At first glance, Terry Crews may look massive and intimidating, but he’s really the guy who smiles warmly, says hello or cracks a joke or two. Casting directors get it. Over the course of his acting career he has often been stereotyped as the bully⎯but more like the goofy bully you can’t help but love.
Crews is enjoying a busy actor’s working holiday; he’s doing tough guy double duty in two films during the month of August; starring in the action-packed, number one movie in the country The Expendables, and the urban comedy Lottery Ticket in theaters now. And of course you can catch him weekly in the new TBS comedy, Are We There Yet? (check your local listings). Crews talked to VIBE about the correlation between starring in two polar opposite films, his thoughts on being typecast and battling Isaiah Mustafah, that ‘other’ Old Spice Guy. ⎯Starrene Rhett
VIBE: Word on the street is that Lottery Ticket is a new hood classic, like Friday.
Terry Crews: I got my whole career going in urban comedy and [I hope] it’s [one of the places] where my career stays. One good thing about these movies, even if it’s a typical role⎯you get to enjoy [a career] longevity because people watch them year after year. People still come up to me about Friday After Next all the time. All these movies⎯Who’s Your Caddy and Soul Plane⎯they’re [modern urban comedy] classics. Lottery Ticket has the vibe of Barbershop. It’s just one of those movies that people can watch over and over again.
Was there a lot improvisation with the dialogue? What was your inspiration for playing Jimmy The Driver?
Oh yeah, totally. Originally in the script, [my character] Jimmy the Driver was just driving around town. But we decided to expand upon this experience that really happened to me when I was at a Super Bowl in Detroit. I met a guy that was working at a Super Bowl party and he quit in the middle of the party and just got a drink right there. And I was like, ‘Hey man, ain’t you supposed to be working?’ And this guy took his little work vest off and said, ‘Man, this party too good!'” [laughs]. I said, ‘Oh my God that’s Jimmy the Driver.’ I told [Lottery Ticket director] Erik White that story. In the movie, Jimmy was there to do a job —to watch these guys— then all of a sudden he becomes a part of the posse. And that’s what makes it so fun. It’s [taken from] stuff from real life and then we ad libed. A lot of the character was just made up on the fly and we just kept going and adding stuff.
It’s fun watching you play these types of roles. But in a way, do you ever feel like you’re typecast?
Yeah, but let me tell you, typecasting is good. Typecasting keeps you working [laughs]. Bill Cosby was typecast, but he’s in his ’70s and he’s still paid. Typecast me as an action star, as a comedian, as a big funny dude⎯I have no problem with that. Now I’m in a place all by myself. [Casting] people are asking for a ‘Terry Crews type’ and it’s an honorable place to be. It starts off with doing things that everybody expects and then it goes to surprising people with what you do. Arnold Schwarzenegger did it. He was the big muscular dude but then people saw that he was funny [and could be the] Kindergarden Cop. He was typecast: as the cop, the tough guy, but not only is he the cop, he’s also the ‘kindegarten cop.’ So it’s about twisting all of these things that people expect and giving them way more in the end.
What would be your ideal role to play?
After being in The Expendables, one of the best action movies of all time, and then completing The Lottery Ticket that could be one of the funniest movies of all time, I see myself doing a great action comedy—I haven’t done that yet. [So far] I’ve either been in either the all-comedy world or all-action one but I’m ready to blend [the genres.] I’m just waiting for the right project.
Describe was it like working with Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables?
It was awesome. Stallone co-wrote The Expendables, directed it and starred in it. I don’t know what else to compare it to other than being a musician and getting [a chance] to work with Quincy Jones. This is one of the guys that invented the genre, [without him] there would be no action [films] as we know it. Stallone is also the face that launched a billion workouts. So to be an action movie [with him], which is something he does best⎯and the fact that he picked me [to co-star in it]? Plus it’s not just him, it’s Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke? I can keep going [with the all-star cast.] It’s a dream come true. I literally had to pinch myself the whole the time. And my thing was to make sure I wasn’t the weak guy. I had to make sure I was ready.
What was training like?
It was hardcore. You wanted to make sure you were better in shape than the other guys. It was a healthy rivalry though. It wasn’t like people were trying to smack each other [down.] It was more like you and your sister you dress up and one wants to look prettier. Or you and your brother are wrestling on the ground and one of you is gonna try pin the other down first. I was just at an Expendables premiere in Vegas and it was like no matter what this movie does, we changed the world a little bit because we [all] got together. This is something you may never see in your life again. And this is a weird segue, but I have to take it back to Lottery Ticket, because I view it as a funny, urban Expendables.
Yeah, because you got all these stars, you got Bow Wow, Naturi Naughton, Brandon Jackson, Ice Cube, Charlie Murphy, Mike Epps⎯these are our guys and this is our all-star cast and there hasn’t been a big [urban] movie like this in a really long time. So it has the same feel as The Expendables to me in a lot of ways and I’m excited to be a part of both of these movies.
Speaking of competition, who would win in an Old Spice Battle between you and Isaiah Mustafah?
[Laughs] Isaiah would outwit me, he’s smarter than me. I’d come out screaming and hollering and Isaiah would say, “Look right there,” then hit me with a pipe. I’ve gotta give it [up] to Isaiah, because the ladies like him. You can’t touch Isaiah because the ladies love him.