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The Actor: Former professional football player Terry Crews has carved out a lucrative niche as a muscular tough-guy character actor who’s also a hilarious, uninhibited physical comedian. After his NFL career ended, Crews combined sports and acting by appearing in the American Gladiators knockoff Battle Dome as super-thug “T-Money.” Crews continued to work steadily in television and film in hits like White Chicks, The Longest Yard, and Starsky And Hutch before landing the plum role of Chris Rock’s penny-pinching father on the acclaimed sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. In 2006 Crews stole Mike Judge’s Idiocracy as President Camacho, a porn star and five-time Ultimate Smackdown champion. The ubiquitous actor can currently be seen in a series of surreal Old Spice commercials directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, in the lead role of the television adaptation of the Ice Cube hit Are We There Yet?, and in his own reality show The Family Crews. Crews recently made headlines when he replaced 50 Cent in the star-studded cast of Sylvester Stallone’s eagerly anticipated action epic The Expendables.
Are We There Yet? (2010-Present)–“Nick Parsons”
Terry Crews: Basically I did it for the money. [Laughs.] You can put that down, in quotes. The money’s really good on this. It’s funny because it’s a family show, a family movie, and I was really afraid of taking over somebody’s character—you know with Ice Cube and the whole thing—because you don’t want to mess it up for anybody. Ice Cube, Terry Crews, we don’t even look alike. [Laughs.] But when I got the call from Cube, he was like, “Man, coming off Everybody Hates Chris I think you’d be the perfect guy to handle this, TV-wise.” And I was like, “Great, so how’s the money?” [Laughs.] And he was like, “We’re going to hook you up.”
All of a sudden the scripts got better, everything got lovelier, and the sun shined a little brighter. So, we got this whole thing going, and it took a long time to happen because they’re doing it Tyler Perry style, where you basically are aiming to do a hundred episodes. There’s no cancellations. It’s all good. TBS bought the first 10, now we’ve got to see where we’re going to get the whole 90 out of, based on how it does. I couldn’t turn it down, I just thought it’s really great, and the money is good, again. [Laughs.] That’s pretty much how that worked out. It’s a great show. I have five kids so the big thing is: It’s either Disney Channel or Two And A Half Men, Big Bang Theory, sitcoms where it’s all adult. I think this fits right in the middle. It’s not too adult for the kids, and it’s not too kiddie for the adults. It fits right in that underserved market, so I can sit and watch it with everybody.
The Family Crews (2010-Present)–“Himself”
TC: It’s funny. BET came to me because my wife and I, we’ve been married almost 21 years now. They knew we had five kids, the whole deal, and I kept meeting different executives at different events. I get a call out of the blue from Robi Reed, she’s this casting director that did all of Spike [Lee]’s movies and now she works for BET. And she said, “Would you be interested in doing a reality show?” And I was like, “Wow! Let me talk to my wife.” And she was like, “Hell no.” I said, “This is the future. Reality isn’t going anywhere.” People think, “Oh well in one minute this fad is gonna be over.” But notice the fad is like the Internet. For a minute, rotary dials are always gonna be in style, but eventually they’re gonna go away. I knew that I’d rather be the first guy that jumps in, that’s doing things on my level, than the last guy that jumps in. I just threw it out there and I was really, really scared, I ain’t gonna lie, because these are your kids. You don’t want to be like, “I really hate that little boy.” [Laughs.] So I was so nervous about it and I really was hoping it would be very quiet and just disappear, but it turned out to be a great, great deal. I thought people would be bored. The stuff we did was like my son’s first day of school, the day my daughter announced she was pregnant. Nothing like the Kardashians where it’s just party and craziness, or the [Real] Housewives Of Orange County and all that kind of stuff. It really hit off with a lot of people.
AVC: You don’t mind the invasion of privacy?
TC: I don’t, because I am the same guy. I think if I had a Tiger Woods lifestyle, I might have a problem with cameras. I knew that something wasn’t gonna come out of the woodwork. That’s really the issue: Can you put yourself out there and still be the same guy? I am what I am. Finally, after convincing my wife, and paying her very well… [Laughs.] It’s all about the money! My son wants to renegotiate for season two. He’s 4-years-old and he’s like, “Dad, it’s not working out.” With that kind of thing happening, we just see how it can provide other opportunities, too. I got to executive produce this and I’ve been producing other reality shows that hopefully will be out next year, and I want to make that move into the producing thing. I figure if I’m gonna ask somebody else to put their life on camera, I’ve gotta do it myself.
AVC: Because you have a reality show does it feel like you’re always on?
TC: No, it’s weird, because it was done a while ago, so things change. It’s that moment in time. After a while, when the cameras are on, you forget. You have to. You can’t be fake all the time. [Laughs.] I promise you, I’m fake sometimes, but other times I’m like, dude sit down. When your wife tells you to shut up you’re like, “Hey, don’t talk to me that way,” and all of the sudden the cameras are on. So I purposefully stepped back. I let some other executive producers do the editing and mess with all that stuff, because you can try to make yourself look too good. I wanted it to be real, too.
Old Spice Deodorant Commercials (2010-present)
TC: Tim and Eric, the guys that have their Adult Swim show, they do their thing. What was weird was I was actually doing Are We There Yet? in Connecticut and got the call to do these while I was still doing the show. They had already bought ad time and all that stuff, and they were thinking, “Maybe we’ll have to get another guy.” They had a design, but Wieden+Kennedy, the advertising agency—I did a Foot Locker campaign with them a while back and they were like, “He would be the perfect guy.” It didn’t look like it was gonna happen, but they decided to wait until I was done. They waited 2-3 weeks and pushed all their ad buys back until the Final Four and I was just so happy. As soon as we wrapped, I flew from Connecticut to L.A. and spent two days with those guys. It was so funny, they would send a P.A. in and he’s like, “They would like to know if you would kick over a building?” And I was like “Yeah, I’d love to do that!” and they were like, “Oh my God he said yes!” The funny story about that, there was only a couple commercials, but we actually did more while we were on the set because I think they were shocked that I would actually do it. [Laughs.] They were like, “He’s really game!” You could see them elbowing each other like, “He’s really doing it. He’s gonna say it.” “Double sun power” was one of those last-minute commercials. We just kept going. The vibe—we connected. I could do a movie with those dudes. I really see something else in the future with us. I really do.
AVC: It’s crazy to think that some crazy, spur-of-the-moment idea they have would become a commercial that people all around the world see.
TC: The guy in my armpit, “It smells good in here!” Dude, that’s my humor. I’m actually a perpetual 13-year-old. I’ve never advanced beyond 13. Every day, tomorrow is my 14th birthday. That’s my kind of humor.
Battle Dome (1999- 2001)—“T-Money”
TC: I was doing security for Ice Cube, back in the day. I was doing security for him at the time on a movie called Next Friday. I get the call. I’m on my day off, and a friend of mine invites me to this audition down in Venice Beach, and what they were actually looking for were contestants. My friend’s like, “Dude you gotta go. You’re in shape. Go on down there.” And I talked to my wife and said, “People have been telling me I should try this acting thing.” She said, “Just go, you never know.” I went down there and smoked it. I knew I did well. It was all physical stuff. Then they wanted to see if you had character. I went to a costume shop and got the craziest outfit I could think of. I had straps and spandex, and then I had my face painted like Darth Maul. I went in to so many studios, people were laughing. I like that attention, so I sat there and everybody was like “That dude is willing to go so far, we’re hiring him.” That was the first thing I ever auditioned for, and I got it.
AVC: What was your favorite event on Battle Dome?
TC: Take Down was my thing, where these guys would try to punch a light and I would just wait until they got their arm up and it would reach that nice vulnerable spot and, pow, hit them right in the cushy part. It was kind of unfair. We really were extremely brutal with a lot of those guys. I had a roller cage of fire, that was my event, and I remember my foot caught on fire one time. I’ve been sued twice off of that show, for some things that happened off screen. [Laughs.] It was funny. I was on my way to church with my family and was actually served. The guy lost, because you really sign your rights away when you get on one of those shows.
AVC: Did you have a character that you played, or were you just a bigger version of yourself?
TC: I was T-Money, I was a gangster from Detroit. I created my own little thing. Gold chains. I had a posse. I had three triplets and a chubby guy who held the money. It was a mix of wrestling and a game show. It was the time when WWF was really huge, so we tried to do a syndicated show to capitalize on that. But I was the meanest guy in the dome, that was the deal. I remember saying stuff that they had to edit out. I took it too far. I knew this was my chance to really do something, but they were like, “You’re doing too much.” [Laughs.] We had a thing where we would hit people with these sticks and the guys says, “T-Money, what are your thoughts?” And I would say, “I’m gonna take this stick, and I’m gonna stick it up they ass and I’m gonna make all-day suckers out of every last one of them!” Kids were out there saying, “Oh my god. I’m scared! Daddy I’m crying!” We did it at the sports arena, which was right in the hood, too, so they started getting gang members down there, “T-Money what’s up biyatch!” It just started getting corrupt. A guy actually got shot in the parking lot. It was mondo. People wanted blood. Before MMA, it was Battle Dome. Same stuff.
AVC: Did you think what you were doing there was acting?
TC: Oh totally. It was grand theater. It took me to a whole different level, because I’m not that guy, but I transformed into him, and I learned how to just throw myself into a character and get lost. Literally, I had to kind of come down after T-Money. You’re screaming and you want blood. [Laughs.] Let me tell you a little secret: It was really crazy. All the other warriors would meet contestants and all that stuff. I purposefully stayed hidden. I went into the locker rooms and stayed away from everybody else. They were like, “Where’s T-Money?” And I would have the posse go out and say, “He’s not available. He doesn’t wanna talk to anybody.” It was so intimidating. It was so crazy. I would win the war before I even got in. By the time they finally saw me, when they finally met up with me, they were choked up, and scared. And I would come up and be like, “What’s up bitch? What’s up motherfucker?” and I would cuss at them. They were like, “Wait a minute, this is a TV show. He can’t cuss.” But I would do that, so they were like, “Wait a minute, this guy is for real. He’s really crazy.” And then afterwards I’d be like, “Hey, thanks for coming on the show.” I would freak them all out. I knew that’s how I was gonna survive, because it was all intimidation and I wouldn’t have to really go head-to-head. You give these guys any confidence and it’s over.
Idiocracy (2006)—“President Camacho”
TC: Yes. That’s the one that all intelligent people love. [Laughs.] I mean Conan O’Brien, it’s like his favorite movie. It got me so much because of the Mike Judge thing. What’s funny is that there were so many people auditioning for that. And I mean big, big names. I’ll never forget going in there. I met with Mary Vernieu, the casting agent, and it took me five different auditions but I just nailed each one. I was like I am Camacho. It got to the point where I was like, “Dude, if you find somebody better just give it to him.” I literally told them that. It was like T-Money but mondo-ized. He’s the president. I just got to do whatever I wanted, the preacher thing, and he’s just the most charismatic thing of all time. I actually talked to Mike, and I would love to do more, some sort of Chronicles Of Camacho, his rise to power. Camacho’s gotta come back. You’ve gotta find out where he came from, what was his story. There is a spin-off here. There’s some sort of movie that we could do. I think once I’m done with 90 more Are We There Yet? episodes I want to get right into a Camacho movie. I talked to Mike about it and he was down, so we’ll see what happens. Hopefully there’s an Internet campaign.
Inland Empire (2006)—“Street Person #3”
AVC: In that same year you were “Street Person #3” in Inland Empire. How did that happen?
TC: A friend of mine was a location manager, and he was like, “Dude, I’m down with David Lynch and he likes you and he’s got this role for you.” Now I am a fan of David Lynch from Elephant Man, one of the few times I’ve ever cried watching a movie. But you also see this whole crazy Blue Velvet guy. It was the strangest experience. We were in an alley in L.A. and he’s just like, “Yes, yes, that’s good, yes, right.” There’s no instructions, there’s no nothing. We had a bit of a line, but it was like, “Don’t bother with that.” [Laughs.] That was the David Lynch experience. I was in a David Lynch movie, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I still don’t know what I shot.
AVC: What was the character and what was the scene you were in?
TC: I don’t even remember. Seriously, I didn’t have a name. I was next to this lady that had a lot of physical defects, and she was just talking. And I was with this Japanese megastar named Nae, and I was her boyfriend, but I didn’t know the story. I was just in the moment. It was all in the moment. Play what’s there. Play what’s there right now. How do you feel? Play it. And that’s what we did. When it was over I was like, “Are we done?”
The Expendables (2010)—“Hale Caesar”
TC: First of all, bring your deodorant, bring your odor-blocker body wash, because there’s gonna be a lot of funky men in that theater. It’s the manliest movie of all time. I think Quentin Tarantino will have several orgasms just watching it. [Laughs.] Because it’s an homage. It’s the ultimate ’80s action flick with all the ultimate stars. The funny story about how I got this movie… Sometimes it’s good to be the third, fourth choice, because it eventually falls down to you. Forest Whitaker had the role first. He couldn’t do it because of scheduling conflicts. Then [Sylvester Stallone] gave the role to 50 Cent, and the Internet literally rebelled. Sly is very, very savvy about listening to what people want. That’s his thing: Give them what they want. He immediately reversed the whole 50 Cent thing, and then it came to me. Sly is one of the funniest guys you ever want to meet. He wants to be funny, but he says people won’t let him, because you know he’s Rambo, he’s Rocky. But he loved my performance in White Chicks. He was like, “I want you to bring what you bring to this role.” He rewrote the whole script, all my parts, specifically for me. He took me under his wing and it was a wonderful experience. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
AVC: Was there a lot of competition on set with all those tough-guy actors?
TC: Yes. All I’ve got to say is there was no “check the ego at the door”—the ego just busted in like, “Knock knock.” I had a lot of male fantasies, like, “What if Jet Li smacked that cup out of Randy Couture’s hand? What if Jason [Statham] just put Sly in a choke hold right now?” [Laughs.] These are some of the baddest-ass people on the planet. “Steve Austin, I wonder if I can take him— I see him limping, I can take him!” It was a whole lot of that, but then when Sly walked in it was like the granddaddy walked in. Boom! The forearms, the scar, it was like, “Bitch, sit down.” [Laughs.] You’re a bitch man next to him.
Sly broke his neck in the movie. Literally. Steve was wrestling with him, they were doing a scene, and he chipped a bone in his neck while he was choking him, and he just keeps going! Sly is old enough to be my father and he just went longer, harder, stronger. He has no quit in him, and I love it. This movie is for the fans. He’s the only man that could have brought all these people together. There’s no one else that could’ve. He wrote it, directed it, starred in it, and he just called everybody up. It was a labor of love. No matter what the movie is about, I think that true fans have to appreciate the effort. At the very minimum appreciate what this man tried to do for you, to just make a dream come true for a lot of people.
Stomp The Yard 2: Homecoming (2010)
TC: Now look, I’m not in that movie. This is so crazy. I showed up on the set. I’ve got a friend who’s on the set, and I showed up and said “hey” during the dance scene and they said, “We got Terry Crews here,” and I waved to the crowd. I don’t know what I’m doing in the movie, to be honest. All I did was wave and they put me in the flick. It the curse of celebrity, man. I’m not in the movie. Maybe I’m in it from when I went out there and waved. I didn’t get paid. [Laughs.] Give me my money!
Terminator Salvation (2009)—“Captain Jericho”
TC: I was a dead body in that movie. I don’t wanna get into the mean stuff. It’s just a weird deal, because I did a scene and it was understood that it was a great scene. I did my thing. I was a captain and I was yelling and screaming and cussing, but someone had the brilliant idea to make a Terminator movie PG-13. There’s never been a PG-13 Terminator movie. Since when are they trying to make this for kids? Because of my cut scene and my whole deal, I ended up a dead body at the beginning of the movie. It’s just the realities of the business. It’s part of the biz, but I was very disappointed. I was like, “Wait a minute, they’re trying to sell toys? Are the Jonas Brothers in this thing now?” All I know is that the Terminator that I love was hardcore R. When you talk about T2 and the first one, there were heads blowing up and knives going through mouths. What can I say? They really went to sell toys, and I thought, “Wow, are we in the toy business or the movie business?”
Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009)—“Julius Rock”
TC: That’s it, man. One of my favorites. Chris Rock, one of the funniest men alive. We did The Longest Yard together and he was like, “Terry, I’ve got something for you.” We were hanging out, it was the Super Bowl and we were promoting The Longest Yard. A script comes in the mail from my agent. I actually had an offer from another TV show to play some smart black guy. [Laughs.] You know, “Smart Black Guy Number 2.” Then this script comes through and the pilot is so genius, so funny, so fresh, set in the ’80s… I was like, “Holy cow, this is a time capsule. This is my father.” And literally, Julius is my father in every respect. I literally channeled my dad every time I did that role.
It just turns out that a lot of people—white, black, whatever—identified with that character. His cheapness. It was something you hadn’t seen in a long, long time on television. You know in sitcoms everybody’s got money. You open the fridge and there’s always food there. We would open the fridge and there’s like mayonnaise, and that was it. It just showed the reality of people trying to make it. Underlying all the comedy is, like, we could go broke any second. You had to feel that, that feeling that made it so surreal to a lot of people. It’s really a hit in syndication big time. Since people picked it up it’s like, “This is a really good show.” I don’t think The CW knew how to handle it. To be honest if we were on CBS, which was our parent network, I think we’d still be on the air. It’s that kind of show. It’d be like Walker, Texas Ranger. It just don’t go away.
Norbit (2007)—“Big Jack Latimore”
TC: I’ve got the greatest story about that. I’ve been the biggest fan of Eddie Murphy, he’s a legend. I had the privilege of going over to his house. We were gonna watch a fight. He’s a big boxing fan. When you go into Eddie’s house, it’s like… There’s Sugar Ray Leonard right there. There’s Arsenio Hall right there. He comes down the stairs. He sees me, and I’m going, uh-oh. He looks at me really funny, and I’m going, “Oh my god, did he know I was coming?” I thought I was gonna get kicked out. He walks over to me and says, “Man, you know, I’m writing this movie right now and I just want to know if you wanted to play a role in it.” I was like, “Man, I would be so honored.” He didn’t say another word to me the rest of the night. Boom, script for Norbit comes in, and “Big Black Jack” is right there. It was written for me by Charlie [Murphy] and Eddie. It was just amazing.