How exactly did Terry Crews go from being a linebacker in the NFL to being a successful actor? While professional athletes have had a long history of appearing in films — probably even earlier than when Babe Ruth appeared in 1920’s Heading Home — very few have managed to turn acting into a second full-time job. Crews, however, has become a TV star in shows like Everybody Hates Chris, Are We There Yet? and The Newsroom and in movies like The Expendables and its sequel.
Speaking with NBC New York, Crews talks about how he made the transition from gridiron to Hollywood.
Crews isn’t shy about talking about his Hollywood ambitions. He says, “I would’ve done anything to be in the entertainment industry. That’s the truth. I told my wife when I met her 24 or 25 years ago, I said, ‘We’re going to play in the NFL. Then we’re going to move to L.A. and make movies.’ This is something that I never get tired of – ever! So we moved after I retired. I was trying to write and get behind the scenes and the whole thing. I ended up doing security on movie sets. A friend of mine invited me to an audition – the first thing that I ever auditioned for – and I get it. It’s a TV show called Battle Dome, which is kind of like American Gladiators to the tenth power. We were putting people in the hospital – it was crazy!”
The transition from reality television to movies ended up going full circle for Crews, as he currently stars in the reality show Stars Earn Stripes. He explains, “Then the first movie that I get was a movie called The 6th Day with Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. I play the goon and the whole thing. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew, ‘I am in! Whatever I need to learn, I’m going to learn. Whatever I need to be, because I just never wanted to leave the industry and it kept going. I think with me not being from Julliard and that kind of classically trained actor, I had no expectations. There was nothing to lose, so I could try everything. There was nobody to judge me because, like, I ain’t supposed to be here anyway. So the fact that I’m ending up doing Stars Earn Stripes, people are like, ‘Why are you doing a reality show?’ I started out in reality. I did Battle Dome – that was my first thing. I did Family Crews – I put my family on BET for a couple of years. Now I’m in The Newsroom with Aaron Sorkin. I went for it and he was like, ‘I love you, you’re in.’ I’m going to his house to watch the new episode on Sunday – this is crazy! Then to be in The Expendables – Dude, I realize there are just no rules. I did push myself. My thing is just go for it, but do your best. Always do your best and see what happens.”
Many of Crews’ roles have been comedic, like his starring role on Everybody Hates Chris. Crews says he fell into comedy by not being afraid of how he looked. He says, “My thing was that I learned to just go for it. Don’t be concerned with how you look. Don’t be concerned with trying to be cool. I was already married, and so I wasn’t trying to get girls or be sexy and this kind of thing. I could afford to make fun of myself. People got it. It’s very rare air that I’m in right now. You look at Dwayne Johnson, guys like that who can do comedy and action at the same time, and I love, love comedy. That’s not going anywhere for me. I just finished a movie called Aztec Warrior with Luis Guzman, a very funny take on the Lucha Libre movement in Latin America. I will always go all over. The great thing about Expendables 2 is that it has a lot of comedy in it. It’s very funny, I think it’s a fun time for everyone.”