I love entertaining people and making them happy
Terry Crews, star of the Golden Globe-winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine and host of America’s Got Talent: The Champions, most known as a beloved film and television star, says that entertaining people and making them happy brings him greatest pleasure.
You took a circuitous route to become a star, didn’t you?
Crews: Yes, rather. I’ve had more experiences than people are allowed. I feel like I’ve lived 17 lives.
Oh that’s very interesting.
Crews: Well, two of those lives began right out of high school. Upon graduating, I attended a six week program at Interlochen Arts Academy, attended Western Michigan University with an Art Excellence Scholarship, and walked onto the football team to earn a full-ride athletic scholarship. I had to go through the whole Rudy thing. I was a big ‘ol Rudy. (Smiles)
After earning All-Conference honors and winning the 1988 Mid-American Conference Championship, you were drafted to the Los Angeles Rams in 1991?
Crews: That’s it. But my NFL career was tumultuous. I was frequently cut, and spent three seasons in the NFL over seven years. My NFL career was not glamorous at all. It was kind of like being a roadie in a band that was kinda never going anywhere. (Laughs)
You were married and the father of two children at that time?
Crews: Yes, so I needed money. And I decided to turn to my first love: art. While living out of suitcases, I offered to make portraits of my teammates for extra cash. You gotta understand, athletes are very egotistical. So I was like, ‘Dude, let me paint you over the city.’ And they loved it.
Why did you relocate with your family to Los Angeles?
Crews: You see, when my NFL career ended, I wanted to be closer to the entertainment industry. If you’re broke, be broke near what you want to do. Because you can be broke anywhere!
What did you do in Los Angeles?
Crews: Before delving into acting, I found steady work as a security guard on Hollywood movie sets, an experience I still cherish. I remember telling my wife, ‘This is a wonderful job, because I get to be around it. I was happy. And if my career would’ve ended there, I still would’ve been happy.
Luckily for you, your career was just beginning, wasn’t it?
Crews: Yes, it happened so. My enthusiasm attracted the attention of actors, directors, of casting directors alike. When you’re that happy, you don’t stay where you are. A friend offered me the opportunity to attend his first audition ever — a role on televised game show Battle Dome — and I got the job. Parts in blockbusters Training Day and Friday After Next.
Unquestionably, your hulking physique opened doors to action films like The Expendables series and Deadpool 2. But didn’t it make you an unlikely choice for comedic roles?
Crews: It was an unexpected turn of fate, really. It’s a foregone conclusion: If you get in shape, you will never be funny again. But it was 2003’s Malibu’s Most Wanted that shifted my career towards comedy. I remember I had one big line and I ad-libbed it, and they were like, ‘Wait a minute.’ Star Damien Wayans later recommended me for White Chicks. He allowed me the chance to break the stereotype that strong men can’t be funny. I can keep the muscle and I can keep the laughs!
You’re talented in many spheres. But which of your talents do you like best?
Crews: I love all. But I remember, in my childhood we would watch the Carol Burnett Show and reenact all the skits. That’s all I wanted to do. I remember never being more satisfied than entertaining and making people happy. So I think I love making people happy best of all.