Home Arts & Entertainment “Ricky Stanicky” Stars John Cena and Zac Efron on the Power of Second Chances and Friendship

“Ricky Stanicky” Stars John Cena and Zac Efron on the Power of Second Chances and Friendship

by Art U News

By Kirsten Coachman

How big of a lie would you tell to keep you and your friends out of trouble?

As kids, Dean, JT, and Wes attempted to pull a prank on Halloween that literally went up in flames, resulting in the trio inventing a fourth bestie—“Ricky Stanicky”—to pin the blame on. 

Ricky Stanicky has continued to be the guys’ scapegoat over the years, even as they get into shenanigans as adults. They are able to keep the ruse going until overwhelming suspicion of his existence—or lack thereof—results in their families wanting to finally meet the never-present Ricky. Dean (Zac Efron), Wes (Jermaine Fowler), and JT (Andrew Santino) decide to hire a down-and-out actor, Rod (John Cena), who performs as “Rock Hard Rod,” an X-rated music impersonator in Atlantic City, to play Ricky at an upcoming gathering. 

Image courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.
Image courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

As Ricky, Rod plays the “character” a little too well for the friends’ comfort, and they plot to rid him of their lives. 

Available to stream on Prime Video, “Ricky Stanicky” is directed by Oscar-winner Peter Farrelly. The film’s additional cast includes William H. Macy, Lex Scott Davis, Anja Savcic, and Jeff Ross. The rollicking new comedy offers the audience plenty of laughs and a good amount of heart as it speaks to the importance of second chances and opportunities in life. 

As one of the central themes behind the film, second chances are something that Cena himself works toward, as he explained during a virtual media roundtable last month.

“Nobody’s perfect. Every beating heart, I believe, appreciates what a second chance is,” said Cena. “My perspective on second chances is I just try not to be aloof when they arrive. I try to notice that they exist and work every day to try and manufacture a second chance if I can.” 

Rod’s opportunity to embody Ricky Stanicky resonated with Cena, who knows firsthand that one’s life journey can be unexpected. 

“My life is just a serendipitous bunch of happy accidents,” said Cena. “I wasn’t supposed to be a wrestler; I’m certainly not supposed to be here. I didn’t train my whole life for these things. Opportunity has fallen in my lap, and I’ve just tried to be present and understand that it’s here. … I think an important takeaway—especially for those in secondary education—as you look to try to put your lives together, it takes time.”

“If I could give a message, the character is really close to me,” said Cena, building on his sentiment, “but the takeaway that I’d love you to have is if you’re loving what you do, just mix it with a whole lot of perseverance and you never know what can happen.” 

Friendship is a vital part of “Ricky Stanicky” as Dean, Wes, and JT navigate this whopper of a lie that they never thought would catch up with them. Efron shared that the friendship and loyalty aspects were the first things that appealed to him in the script. 

Jermaine Fowler, Zac Efron, and Andrew Santino in “Ricky Stanicky. Photo courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

“These guys are really telling a rather big lie. And it’s hard to pull that off and still like the characters and root for [Dean] in the end,” said Efron. “And I think that’s what Pete Farrelly does so well in this movie. He toes the line—these guys are doing it out of loyalty, and I think hopefully everyone else does, too.”

While on the topic of friendship, Cena took a moment to be candid. 

“I believe we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with,” said Cena. “I finally got to a place where I’m comfortable expressing love in my life and accepting love from others. And I have been very much fulfilled since that point arrived.”

Both actors have previously shown in their work that they excel at comedy—Efron in “Neighbors” and “17 Again” and Cena in “Blockers” and “Trainwreck”—but when it comes to breaking character during filming, neither is immune.

In the airport scene where Rod meets up with his new three best friends, he has apparently wet his pants. He looks at the guys and says, “It’s not what you think—it’s just p—.” Getting through the punchline proved to be a challenge for Cena.

John Cena in "Ricky Stanicky." Photo courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.
John Cena in “Ricky Stanicky.” Photo courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

“That line, for some reason, I just couldn’t get around it because I’m waiting for the payoff to ‘It’s not what you think,’” said Cena. “So when the payoff was ‘It’s just p—,’ to me, that was very funny. It was very hard to get through that line.”

“It was hard for us too because he just improv’d it,” added Efron, who also mentioned that Cena’s impressions during a scene shot on day one of filming had him and their fellow actors breaking. 

“We were off camera just losing it,” said Efron. 

In playing “Rock Hard Rod,” Cena dons a number of hilarious getups as he performs as different singers and musicians across all genres for his show—from Alice Cooper to, notably, the one and only Britney Spears. But the one that stood out for the actor was ’80s icon Billy Idol. 

“It was cool to get the legendary Billy Idol lip and the eyebrow correct,” said Cena. “I just wanted to do everyone justice.”

“Thank goodness I didn’t have to do the entire dance number from ‘[… Baby] One More Time,’” he added. “But I’m glad I could rock the schoolgirl outfit.”

“Ricky Stanicky” is now streaming on Prime Video.

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