With his big smile and dancing pecs, Terry Crews is one of television’s most likable actors. The former NFL football player is everywhere lately, and it’s a good thing. You can catch him in the latest Kendrick Lamar video, on the FOX comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine and starting this Friday (9 PM on FOX) he returns as the host for the second season of World’s Funniest.
Paste recently had a chance to talk to Crews about his busy career, new changes to World’s Funniest and how he learned to be so open about his life.
Paste Magazine: Why the name change from World’s Funniest Fails to World’s Funniest?
Terry Crews: There were a lot of videos on the Internet that were hilarious, but didn’t necessarily constitute as a fail and it was a little more restricting than we ever thought. A grand decision was made to get rid of the whole fail concept and open it all the way up. It’s 100 times better, because now we just include everything that’s out there that’s hilarious. There’s no rules and it’s really more about me in a lot of ways. We have a trophy, which is called the Golden Terry. It is my image in gold—all muscular and shiny—and it goes to the winner. We have different comedians that come through [as judges]—Wayne Brady, Margaret Cho, Sherri Shepherd, just tons of good people. But the thing is their votes really don’t matter, because I am king and I say what is the world’s funniest video this week.
Another thing is we clean up the Internet for everybody. My daughter is 17 and she shows me the latest funniest thing, but you can’t kind of watch things on a computer with the whole family because there’s always things that pop up that are a little inappropriate, or weird or whatever. This is a show that everyone watch and not think, “Oh man, I wish I could have unseen that with my family.”
Paste: I need to hear more about the Golden Terry.
Crews: It’s my torso, and my hands and fists on my hips, and it’s all about the smile and the muscle. I tried to bring one home and my wife was like, “You are not putting that thing in the house”’ It’s based on photos on me and they had a sculptor come and do the details. I was like, “Dude this is crazy. I can’t believe it.” It was really, really awesome.
Paste: You are consistently one of the most positive people I get to interview, and it strikes me that taking the word “failure” out of the show’s title might be more in keeping with your personality.
Crews: The fail concept is true in a lot of ways though, because to me to be successful, you have to embrace failure. You have to fall on your face and be able to get up without thinking it’s the end of the world. I used that to make a positive point.
Paste: Moving on to your other TV show, what is on the horizon for Terry on Brooklyn Nine-Nine? I assume your wife will have the baby soon?
Crews: We actually filmed the episode where the baby comes and it was hilarious. I won’t even give you any spoilers. It’s just an amazing episode. The writers do such a good job of developing the characters. In every episode the whole world of Brooklyn Nine-Nine changes. There’s always something that changes the world forever. Once you start developing it, you can’t go back from it. You can’t go back from having another baby. Now Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy (Melissa Fumero) are an item. We just keep moving on, kind of like life. The writers do such a good job, because the characters feel like people that you know. I can’t tell you how happy I am by the good response that Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets all over the world.
Paste: How much is Terry Crews like Terry Jeffords?
Crews: It’s me. They named the character Terry because it is me. They take things from my real life and they put it right into the episodes. I’ll tell them stories and three episodes later, it’s in the episode. It’s really cool. I can’t say I’ve ever had anyone write specifically to me. The great thing is they tailor it to who we are.
Paste: The big thing the show did this season is put Jake and Amy together. Can you give any hints about what might coming up for those two?
Crews: It’s like a real relationship. The thing about Jake is that he’s still immature and Amy is one of the best detectives out there. It’s kind of a cool way of opening up real relationships, because guys—we don’t mature. I swear I was 27 and I was still playing with my Star Wars toys. I see that a lot with the Jake and Amy’s characters. I think the way that the writers are dealing with it is perfect. In that it’s not a big conflict, but it is something that everyone has to adjust to—Jake’s immaturity.
Paste: In a recent episode, Terry was stress eating and gained quite a bit of weight. How long did it take to alter your appearance?
Crews: It was five hours of make up. It was no joke.
Paste: The episode was funny, but also a really poignant take on how much Terry was stressing about having another baby.
Crews: I remember being depressed after I quit playing football. I gained 20 pounds, and it was something that you really have to get a hold of because you eat emotionally. I had to discover why I was eating, so it’s just something that I already deal with. I have people in my life who deal with this stuff all the time. It’s really deep man, and I think the higher, the stakes the funnier the comedy. People always feel things need to be light in order for things to be funny, but I think just the opposite—to handle really big subjects but in a comedic way makes things funny.
Paste: And it’s not often we see a male character, who looks like you look, being insecure on TV.
Crews: I spent so much time being insecure, because you don’t want people to find out who you are and what’s going on. You want everyone to think you’re cool, and everyone to think you’ve got it all together. You want everyone to think you know everything. The thing that changed my life forever is when I discovered that when you tell the truth and you just open up and be yourself it releases that—you let it go, and then you realize you’re okay and then all these other people who come up to you and say, “Man that really helped me.” I decided I was going to be that guy and just open up. Not in a reality show-type way, where it’s all about my drama, I just want to help people. There were so many things I didn’t know that I wish someone had told me. So my goal is to save people a lot of pain. What I do may not apply to you, but if something I say does, then there it is. I think everyone’s story helps another person. You have to realize the enemy is not people, the enemy is your own insecurity. You have to really combat that with knowing that nothing in the world can ever diminish your worth as a human being, and then everything is okay. A good day is just a good day, a bad day is just a bad day.
Paste: It seem like you’ve always been so open about your life.
Crews: I learned to live my life this way, and it took a long time. Very, very incremental steps that got me to this place. I’m 47-years-old. Let me tell you, the 21-year-old Terry Crews was a different person. Very arrogant, very cold, very mean. It was a farce. It was not real. There’s a fork in a road for a lot of people, and I’m so happy I decided to take the road I’m taking, because I could have easily ended up like other mean guys—big dude, hard core. And I just said, “You know I want to go another way.”
Paste: What else is coming up for you?
Crews: The Ridiculous 6 is coming out on Netflix [December 11]. It’s a huge, huge epic. I play Adam Sandler’s brother. Nick Nolte is our dad, and we basically find out he fathered six of us. Taylor Lautner, Jorge Garcia, Luke Wilson, Rob Schneider and Adam—we’re the Ridiculous 6. We’re going to find our father and save him.
Paste: How is it balancing Brooklyn Nine-Nine, World’s Funniest, your movie career and all your other projects?
Crews: The schedule is always challenging, but I’ve never been scared of hard work. I like getting up and having places to go, and things to do. I don’t need a lot of vacation. I’m really at rest when I working. Being on the set of Brooklyn Nine-Nine feels like a vacation. If you think like an artist, they almost have to tell you to stop painting. When you think like an employee, you can’t wait to get out of work. I always think like an artist.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.