Nuts and Christmas go hand-in-hand. I can personally remember the mixed nuts that my Grandmother set out for her annual Christmas party every year. And no, I’m not referring to the film “Mixed Nuts” starring Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, and Madeline Kahn. I’m talking about the kind that Planters dishes out.
The nut company has been no stranger to wacky ads. Just last year they killed off Mr. Peanut, and had him rebirthed as a baby. Prior to that, Mr. Peanut was voiced by people like Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Hader. This Christmas though, they decided to go all-in on a nostalgia trip- or “nutstalgia” in this case- and have recruited Reginald VelJohnson to be our guide back to the 80s.
We had an opportunity to talk with Reggie about his teaming with Planters this holiday season and how enthusiastic he was to endorse a product he legitimately enjoys. We covered a lot of other ground too regarding what Christmas means to him and what some of his favorite Christmas songs are. We also discussed some non-holiday related things such as his approach to acting and the impact some of his characters have had on people.
The first thing that comes across when you’re talking with Mr. VelJohnson is how familiar and warm his voice is. For those who still may not know who he is, you may recognize him as Sgt. Al Powell from “Die Hard,” the cop who was the only ally Bruce Willis’ character of John McClane had on the ground. He’s also perhaps more recognizable to people as Carl Winslow in the long-running sitcom, “Family Matters.” Carl had his hands full with his own kids let alone the antics of his neighbor, Steve Urkel.
Maybe it’s that smooth voice, or maybe it’s his welcoming and jovial personality, but he fits perfectly into this Planters ad, even if it’s far zanier than what most of his major roles are known for being. We asked him how it felt to be thrown back into such a retro setting:
“It was a little strange, but I got into it! …It was fun! And I was just intent on getting the song right!”
Yes indeed, Reggie sings on this because it’s not just a retro commercial, it’s a retro ’80s style music video! There are some great barbs in it about buying futures on strip malls, making mixtapes, and arguing around the table as opposed to doing it electronically. It’s pretty catchy today; lamentable only by the fact there aren’t any more verses to it other than the two that we get. There’s also a comical reference to the “Die Hard” is Christmas movie debate when Reggie looks directly into the camera and says, “Yes, it is!”
Since the “Die Hard” debate has been beaten deader than Hans Gruber, we didn’t want to wade into those waters, so we instead asked him about some of his own favorite Christmas movies and songs. Turns out, Reginald VelJohnson is a traditionalist in that sense. His favorite Christmas movie is the Jimmy Stewart classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” while his favorite Christmas songs include the staples, “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Let it Snow,” and “Winter Wonderland.” But for Reggie it’s not so much the actual songs themselves as the sentiment behind them that he holds dear.
“All Christmas songs are really nice because they familiarize yourself with a time in your life that’s special.”
There’s a lot of truth to that. For me, I remember how Christmas only really felt like Christmas when we decorated the tree with the musical Christmas lights that would play a medley of various classics. Later on when I started working at college radio, I still remember the hours I spent looking up various Christmas songs from classic rock artists to help fill out my holiday playlist for the night; those were wonderful and special times.
We also talked a bit about the significance of family during those times and how he remembers one of his earliest Christmas memories when his mom got him a bike for a present, and how I’m looking forward to making memories that my two nieces will hopefully remember for years to come.
Speaking of kids and memories, we also asked him about if younger people recognize him as Carl Winslow from “Family Matters,” which yes, they do indeed. According to Reggie it’s a kind of recognition he’s come to accept because of what that performance means to people. We talked a little about how father figures on television can sometimes fill a kind of hole some people might have in their own families. Not everyone can have that positive mother or father figure in their life but we can still get a sense of what it can be like thanks to the art of television and characters like Carl Winslow
“People really enjoy watching the show and seeing me and that’s kinda nice! I never really expected that, but now that I have it, I’m going to live with it!”
Text doesn’t quite do justice to the strong sense of heart in his voice. It’s the same kind of heart that has made the roles he has taken so memorable, and the same kind of heart that makes his appearance in this Planters promotion so much fun. When we talked about his future plans with the nutty company, he was pepped up and ready to rock out some more ads if they want him to. Here at Nerdbot, we’re always happy to see Reggie pop-up in anything, which by the way, if you don’t know already, he’s in the “Turner & Hooch” revival series that’s currently airing on Disney+.
As for Planters, their “Nutstalgia” event is ongoing through December, giving you the chance to enter to win a retro gift box. If you head to Nutstalgia.com you can register for a chance to win some retro goodies. What the goodies are is a surprise as far as we can tell, but the official rules state the approximate retail value of the contents inside to be worth about $200.00. Not too shabby for a free entry.
Listen to our interview with Reginald VelJohnson in its entirety on Heath Andrew‘s Critical Android YouTube channel at the link below.
Check out Reggie’s music video “A Nutty Holiday” for Planters below, too. Here’s hoping the Planters team can cook up something for Valentine’s Day with another Reggie music video!