Johnny Depp Gave His ’21 Jump Street’ Character a Peanut Butter Obsession As a Gag

Johnny Depp has appeared in some blockbuster films throughout the years, headlining box office hits and franchise films. But he actually got his start on a TV show — 21 Jump Street, to be exact. When they remade the show into a movie, Depp couldn’t pass up the chance to make a hilarious cameo. He also included one odd character quirk that made the character even funnier. Here’s the story of Depp’s participation in the film and the peanut butter-related wrinkle he added to his role. 

Johnny Depp in a hat and glasses in front of a blurred blue background
Johnny Depp | COOLMedia/Getty Images

The premise of the film ’21 Jump Street’

According to IMDb, 21 Jump Street came out in 2012. It starred Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as two mismatched police officer partners who go undercover as high school students. The film finds them trying to find a new kind of drug circulating around the school. 

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The film also featured a solid supporting cast including Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, and a pre-Captain Marvel Brie Larson. The film was a hit with critics and fans alike, spawning a follow-up sequel. It also featured Depp in a small but funny role reprising a part he’d played years ago. 

Who did Johnny Depp play in ’21 Jump Street?’ 

In the film, Depp plays Tom Hanson, the same character he played on the 21 Jump Street TV show. According to IMDb, a pre-fame Depp appeared on the show from 1987-1990 over 82 episodes. The show ran for an additional season after Depp left. Other stars included Holly Robinson Peete, Peter DeLuise, and Richard Grieco. 

Depp showed up for a cameo in the 2012 film. It showcased Depp’s playfulness and willingness to commit to a joke. Whereas the original 21 Jump Street was played as a crime drama, the cinematic version was a straight comedy.

The premise of the film and the show are similar, though how each one is executed varies greatly. Tatum and Hill mainly lampoon the show’s idea while the TV show took itself seriously. Depp’s heroic turn ends in a fashion so tragic it’s darkly comic: his character reveals himself as a law enforcement officer only to soon after finding himself shot. 

Johnny Depp’s 21 ‘Jump Street’ peanut butter obsession never made it into the TV show but did make it into the movie

According to Screen Rant, Depp insisted on a running gag for his character during the show’s run. He wanted to be shown eating peanut butter throughout the series. The idea was denied, but Depp got the opportunity to reprise his abandoned gag for the 2012 movie. Depp approached Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film’s directors, and asked if he could do it in the film. They were happy to oblige the quirky request.

The directors embraced Depp’s visual gag, even going so far as to giving him a fake peanut butter tattoo to wear. Depp also gets to eat peanut butter during every scene he’s in throughout the film, though he doesn’t show up for very long. 

Depp’s peanut butter gag eventually making it onscreen was a matter of finding the right place and the right time (or, more accurately, the right creative team) to implement it. Lord and Miller are known for their comedy, and getting a serious actor like Depp to agree to the role was already a win. To have him contribute such an odd idea that fit so well with the film they were making made all the sense in the world.