here’s an example of what it was like to work on the movie. One the most recognizable cast members was Rob Riggle. While not necessarily a household name, he’s contributed to some really good comedies -The Other Guys, SNL, The Daily Show, etc.- and he’s patently hilarious. (Anyone who’s ever seen The Hangover should remember him as the Vegas cop who screams, “In the face! IN THE FACE,” after Zach Galifiniakis is electrocuted by a taser, well, in the face.)

I mention Riggle because, even though he had no written dialogue while I was on set, the directors turned the camera on him and gave him a take to just improvise. What followed was possibly the funniest three or four minutes I’ve ever seen. He just went off. I can’t repeat most of it because it would spoil a gag that will inevitably make it into the picture, but I think the directors finally called cut purely because everyone behind the camera eventually broke down and started laughing. That was the sort of work environment I experienced that night.

After I got back to New York, I quickly started taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, the school in which Riggle began studying sketch and improv. It’s probably been one of most creatively rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

I hear Johnny Depp makes a cameo, did you get to meet or see him?

I’ve never met Johnny Deppy, and I can neither confirm nor deny his involvement.

What is your role in the film?

I play an EMT.

Does a smaller role still give you fulfillment as an actor?

Absolutely. There’s an old saying: “There are no small parts, just small actors.” It’s cheesy, but usually true. Give a hungry actor the smallest chance to contribute to a story and he’ll probably do it.

Also, there’s an interesting challenge to being the guy that has one line in one scene. You still have to come in and be a seamless part of the same story, but you’re only going to get a few seconds to do so. A day player can ruin a movie or make it infinitely better.

What are your standards regarding choosing a movie to participate in? What’s the thought process?

If I need a job and someone’s interested in me paying me a decent wage to work on a movie, television show, commercial, play, musical, variety show, I’m probably going to do it. And that’s the case with me almost all the time.

Beggars can’t be choosers and I didn’t have the choice between playing the EMT in 21 Jump Street and another acting job. Fortunately, the script was good and very funny, and the cast and crew were nice and had been successful movies many times before. The odds that it’s going to be great are pretty strong, but, even if they weren’t, I’d have said yes in a heartbeat.

Maybe one day, I’ll work frequently enough to be more discerning. But I’m not there yet.

Would you kiss another woman or man in a film? Would you participate in a sex scene if asked? Where would you draw the line?

I don’t know. I’m hardly ever asked to participate in scenes in which I kiss anyone, much less disrobe.

What’s your advice to young Christians pursuing a career in acting?

The same advice I’d give to anybody: Be humble. Work hard. Know that you’re almost always in a position to learn and audition. Learn your lines perfectly.

Never let the word “No” discourage you. There’s plenty of rejection in this business. You have to face that, and then try again.

Constantly question your desire to act. If you don’t love it, there’s no point in continuing to try.

What’s your biggest fear in acting?

Sometimes I worry that there’s not a place for me in the business. That usually crosses my might right before I get hired for something new.

What do you love about acting?

The chance to help tell a good story and tell it really well.

Has filmmaking deepened your view of God?

I’d like to say yes, but, honestly, I have no idea. It has deepened my view that most ministers should, when speaking publicly, be really interesting.

TURNER CRUMBLEY has appeared in feature films, on television, and in theatres across the United States. His recent stage credits include Dracula, The 39 Steps, The SantaLand Diaries (New Stage Theatre), Big River, A Simple Gift (Mill Mountain Theatre), Sweet Charity (Sierra Repertory Theatre), Louis L’Amour’s ‘One for the Mohave Kid’, The Minute Men (Great American Melodrama), Blood Wedding (Warehouse Theatre), The Diary of Anne Frank (Stage One), and Disney’s Beauty & the Beast (Jefferson Performing Arts). Film credits include Contraband, 21 Jump Street, and the award-winning, independent feature Glorious Mail. As a director, Turner’s credits include the plays The Good Thief by Conor McPherson, John Patrick Shanley’s Welcome to the Moon (both New Stage Theatre) and the short film A Mile of Wolves. Turner is a Laurel, Mississippi native and a University of Southern Mississippi graduate.

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