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Exclusive: Turbo Time with JATW's E.J. de la Pena!

It's turbo time for another Jingle All the Way spotlight interview! I'm sure you all just watched the Schwarzenegger holiday classic AGAIN so get ready for our interview with E.J. de la Pena, who played Johnny (best friend to Jamie) and neighbor son of Ted (Phil Hartman). E.J. shares some behind-the-scene stories of the film's past and we're also excited for his future projects. 

TAF: You played Johnny, Phil Hartman's son in Jingle All the Way. What did you think of the film when it came out and how do you think it holds up today?

E.J. de la Pena:  The first time I saw it [the film] was at the premiere and honestly, I had a lot of fun with it. It was a fun thing that we all put together, but I had no idea it would become the classic with all the fans that it seems to have. But I wasn't really thinking about that back then. I was pretty young, 8 or 9 years old. But as far as it holding up, I think the fact that it is replayed every year, in the marathon capacity that it has and all the fans it has. I'll be talking with folks and it will come up that I’m an actor and I’ll mention it as one of my credits and more often than not, people will tell me it's their favorite Christmas scene and so on and so forth. So I think that alone shows you how it’s stood up to the test of time.  

TAF: JATW was Phil Hartman's last movie. Do you have some fond mories working with him? Do you have any Hartman stories you can share?

E.J.:  I didn’t know it was his last film. I wasn’t aware of that, so wow. You know, it kind of makes you feel a little honored to know that! A lot of fond memories; he was a very fun guy. I remember we were shooting on the backlot at Universal - of course, being a Christmas movie that’s set in winter though, we were shooting the movie at Universal in Southern California in summer. So we’re all in this winter gear sweating it out. But the car scene we were shooting - the one where me and Jake are sitting there, begging to go see the parade while they [the parent characters] go find parking. We were in that car for a while, for a big chunk of the day. I was really bored and to break up the boredom, Phil was cracking jokes and singing songs that, you know, it was fun for an 8 or 9 year old. I’m not sure if you want me to repeat anything of it.

TAF: Do it! I definitely have to hear one of these stories. 

E.J.: Nothing that bad, but it’s a little bit of potty humor. I think one thing that’s always stuck with me is he sang this song, it was basically (sings) “You make my butt shine, the more you kiss it, the more it shines! The clock is ticking, so keep on licking, oh how you make my buttocks shine!” When you’re an 8 year old hearing that kind of potty humor, it was hilarious! And we had a lot of fun. 

TAF: Did you hear anything at the time about Jake Lloyd, who played Jamie, being cast in Star Wars when you were working with him? 

E.J.: He got the role right as we were finishing the film. I think he told me, while we were finishing the teaser at the end after the credits where we’re at his house playing around, and Arnold’s putting the star on the Christmas tree and Rita turns to him to say “oh, what’d you get me?” We were filming that scene and he mentioned he was going to be playing Darth Vader and being a ridiculously huge sci-fi fan that I am, even back then, I was extremely jealous! 

TAF: You would have begged for a role? 

E.J.: I would’ve! I would have begged to be in a Star Wars film. I guess I could! Because they’re making new ones now. 

TAF: Have you been on Star Tours at Disneyland?

E.J.: I head to Disneyland very rarely. I loved Star Tours as a kid though - was always begging to go on it when my family went there. I was kinda sad when they changed it because of all the childhood memories but I can see why they did it. 

TAF: Did the studio ever set you up with a TurboMan for yourself to bring home?

E.J.: No, they didn’t give me one, but we went out and for the brief time that they were available, I think they were at AMPM or something (WalMart), which I found odd, but that’s where they ended up selling them. My parents went out and got one, and it’s sitting in a cupboard somewhere. So if I break it out, it will still be in the box and everything. 

TAF: They’re very rare - they were a WalMart exclusive and not many of them were made. They were hot items, at the time, which is why they are so sought after these days, that they go for a lot of big bucks. That’s great that you have one, and I have one! Everyone is on the hunt every time that movie comes on, so it’s an even bigger deal this time of year. 

E.J.: Oh yeah, I can imagine that! Mine's sittin’ there - don’t think I’m gonna sell it because it’s memories, and all that, but it’s good to know I’ve got something of value to my name! 

TAF: Here’s a question - what happens to you when someone sees you pick up a cookie? 

E.J.: Normally, when that comes up, it’s my friends wanting me to do my Arnold impression doing it!

TAF: Did you get to meet Arnold? Did you have actual dialogue with him, or you were always around the area? And do you have an Arnold story?

E.J.: I had a couple of scenes where we were both in the same scene, but I don’t think I had any direct dialogue with him. I mean he was there, he was on set, and I was there, and we definitely had a few fun exchanges. I remember, he would bring his daughter on set who was about my age, and he would tell me to hug her. Now keep in mind - 8 or 9 year old little me and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is this big icon and his daughter there, so picture that. He just goes, “HUG HER”, and I’m like “okay, okay, I’ll hug her!” No, he was really nice and those were a few exchanges we had where we had a lot of fun. 

TAF: I heard the actor who plays Booster, who is Booger in the Revenge of the Nerds movies, that he didn’t like Arnold for some reason. 

E.J.: Really?! Oh yeah, I had a good time. Because I was a kid, some of the politics and relationships that were going on the side, I couldn’t speak to that, but I never heard anything bad about him on set or anything like that. 

TAF: Yeah, it was eggnog that was all over Phil Hartman, right?

E.J.: Yes yes, he got hit by Rita Wilson’s character for makin’ a move! And splattered with eggnog, it was a thermos of eggnog. 

TAF: I’m definitely in the mood now to watch JAWT. But what are you working on now? I understand you have a cool sci-fi series in the works - what call you tell us about this series?

E.J.: Yeah, I wrote and am producing it, and I have a small role in it. It’s called “Nobility” and it’s a fun sci-fi series, kind of a mix between Firefly and The Office. It’s a lot of fun - people can check it out at and I have to say, we have an amazing cast that’s a part of it. Virtually all of the cast are established sci-fi actors who are from some people’s favorite series like Walter Koenig who played Chekov from the original Star Trek, and played Alfred Bester in Babylon 5. We have Chris Judge from Stargate SG-1. We’ve got Ellen Dubin from Lexx and Napoleon Dynamite. You’ve got Torri Higginson from Stargate: Atlantis. We’ve got James Kyson from Heroes. We’ve got Miracle Laurie from Dollhouse. I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two.

TAF: Doug Jones, right?

E.J.: Oh no! I did not mention Doug Jones. I told you, I was missing one or two. How do you forget Doug?! He’s such a nice guy. Yeah, Doug Jones from Hellboy and currently on Falling Skies. Yeah, and there’s a lot of fun stuff. 

*Update* TheArnoldFans just reached out to Doug Jones for a Nobility comment. Jones tells us about his role.

Doug Jones: "Ah yes! I'm a human in the hilarious web series NOBILITY, taking place on a space ship by that name! I'm the ship's psychologist, and of course, I'm more in need of therapy than anyone else onboard."

TAF: How far along are you with this series, now? Are you still trying to get funding for it, or is it definitely happening soon? 

E.J.: Well, we’re actually in Post [Production] on the pilot! Yeah, that’s what we’re doing - we’re in Post on the pilot, so we’re pretty much already shot. You know, maybe one or two pick up days coming up, but yeah, for the most part - getting it done and talking with different folks about distribution. 

TAFs: So there’s no network at this time, right? You’re shopping it around? 

E.J.: We’re shopping it around, but one thing we have been very clear about is one way or another, audiences are going to get to see this. This is getting out to audiences, even if it’s through YouTube. Now because of the cast we have, chances are it is going to be released as something other than us just having it on a YouTube channel, but one way or another, this is getting out to audiences. Even though we currently don’t have a studio. 

TAF: I’m a big sci-fi geek myself. When you’re an Arnold fan, you have to be. It goes hand in hand. 

E.J.: Oh, you’ll have a lot of fun with it. Oh yeah. I mean, he’s done so much sci-fi stuff, from Predator to Sixth Day, and all that stuff. 

TAF: Total Recall, Terminator. It's what he does best. Thanks E.J., and for what it's worth, I still think TurboMan was looking and pointing at you when he wanted to award a kid that TurboMan doll!

E.J.: Well, I could have told you THAT one! There was a reason we (the two kids) were always arguing. “You stole my TurboMan, TWICE!” 

TAF: Do you recall any deleted scenes? Any of your scenes or dialog get cut?

E.J.: Most of what I did that was scripted made it into the film. I will say that one line I have, “dad, you smell like barf”, that one was actually ad-libbed and what was going on is the director was just throwing different things to say and then I would say them. So, he [Phil] would yank me off and we’d get out of there, realizing “oh no, Jamie’s dad is TurboMan”. So yeah, it was just like line after line after line, and we must have done about a dozen or a half a dozen takes of that. I don’t remember what the other lines were, but the one that made it in was the “dad, you smell like barf” [line]. 

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