Who wanted to star in G.I. Joe, who didn't and why

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans had very, very different responses when asked to be in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Wayans jumped at the opportunity, but Tatum wasn't quite so sure.

In the end, both Tatum and Wayans signed on for the movie, an action-adventure film set in the near future and, of course, based on Hasbro's iconic G.I. Joe toy line, animated television show and comic-book series. An origin film, the movie finds Duke (Tatum) and Ripcord (Wayans) joining the elite G.I. Joe military team—Gen. Hawk (Dennis Quaid), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), etc.—as they take on the Cobra villains, who include Ana/the Baroness (Sienna Miller), Storm Shadow (Byung Hun Lee) and James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston). (The movie opens Friday.)

"'I'm in. I want in,' that's exactly what I said," Wayans said in a joint interview with Tatum in New York over the weekend. "I was like, 'I want in. I don't care who I play. If I've got to play Scarlett, I want in.'"

Tatum wasn't so gung-ho. "I was a little apprehensive," he said. "I had just done a dramatic soldier film, and I just wasn't sure if doing a fantasy war movie in a time of war was exactly right. So I was feeling all patriotic and whatnot, but then when they sent me the script, it was nothing more than ... It's X-Men, and it's Star Wars, and it is an absolute fantasy film. And I wanted to be involved in that."

Both actors said they liked the characters on the page and sought the chance to expand on them during the shoot. Duke is an old hand at combat, and he sees in the G.I. Joe team a path to fighting the good fight at an even higher level. Ripcord is Duke's longtime pal, a weapons specialist and expert marksman who aspires to joining the Air Force, at least until he becomes a Joe and sets his romantic sights on Scarlett.

"What was great was, initially, Ripcord was written for a white guy," Wayans said. "I was like, 'That's tough. I played a white woman. I guess I could play a white guy.' But for me it's about the attributes of the character and not so much the color of the character. Even though he might have freckles, I don't have them, but I could play handsome, charismatic, funny and athletic. So the key was just to go through the regimen of a soldier so that I could be believable as the character, and also the approach was not to be too funny, just try and pepper it on, be fun, not funny."

"Duke is like an icon," Tatum said. "So it was even a little ... It was daunting to think of myself as Duke. It was just one of those things where it's the ultimate make-believe game. You get to play one of your heroes. Who wouldn't want to do that?"