Josh Peck might be best known to Gen Z viewers as the smart but socially awkward high schooler Josh Nichols from Nickelodeon’s kid-oriented sitcom Drake & Josh that aired for four seasons between 2004-2007. Now 34, married and a father to a young son, Peck has successfully made that often-tricky transition from child star to grownup actor.
The native New Yorker stars in the new Disney+ series Turner & Hooch, playing Scott Turner, son of Detective Scott Turner portrayed by Tom Hanks in the 1989 film of the same name. The 12-episode series premieres Wednesday July 21 on the family-oriented streaming service.
A mix of comedy and action, Turner & Hooch tells the story of an ambitious, buttoned-up U.S. Marshal who inherits a big unruly dog from his father, and soon realizes the slobbering creature he didn’t want might just be the partner he needs. The 150-pound creature with a nose for sniffing out criminals, also holds clues to his father’s legacy, involving his final casework.
The series, created by Matt Nix (Burn Notice), and executive produced by noted action filmmaker McG, who also directed the pilot, also stars Carra Patterson as Jessica Baxter, Scott’s brave and very pregnant partner; Brandon Jay McLaren as Xavier Wilson, a cool, enigmatic marine-turned-U.S. Marshal; Anthony Ruivivar as Chief James Mendez, Scott’s boss with a secret soft spot though mild annoyance for Scott’s new dog; Lyndsy Fonseca as Laura Turner, Scott’s animal-loving sister; Jeremy Maguire as Matthew Garland, Laura’s adolescent son; and Vanessa Lengies as Erica Mouniere, the quirky head of the U.S. Marshals’ dog training program, who has an obvious crush on the oblivious Scott. Turner & Hooch, of course, features French Mastiffs (five dog actors in all) that serve various purposes for the titular character, Hooch, Scott’s slobbery, lovable law enforcement paw-tner.
Peck spoke via Zoom about taking on the role that gave him an opportunity to not only show off his comedic chops but also his skills as an action hero. He humbly acknowledged the challenge of trying to step into the big shoes of the legendary Hanks in a similar role in the 1989 comedy that audiences may closely associate with their childhood as they watch with their own children or grandchildren. There also was the matter of dealing with an unpredictable co-star on set that frequently hogged every scene he was in but also loved to deliver sloppy kisses.
Angela Dawson: How familiar were you with the French Mastiff breed before Turner & Hooch?
Josh Peck: To be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with them. I’d go so far as to say that I never thought I was a “dog person” before this show started, but it wasn’t until halfway through as I’m being licked by this 150-pound dog that was originally bred to protect wine vineyards in France, that I realized what I was dealing with. These dogs have a very specific skill set. It wasn’t until that moment that I truly realized that I’m a “dog person” and that I was falling in love with this beautiful, sweet, sometimes untrainable dog.
Dawson: As an actor, you have to expect the unexpected with your co-stars. With this one, you know you’re going to get slobbered on a lot. Were you cool with that from the outset and was it all real slobber, or did they have to enhance it for comic effect?
Peck: I wish they had to add the slobber. No, we had copious amounts of natural slobber. I don’t know if there is any other breed of dog besides the French Mastiff that is so talented when it comes to their ability to salivate. The dog trainers, amongst all their tools at their disposal—the toys and the treats—had these gigantic carwash chamois cloths. Between takes, they’d do a once-over of the dog’s face and, within seconds, the slobber would be right back.
Dawson: The role of Hooch is played by five dogs that served specific purposes for the show, right?
Peck: Exactly. We had five different Hoochs that each had their own ability or talent. Obie was our go-to guy. He was sort of the elder statesman at six years old. So, when we needed Hooch to just sit there and look cute in a scene, he could do that. But he was very conscious of loud noises. Hammer, who was our youngest Hooch at two years old, was so strong that he could literally pull my arm out of its socket. He had one speed and one goal, which was pull me as fast and as hard as he could. So, each dog definitely had their own talent.
Dawson: Did you have a favorite?
Peck: I have a son now and I’m thinking about having more kids, and so I’ve thought, “How am I going to tell my other kids that Max is my favorite? I could never love anyone more than this kid.” So, I worry about saying which dog was my favorite. But I’ll say it was Obie. Don’t tell the other dogs; I’d hate to see them upset.
Dawson: You were two years old when Turner & Hooch, the movie starring Tom Hanks came out. Did you ever watch it on VHS or DVD when you were a little older?
Peck: To be honest, I’d only seen bits and pieces of it over the years. Obviously, what’s cool about Turner & Hooch is what’s bigger than the movie itself is its name recognition. I don’t know a single person, when I’ve talked about the show, who hasn’t said, “Oh yeah, I know that movie.” I also think that for Tom Hanks, (the movie) came out after he made Big but he hadn’t done Forrest Gump or Philadelphia yet so he was like a samurai sharpening his sword, honing his skills. So, when I got the audition, I watched the entire movie and could totally see all the reasons why it means so much to so many.
Dawson: Have you met Tom Hanks?
Peck: There is some connection. This is an absurdly name-dropping reference, but who cares: I did a show with John Stamos several years ago called Grandfathered, and he invited me to his birthday party. So, I went and Tom Hanks was there. I said to John, “Only you, Stamos, would have Tom Hanks come to your birthday party. You know who comes to my birthday party? My uncle Rick.” I was there with my then girlfriend who’s now my wife, Paige. I’m sure Tom Hanks, who’s a legend, realizes that people are intimidated to approach him, and so he asked Stamos my name and my wife’s name, and made a point to come up to us and introduce himself. He was like, “Hey, I’m Tom.” He couldn’t have been lovelier and he engaged us in conversation and made us feel so comfortable. That’s been my interaction with him.
Dawson: Reginald VelJohnson, who reprises his role as David Sutton, Turner’s partner in the movie, makes an appearance in your show? How was it having one of the original cast members in your show?
Peck: Oh my gosh, having Reginald in the show is such a treat and an honor. He’s a legend. I was always asking him about (his work on) Turner & Hooch, Die Hard and Family Matters; he was probably sick of me. I just wanted to hear all of his stories. I think he’s in his late 60s, and he’s a true actor’s actor. He went to Tisch (School of Arts) at NYU so he’s formally trained. So, he’d just hang out. He just loves to work and continues to challenge himself, and so I felt so lucky to be able to work with him.
Dawson: There’s comedy as well as a lot of action on this show. You’re handling weapons—handguns, machine guns, chasing and fighting with bad guys and more, while doing this show that families can watch together. Did that attract you to the part as well?
Peck: That’s a credit to Disney+ in melding the action and the comedy and the cuteness of the dog, plus a romantic comedy love-triangle. It really covers all the bases.
I remember Brandon McLaren, who plays my partner Xavier, and I would get to do these incredible action sequences where we’d be chasing down a bad guy and, for lack of a better word, doing all these “boy stuff” things we’d fantasize about doing as a kid and now we’re getting to do it on such a high level as a grown up, so it was great. In the prep process, I got to do ride-alongs with real U.S. Marshals. I trained with real weapons at a place called Taran Tactical, where they trained the actors on John Wick. The beautiful thing about becoming an actor is that you get to live in these different worlds, sometimes for years at a time.
Dawson: You’ve been acting since you were a child. Did you ever want to pursue another occupation?
Peck: I started when I was young and had a lot of success so I was kind of wrapped up in the trajectory of that. Like most of us, when I was in my 20s, I had gone through periods of when I wasn’t working a lot and I was questioning what I wanted out of life. Plus, there was the extra element of having had so much success as a kid and the world knows you as this character, it kind of defines you, and you wonder whether you’ll ever be able to sort of leave that behind.
I was listening to (comedic actor) Jeff Garlin doing an interview the other day in which he said, “I do comedy for comedy. I don’t do it for the billboard. I don’t do it for the great table at a restaurant. I do it because I love it.” And, I feel the same way about acting. I do it because I love it. That’s the thing that I think has helped me through. But there definitely have been days, like the dog days of pilot season when I wasn’t getting the callbacks, that I thought, “God, I wish I’d gone to law school.”
Dawson: You filmed 12 episodes of Turner & Hooch, which I assume you shot at least partially during the pandemic. So, how was it filming this during very strict protocol conditions?
Peck: It was such a wild time to be alive and especially being lucky enough to be working. My wife and I went to Vancouver (where the series is shot) at the end of August with our son, Max, and we did a two-week quarantine, and then we were there for eight months. We couldn’t come home because then we’d have to re-quarantine, so it was challenging in that way because you miss the holidays and birthdays with family and friends. Despite how great Vancouver is, you definitely start missing home. But then I’d watch the news and see how so many people were struggling and I realized how lucky we were to have the work.
On set, we were wearing masks all the time and social distancing and doing all of these protocols and we were like, “How is this ever going to be doable?” But, by the end, it all seemed so second-nature. Eventually, God-willing, in a year or two when no one’s wearing a mask on set, it might feel weird.
Dawson: Are you working on other projects now? Is there a season two of Turner & Hooch?
Peck: I just worked a few days on a new Netflix movie called 13: The Musical, with Debra Messing and Rhea Perlman, so I felt pretty lucky. I played this young rabbi, which was kind of cool that I get to add that to my list of credits. It allowed me to do a deep-dive into my Judaism. So, now it’s just about support (publicizing Turner & Hooch). I booked this show in January 2020 so I’ve now lived with it for a while, and I can’t wait for the world to enjoy it and, hopefully, fall in love with it, and we get to make more of them.
Dawson: Is there a possibility that Tom Hanks might make a cameo on the show?
Peck: If you can write a DM to Tom Hanks, I’d love it. I’m sure a guy in his position is waiting to see the world’s reaction to (the series). I’d just love to have a coffee with him, let alone get a chance to act in a scene with him. You never know.