Interview Date: 01/14/2010
Run Date: 02/18/2010
Terry Crews may have started his career in the NFL, but anyone who’s seen his work on television (he played Chris’s dad, Julius, on “Everybody Hates Chris”) or in films (“Get Smart,” “Balls of Fury,” “Gamer,” “Street Kings,” “Idiocracy,” “The Longest Yard”), there’s no question that he successfully made the career transition to acting long ago. Now, however, he’s on to a new challenge: reality television. His new BET series, “The Family Crews,” shows what life’s like amongst the Crews family, which consists of Terry, his wife Rebecca, and their kids Naomi, Azriel, Terra, Wynfrey, and Isaiah. Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Crews after the panel for the show during the TCA Tour, and we asked him about the experience of working in reality TV, as well as the end of “Everybody Hates Chris,” the beginning of his new show (“Are We There Yet?”), and what we can expect from him in the highly anticipated action flick “The Expendables,” where he appears alongside Sylvester Stallone and a host of other stars. Before we started talking, however, Crews waited for his wife to depart with their kids.
Bullz-Eye: Your family could’ve stayed. I’ve got a 4-year-old, so I’m used to trying to talk over kids.
Terry Crews: (Laughs) Nah, it’s all right.
BE: Well, I know you went through some of this stuff in the panel today, but…how did this show come about? Did they pitch it to you?
TC: Yes! BET came to us. I literally got a call when I was driving on the 405, and I was…I mean, it was something I’d never thought about doing, so I was, like, “Reality? Why?” And one big thing is that reality is usually the last bastion of the guys that are trying to hold on to things, but my career is really going up. But I said, “You know, this is a real unique opportunity.” There’s nothing else like it, with us being married 20 years, and that’s why they came to us, just to say how rare we are. It’s funny: it’s BET, but there’s white people who don’t have marriages that last near this long. (Laughs) So they were, like, “You guys are an anomaly all the way!” And I said, “You know, people really need to see how good my wife is, and what a great job she’s done.” And it’s still going! Most of it, though, was to really demystify what celebrity is, just to let people know that, hey, we really are a normal family. It’s not like we get flown in a helicopter over to every job…although there may be a helicopter involved sometimes! (Laughs) But, I mean, I get my lunch pail and I go to work. That’s the deal. And I thank BET for really being faithful to what we wanted, what we requested, because we were very, very strict about what we wanted our kids to experience. They were coming into our house, which, believe you me, we put them through the wringer and let them know that this is what we were gonna accept and this is what we were not gonna have. And they were really accommodating, and it just got better and better and better.
BE: It sounded from what the kids were saying like it went from being a little obtrusive when they first got there to missing them when they were gone.
TC: Totally. That’s exactly what happened. They were, like, “Where are the cameras, Dad? Where are the guys? Where are the craft services?” (Laughs) But they really enjoyed themselves, and we got closer as a family, ‘cause for us, this is a family business. Back in the day, people would have a general store and you’d put your whole family to work. One guy’s in charge of produce, another guy’s in charge of meat, and you work together, and that’s how you become a close family. Well, in entertainment, this is what I do. And I said, “You know what? What a great way, to do the same thing and put those same things together, but in entertainment.” It’s a different day, man. Reality TV is the future. It’s not going anywhere. Some people say, “Oh, whatever,” but it’s not going anywhere. There are more channels being created every day, and I think in the next 20 years, everybody’s gonna have their own private channel. I mean, Facebook is already a version of that! Look at Ashton Kutcher and people who’ve been forthwith and transparent during these times, and you can see that it can be successful. I’ve seen where it failed… (Laughs) …but there are many, many examples where this really turned out good for a lot of people.
BE: I thought it was funny when, during the panel, you admitted that you were actually kind of glad that you found out about your daughter being pregnant when you were on camera.
TC: (Bursts out laughing) I swear to you, that’s the truest thing I’ve ever said in my life, ‘cause you go… (Starts gritting his teeth and darting his eyes) “Oh, my God, the camera’s here and I can’t go off, but…” (Laughs) But it’s a mirror. It really makes you look at how to behave, because when you see yourself, it’s funny. You play a tape back of yourself, and you go, “Oh, wow, I really did not come off good when I did that.” You know? And it makes you realize that, okay, maybe I need to act a little bit differently. And I knew I needed to be a little bit closer to my family, and I learned how to talk to them a little more, because I could see what they’re seeing. I mean, that’s a unique opportunity that this thing gives you.
BE: I don’t know if you had something set up in the contract or not to avoid this, but were there any cases where something happened and you didn’t like the way it looked and didn’t want it to appear?
TC: (Considers the question) Well, we had a little bit of that, where it was like…well, y’see, my thing was, I’m part of the media, so I knew going in that you have to be transparent all the way. You have to be willing to put yourself on camera. You have to be willing to not look perfect. And I also knew that we didn’t have any idiots in the house… (Laughs) …so that was a big thing. I asked myself, “Am I an idiot? Maybe I shouldn’t be on camera!” But that was thing. It was, like, there was not one time where we were, like, “Don’t show that!” It just wasn’t that way. I’m not hiding anything. One thing, to be sure, is that, in this day and era, if you are phony, it’s gonna be shown very, very quickly. Just ask Tiger Woods. (Laughs) I’m just telling you: people are gonna come out of the woodwork and go, “Oh, that guy…? Oh, no, no, no, that’s a lie.” But I did an inventory, and I said, “We can put ourselves up there,” because I know who were are. What you see is what you get.
BE: I wanted to ask you about a couple of other things you’ve got going on, first and foremost “The Expendables.” I love your character’s name: Hale Caesar.
TC: “The Expandables”! Yes! Dude, it’s gonna be awesome. And I’m also filming a new show right now…actually, I flew home from Connecticut…we’re shooting a show for TBS called “Are We There Yet?” It’s a brand new sitcom with Ice Cube, Joe Roth, and Essence Atkins playing my wife. We actually started this week. I have to go back tonight to do that. I have another movie called “The Lottery Ticket” that I did with Charlie Murphy, Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson. We did that in Atlanta, and that’s coming out next year. It’s just a lot, along with this show. It’s very good. I’m trying to keep it going, ‘cause in this economy, you’d better be able to get on a plane and take the jobs as they come. If you get an offer, take it.
BE: You worked with Ice Cube as far back as “Friday After Next.” Was that were you first met him?
TC: That’s right. Yep.
BE: So you guys maintained a friendship all along?
TC: All the way. He’s been literally…I mean, he’s been responsible for a lot of good things that’ve happened in my life. And we’re changing the game on this TV model. The TBS model that they’ve put together is kind of built on the Tyler Perry model, where we’re gonna do 100 episodes. That’s the plan. It’s the future of sitcoms, especially because the networks aren’t doing them anymore. I mean, they’re pretty rare. “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” are doing well, but beyond that, it’s almost gone the way of the dinosaur. But, I mean, we had Ron Howard come by the set earlier this week. We’re looking at whether or not this’ll work. It’s good to feel like we’re on the cutting edge of TV.
BE: I thought it was a shame that “Everybody Hates Chris” didn’t go at least another year longer.
TC: Yeah, but it was a great run. Let me tell you, “Everybody Hates Chris” had a set life, because there was a beginning, middle, and end to that series…thank God! But it couldn’t go on like “Archie Bunker’s Place” or something like that, because as soon as he became 18, it was kind of over.
BE: Especially since it was based on Chris’s life.
TC: Yeah, see, that’s the thing. It was based on Chris. So we all knew…I mean, this was like a movie. For me, it always felt like a film, where there was a beginning, middle, and end, and I thought it was perfect. It stopped exactly where it was supposed to stop, because he actually did drop out of high school, and right there was where it ended. You can play it over and over forever. It’s like a time capsule.
BE: How did you end up in “Terminator: Salvation”?
TC: You know, I got a call, and…I did a great, great cameo with those guys, but what happened was that the powers that be decided to make the first PG-13 “Terminator,” and my character…well, he was a rated-R character. (Laughs) So I ended up a dead body! But that’s the way it is. That’s the business. But I never thought they would make a “Terminator” that was PG-13. I was just, like, “Are you trying to make toys? Are you trying to sell this to kids? ‘Cause I don’t know if you saw the last few “Terminator” movies, but it ain’t kid stuff!” (Laughs) This business…I’m still figuring it out. I mean, I’m still trying to figure out what happened to “The Tonight Show”!
BE: So are we all, I think.
TC: It just makes you wonder, “Who’s running this thing?” (Laughs)
BE: What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
BE: Yes, I was already planning to ask you about playing President Camacho.
TC: (Laughs) That’s it! Yeah, but “Idiocracy” is getting love now. And I turn around, and the industry loves it. Some of the biggest people that I love and respect have come up to me and been, like, “Dude, President Camacho is my favorite character.” And, I mean, some big names have told me that. I love Mike Judge, and just the way he’s forced to live his life…they diss his movies, and then they come back later! All of his movies end up being raised from the dead! (Laughs)
BE: So were you at all hesitant about stepping back into TV, given that your film career seems to be taking off?
TC: Oh, no, I always keep a foot in movies and a foot in TV, ‘cause…it’s not what it used to be. It used to be that you’d be stuck on TV. But I came into movies first, and then I went back. You can go back and forth now. As long as the entertainment is good, that’s my big issue. So I have no problem with it. I love working, and I love this business. I love what I do, and I don’t think I’m the guy who can do, like, a movie a year and that’s it. I don’t know what I’d do! I’ve already put stuff independently on the internet ‘cause I’m bored! I just want to keep going!
BE: I know you can’t speak to much about “The Expendables,” but I talked to Dolph Lundgren, and I’ll ask you the same question I asked: can you at least tell me who you get to work with in your scenes?
TC: I was privileged and honored to work side by side with Sly (Stallone). Most of my scenes take place with him, and I’m telling you, man, he took me under his wing, and it was a brilliant thing to be able to be under one of the Trinity. There’s a trinity of action stars: Sly, Arnold, and Bruce. And to say that I know all of them is…it’s just a really unique place to be. What can I say? They invented what the movie-going experience is right now. I don’t know what else to say. “Rocky,” “Rambo,” just everything he’s done is iconic, and it wasn’t lost on me. I love the man, and…I’ll just tell you this: I don’t die. I’ll give that away for you. And I can’t wait to do another one, ‘cause Sly’s the king of the sequels…and in my whole career, I’ve never done a sequel to any one of my projects. So I’m, like, “Sly, I’m ready for ‘Expendables 2,’ okay?” (Laughs)
BE: Did you get to be around when they had the big scene with the Trinity?
TC: No, I wasn’t, actually. That was a scheduling nightmare, though, from what I understand. I mean, Arnold’s still the governor and all, so…I mean, Sly told me it was going down, and I was just praying it would go down. You know, I did a movie with Arnold (“The 6th Day”). In fact, it was my first movie ever. He’s a good friend, and…I’m blessed. I’m just blessed.
BE: When you were playing football, would you ever imagine that you’d be doing this for a living?TC: Hey, look, man, even the people I played football with can’t believe it. (Laughs) All the guys I played with are, like, “Dude, how did you sneak this? How’d you do it?” And I’m, like, “I don’t know, but don’t tell anybody!” (Laughs) I’m still that way. I’m one of the few guys to make this transition…and it’s all about the transition. You can’t do sports for the rest of your life, I don’t care how good you are. You can be the best ever, but it’s still going to go away. But now that I’m doing what I’m doing…? I’m just thankful that I feel like my best days are still ahead of me.