Q&A: ‘Let’s Be Cops’ Director Luke Greenfield on Impersonating a Cop

As the director of 2004’s “The Girl Next Door” and a producer on “Role Models” four years later, Luke Greenfield has shown a talent for finding heart in his comedy. His latest film, “Let’s Be Cops,” pairs Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as roommates who find that impersonating police officers has its benefits — and dangers.
Jake and Damon both star on “New Girl”; did that have anything to do with their casting?
Not at all; we shot this movie a year ago and I was deep in postproduction before I even found out about the connection. Now people say, ‘Oh, you’re doing ‘The New Girl’ Movie!” Jake came in and just blew me away. Then I met Damon and had no idea they even knew each other. But they have such an amazing chemistry, onscreen and off.
Is it true this film is written from personal experience; you’ve posed as a cop at times?
Unfortunately, yes. I just did it for fun, at different times and ages. It’s just such an incredible feeling for someone like me, who is invisible, to wear a police uniform and walk through L.A. or New York. I got carried away. Having done all the research for this film and having good relationships with police and detectives, now, I wouldn’t do it again.
You were caught impersonating a police officer?
A couple times. Once, I was at a club in New York City, thinking it would be a great way to meet girls. But it wasn’t; everyone was either underage or hiding their weed. And I got busted. Another time I was producing a hidden camera show, and someone else was pretending to be the cop, but I got arrested. I had to do community service, which is what spawned “Role Models.” My options were to work in a soup kitchen, work with the elderly, or work in the Big Brother program. I kept asking for a 17-year-old kid who was well-built to build a deck to my house.
The movie features nods to some great cop films.
The whole movie started with me and my buddy loving “The Wire.” And films like “Heat,” “American Gangster,” “Training Day.” We wanted to make a movie that felt real, and the villains and danger was real. If you look at “48 Hrs.,” that movie isn’t a comedy. It’s a cop drama, and Eddie Murphy just happens to be hysterical.
You have a great ensemble, particularly Keegan-Michael Key.
I ruined so many takes because of him. There’s a scene where they try waterboarding him, and they actually did, by accident. There was screaming and so much water, and when I called cut, he didn’t complain. It was Jake who said, “Dude, I really think we drowned him.”

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