Turner & Hooch Is the Second Act Josh Peck Has Been Waiting For

If you were lucky enough to be of the Nickelodeon viewing age between 2005 to 2007—a.k.a., the era of Drake & Josh—you know that there’s no actor quite like Josh Peck. The guy is batshit, balls-to-the-wall loud and goofy. About 10 seconds later, he’ll flip a switch, just like that, and show you a beating heart underneath it all.

Peck’s prime placement in the charisma-sensitivity matrix is why he still matters to those millennial Nickelodeon alums, with millions of loyal fans still watching his TikTok and YouTube accounts for the odd Drake & Josh reference. It’s also why Peck, now 34 years-old, has been recruited from the other family-friendly media monolith: The Mouse House. Peck is starring in Disney+’s sequel reboot to 1989’s Turner & Hooch, which starred the also-charming Tom Hanks as Detective Scott Turner who stumbles into ownership of Hooch—a crime-solving, slobbering, and rather destructive doggo. In the TV series, which premieres on Disney+ this Wednesday, Peck plays the late Turner’s son, also named Scott, who’s mourning the passing of his father when he gets a Hooch-esque dog forced into his life.

In the series, Peck nails the blend of family-friendly funny (with that hint of heart!) that made him famous over a decade ago. Even though it looks like Peck hasn’t missed a beat since Drake & Josh, he says it’s taken years to find a part as suited to his skill set as Scott Turner. Throughout the 2010s, Peck starred in just about everything—action films, network comedies, indie movies—to varying degrees of success. He’s seen the downfall of his former fictional best friend, Drake Bell, who was sentenced this July to two years of probation for childhood endangerment. (Peck’s representatives wrote that he would not provide any further statement on Bell beyond his recent comments. At the Turner & Hooch premiere, he said, “It’s upsetting, and it’s an unfortunate situation. It’s disappointing.”)

All of that said? It’s been a long road to Turner & Hooch. Peck took us through the entire journeyfrom the Nickelodeon days, to meeting Tom Hanks at John Stamos’s birthday party, to acting alongside a rotating crew of Hooches.

This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

ESQ: I want to congratulate you on the show—you’re clearly having such a blast in it.

JP: I appreciate that. This is one of those rare ones, where there was not a single bad apple [on set]. The most challenging part of your day was if Hooch decided to go smell the office plant instead of turning on his mark.

ESQ: You seem like you in it. It seems easy.

JP: I’ve been looking for something for a really long time since Drake & Josh. You finish something like that when you’re a teenager and it becomes a bit of a high school experience, where you’re appreciative of the time you spent on it— but you’re eager to try something new. I tried to thread the needle with that for many years, doing thrillers, indies, hardcore dramas, and enjoyed all of it. But this was like this perfect next step of family fare that’s elevated and also has a great amount of the action-adventure part of it.

ESQ: It does feel like one of the first things I’ve seen from you, that just seems built for you—but still that elevated next step. You are a father now and so much of that comes through in this performance.

JP: First of all, I just wish I could teleport and tell 13-year-old, chubby Josh, that everything was going to work out… If you can entertain family and people can grow up [with you] it’s a superpower. It’s a really special thing. And I feel lucky to have had that… I think if you can introduce yourself to new generations as a new character and it can be as beloved as the last character you played, you’re crushing it. I love The Rock from WWE SmackDown and RAW. And I’m sure most kids are like, Oh, the guy from Jungle Cruise or Jumanji? Yeah, that guy’s awesome! He used to wrestle?

ESQ: Just with Turner & Hooch I was really thinking about how the passing of Tom Hanks’s Detective Turner affects your character. With you being the father of a young kid now, how does being a father change how you play someone’s son?

JP: You know, before I had a kid, I could really identify with moments when I first get Hooch from my sister and I’m complaining to my mom, “I’m really trying to prove myself here. I can’t handle a dog right now.” And similarly, we’re reading this letter that my dad wrote me before he passed away about how much he loved a dog and how it opened up his humanity and taught him to care about things bigger than himself. Now as a dad, I have sort of all of those selfish desires. If you’re smart, they go out the window. There’s no reconciling “I can’t handle this right now.” You just show up and do the best you can because your two-year-old doesn’t want to hear that this is a lot of pressure.

I just wish I could teleport and tell 13-year-old, chubby Josh, that everything was going to work out.

ESQ: Was there any passing of the torch moment between you and Tom Hanks?

JP: It’s so funny. I got to meet him at a birthday party for John Stamos a couple years ago, which I just think is hilarious. Like, my Uncle Rick goes to my birthday parties and Tom Hanks goes to John Stamos’s birthday parties. Everything checks out. I remember I was invited and Tom made it his business to come over and introduce himself to me and my wife. And was just super gracious. And because I think he knew that it could perhaps be a little intimidating to come up and introduce myself to him, so he made the effort. I mean, you meet him, and you’re just like, Oh, you’re like, America’s dad. It’s so nice when people live up to your expectation from watching them for so long.

ESQ: As far as you know, was there ever even the smallest, tiniest suggestion that Hooch be a terrifying, CGI dog recreation?

JP: I don’t know—but I’m so glad that we’re using an actual dog. Acting with a tennis ball, I think, would be much more challenging than anything a real dog could throw at you.

ESQ: What do you think the endurance of dog stories like this is nowadays? Why are we always seeing more of them?

JP: Because it’s our obsession, for thousands of years, with the hero’s journey. It’s why we love Marvel movies, right? Because we love pure good fighting evil. Dogs are pure good. What I’m so proud of with this show is that usually when a family sits down to watch television, someone’s making a compromise. And this show and what I think Disney+ is doing such a good job of with all their shows, is it’s truly a co-viewing experience. If you want the procedural, you’ve got that. There’s the rom-com love triangle. You’ve got the broad comedy. And then also you’ve got that added element of dog and animal people, from Hooch to the other dogs at the canine training center to my sister’s overweight cat, Blob.

ESQ: It’s so funny how your character reacts to Hooch in the beginning. I was bitten by a golden lab in the butt when I was three years old and I’ve had this subconscious thing with dogs ever since then. I love dogs, but they can sense everything.

JP: It’s funny. The first week we started the pilot and we had gone up to Vancouver towards the fall of 2020. So there was a two-week quarantine when we got to Canada and there wasn’t the time to do as much bonding with the dogs. So I hung out with the dogs for about a week before we started filming. And then, every day on set, we’re spending 10 or 12 hours together, but understandably, they were still getting to know me and figuring me out. In the pilot, there’s that scene where I’m getting emotional reading this letter from my dad who passed away. Obi, who was one of our star dogs—don’t let the other dogs hear this—but he was definitely our go-to guy. He’s watching me. I’m not kidding. He’s watching me well up reading this letter. And he stuck his head in my lap and just could feel the emotion. He doesn’t know that we’re shooting a scene. He just knows that there’s a human who’s been sweet to him who’s having a tough moment. And it was so beautiful. Dogs are powerful.

josh peck in 'turner and hooch'

Josh Peck’s US Marshal, Scott Turner, is a little more buttoned up than his former Nickelodeon alter ego.

Disney+/Eric Milner

ESQ: What don’t people ask you about Drake & Josh, or that time in your life, that you feel is missed?

JP: I think people have a lot of preconceptions about kid actors, trajectory, and the pitfalls. It’s different for everyone. I think I can only speak to my story, but what’s kept me going and what’s allowed me to be lucky enough to keep working is that—I heard Jeff Garland say this the other day on a podcast—he said, “I did comedy for comedy. I don’t do it for the billboard, I don’t do it for the great table in a restaurant. I do it because I love it.” And for me, I’ve performed because it was my passion. It was the ultimate escape for me. So be it from my early days on Nickelodeon to doing movies like The Wackness, Danny Collins, and eventually Grandfathered with Stamos, and even all this stuff I’ve done on YouTube and whatnot. I’ve never judged the medium. It’s always been about: How can I reach an audience and do something that’s creative and entertaining? It’s been my guardrails, ’cause it’s really been the thing that’s driven me and kept me from deviating from this path.

ESQ: I love that you say “guardrails.” There is a certain freedom when you love what you do, and you’re so enveloped in it that you can’t think of anything else.

JP: Yeah. And I think it’s about embracing the virtuous aspect of what you do, because if it’s purely self-serving, I don’t know if it’ll ever be truly fulfilling. For me as an actor, it’s like, people live really hard lives and the idea that they can come home at the end of their day and find a little bit of escape in a show like mine is really kind of everything. I think it is really powerful to give people a little bit of a reprieve from their life and allow them to find some joy in the world that we create.

ESQ: I’m sure that’s something you probably learned early on, too. Is there a roundabout time where you had through that realization?

JP: Basically, my entire twenties were devoted to my ego being smashed and stripping away whatever false mask that I wanted to project to the world—and coming to terms with who I truly was. I’ll never forget: I was listening to this person speak and she said, “You’re the fish you’re trying to catch. You’re the love of your life? You’re everything you’ve been searching for?” I think it just was like a nice way of saying, if you’re looking for validation and confirmation from the outside world in the form of a car, or a job, or relationship or whatever, it’s never going to sustain you—it’s got to come from the inside.

ESQ: That’s never a lesson you learn once, either.

JP: Oh, yeah. The ego has incredible recuperative powers.

Want unlimited access to Esquire’s entertainment coverage? Join Esquire Select

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

Read More

Written by 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *