"I get mail from very young girls, 13 and 14," says 23-year-old Johnny Depp who plays baby-faced officer Tom Hanson. Depp is being pushed as the series' No. 1.
"I guess it can get to you if you let it," he said recently in Los Angeles. "One of the best things about the series is the Vancouver location. We're shooting so far from Los Angeles that we can avoid the press when we want. Vancouver isn't the kind of city where you can party every night. L.A. is wide open all night."
Depp is an ex-rocker who played with The Kids, which frequently opened for Billy Idol. "We'd split up and I was in L.A. and I knew the actor Nicolas Cage and he said to see his agent. I wasn't thinking about acting at all right then. Wanted to keep to my music. My first audition I got a part in Nightmare On Elm Street. It was written for a blond jock. Not me at all.
"Fan letters are another thing. I started off by phoning up the girls who wrote me, but that was expensive. I'm just a kid from Florida. My parents are down to earth. I've been working off and on since I was 13 but that was in music."
Depp next landed a part in the Oscar-winning Platoon, shot in the Philippines, "a great experience and the first time I knew acting would be my life. When I got back to L.A., it was a case of looking around. I had the 'flu so bad that day I tested for 21 Jump Street I didn't care and that's the attitude they wanted. I was told to hop the next plane and get to Vancouver."
The series is being shot by Stephen Cannell Productions mainly because of the lower Canadian dollar. "It's 40 per cent cheaper and we can shoot all night anywhere. L.A. is very dangerous at night." Depp says.
"I guess people confuse me with Hanson. I wasn't a good student like Tom. He's supposed to be clean-cut. I'm a jeans guy. The role and the actor have gotten confused."
And he says the show's theme is simple: "Nobody is too young to be a predator or a victim. "We've done some strong stuff and the balance has to be between entertainment and public service. We've all done public service announcements. People do die on the show. Fredric Forrest as my boss was killed off, but in a stupid traffic accident. We're not trying to pretty the world of crime."
Peter DeLuise, Dom's suddenly thin son, says he wanted to be an actor ever since he saw his father go off to work and turn up on TV talk shows. Over the hiatus, DeLuise has lost some 60 pounds, "playing the blubber guy the first year and now I may give Depp a run for the sweethearts. The first year, I sucked Jello out of plastic cups crushed on my chin. Funny?"
The series is based on an actual undercover program operated since 1974 by the Los Angeles Police Department. DeLuise grew up in tony Pacific Palisades where he says the drug situation was blooming. "That was five years ago. I hear it's worse now."
The conflict in conscience does disturb some cast members. "A cop plays a high school kid, befriends you, then turns you in. It may be for your own good but it can be seen as two-faced," says Holly Robinson who is an original Brat Packer.
"My junior high school had Emilio Esteves, Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn. Sean was weird even then. Charlie was into athletics. Emilio was acting sometimes. Then we drifted apart."
Robinson spent several nights with the L.A. police's drug squad. "I was told they were average nights, but there were killings, dozens of arrests, thefts, it was non-stop. I kept thinking of the wasted lives. With drugs you end up dead. We try and bust the kids to save them.
"We all help the writers edit the slang. The scripts had us talking like it was still the 1960s."
"We're all young, so we stuck together. Vancouver is a nice city to be stuck in. We don't miss the smog at all."
Depp became the star of the series after the first few shows. The other actors didn't gripe and hopefully they'll be getting their turn.
A coming episode, he says, deals with date rape and is "being carefully worked out."
Another episode deals with kiddie porn. "After the show last year on child abuse, we got 4,000 calls. Being young means more than worrying about your face breaking out."