Terry Crews is one human being that fits the bill when you say "larger than life." If you didn’t grow up watching him in the NFL, you’ve definitely laughed your ass off to his performances in Friday After Next, White Chicks (let’s be honest, every time “A Thousand Miles” comes on you do your best Crews impression) or his epic Old Spice commercials.
Regardless of how you've come to know Crews, it's undeniable that in the past couple years he’s exploded in the digital world and become an internet legend/cult hero, a Reddit sensation, a PC gaming fanatic, and now he’s even got his very own playable character in the upcoming open world action-adventure-shooter Crackdown 3 - a match made in gaming heaven.
With such an extensive professional career, it boggles the mind to think it's just now that Crews may be reaching his biggest audience ever. For being born in the '60s, he's very much so on the pulse of digital media and internet culture as a whole.
We spoke with Crews about what it's like to be the source of meme gold and how he responds to all the attention. He even ponders whether or not his football-related concussions are the reason for "the craziness that is" him right now.
What are your thoughts on internet culture, and how do you feel about the way you’ve exploded on the internet and become such a phenomenon?
It's kind of crazy because I've always thought of myself as a verb, you know what I mean? It's weird, because even my wife and kids are sick of it. [Laughs] I wake up, I have mantras, I'm, like, Mr. Positive, and I kind of...I'm big in a lot of things I do. I'm either going 100 miles an hour or I'm just dead asleep at a stop. It's like I was made for the internet, it was weird.
It's like most of my performances have been broken down in 20-second bites; for movies, and TV, and commercials, so, it's kind of like I was made to be a meme, which is nuts. [Laughs] But what's so crazy is that a lot of people, a lot of actors, they kind of run from this because they feel like they don't have any control, but I've always wanted other people to determine what I did. I wanted to give the fans what they wanted.
I come from a sports background...My time in the NFL, you start to realize that you could actually, once the crowd gets behind you, that's when you get into the zone. That's when you find your best moments in sports, when you feel the audience. That's why there's a home-court advantage. And for me, it's kind of like when the internet started taking over, I was just giving it more. I wanted to give them more to celebrate.
And it's fun, man. It's one of the most hyped things I've ever been involved with, just to see these things, and what people make, and people make their own commercials, or make their own little memes, and different things that people demand. They want to see me in this, and they want to see me in that. I always, always listen to that, and I've always respected it. It's been wonderful.
A lot of adults, especially parents, will argue that the internet, technology, and online communities have made kids much less social, but it seems that you've experienced that you connect with far more people now than ever because of the internet.
Everything can be used as a negative or a positive. It's like, nuclear energy can be used to help, or it can be used to harm, just like any other medium, or any thing. It's kind of like, just because it was created in your era doesn't mean it was better back then. I remember when we didn't have TV. I'm glad I had a TV, I grew up with a TV, I like TV, you know what I mean?
To me, if television motivates you and inspires you it's a good thing. If television sedates you, now it's a problem. There's the same thing with the internet. There's things that I have even said, in my past, that the internet has harmed me in different ways, but then, at the same time there's been the internet that has inspired me and taken me to another level.
It's unfortunate not everyone shares a similar perspective.
First of all, it's really wild, because every generation has that. Whatever the young kids are into...the young kids are into rock and roll? Oh, my gosh, stop them. It's always been this way. It should never be like that. Let the future happen.
What are some of your favorite Terry Crews memes? Any that stand out to you?
Oh, man, there's plenty. All the Overwatch memes have been really funny. People have done a lot of Old Spice stuff - they've made their own versions, they've made songs. The GIF of me dancing from Brooklyn Nine-Nine is used on every celebration, which I love. It's kind of like me dancing happily. When you see yourself done like that, you know people are enjoying what you're doing. Especially the song from White Chicks always being used on almost everything. It's like become part of American culture.
And you start to find what people like, and you start to find that, okay, they want this, they want that. It's funny, just my little part in Training Day, I was an extra in Training Day, you see that in memes with Denzel going off and, you just go, "My God, this is, like..." And especially President Camacho from Idiocracy...you start to realize, wow, this is bigger than me...
Nowadays, when you shoot something, is that something that's on your mind? Do you ever think, "this is going to blow up on the internet?"
No, you can't think that way. You just don't. Then it will affect it. You can always tell when somebody's trying to go viral, and it's just weird. But it's always those things that you don't expect. It's those natural moments that people grab, and then I'm surprised, this is the truth, the things that people grab and use on the internet surprise me, and I go, "Oh, they liked that, look at it!" And I run around and show my wife, like, look what they love, look what they like, and it makes it all right.
It's kind of weird, because I remember when I went to the New York Stock Exchange with The Expendables. For the promotion, I wanted to just rip my shirt off right there in front of everybody, and they got a picture of me just yelling in front of Stallone, Jason Statham and Dolph, and everybody's just going, "Oh, my gosh!" Then somebody put a bra on me!
Off the internet, they just put a bra on me, and, dude, it was actually funnier like that.
It still goes around every day. They put this bikini top, and I was, like, this is the internet, man, let them have their fun. Let them do their thing. I don't take myself that seriously, and I don't expect anybody else to, because you've got to give people what they want. You can't try to dictate...I could have sued, and tried to be, like, "nobody ever mess with my pictures or images or..." And people try that, but I'm sorry, it's bigger than you. It's just bigger than you, and people are going to do what they want to do, and I don't mind it.
You never really know where the internet will take something. Now, you’ve gone from being this living phenomenon to being a playable character in Crackdown 3. Can you tell me about how that happened?
I always wanted to be a part of a video game, because of how far back I go with games. I was 13 years old taking my quarter to the arcade playing Defender, Asteroids, and the game that changed my life was Dragon's Lair. It was an animated game, it cost, like, $3 every time you played it, but it was so unreal because you could actually determine which way this animation went, and it was so great, and I just was like, "Oh, my God!"
And then when I saw how great gaming is getting I said, "Man, this is next level. I want to be the actor that you can play, that you can be in one." I'd heard about Crackdown through some people at Microsoft, and we were just talking about doing like an ad campaign, to pump the game up, and I came in and I'm like, you know what, I want to do more than the ad. I want to be in it.
And I literally told them when we were talking, "I want to be in this game." And they just kind of looked at me, like, "Are you serious?" And I was like, "Man, if there's any way possible," I said, "You've got me. Whatever I can do to be in the game would be awesome." And they made it work. They were like, "Alright." And we went in and I got the sensors put on me, and we did all the photography and the whole thing, and we were doing the moves, and it was so much fun.
But, again, I'm such an animated person anyway that it actually lends itself to what I do. I can't wait to do some more. I could do this for the rest of my life.
So there’s definitely a future in this for you?
I look at how great the animation is getting, and the way games are getting made, and it's getting more and more realistic. I'm telling you, there's going to be a point where you're not going to be able to tell the difference. What I call the Jurassic Park experience. Everybody saw that for the first time, they were, like, "Oh, my God. This is actually ... This stuff can happen." There's going to be a moment...
“There's real dinosaurs!”
[Laughs] Yeah. Everybody was, like, "This is real!"
And there's going to be a moment in gaming where you're going to be moving actors and real people, and it's going to be no different than a movie or any other form of media.
You’re a living, breathing Commander Jaxon (Terry's in-game character) and real life Agent, so Crackdown 3 is definitely a perfect fit.
For me, being in Crackdown really satisfied everything that I ever wanted. People were saying, "No, we want you for Doomfist (a character in Overwatch)." And I couldn't tell people that I was in [Crackdown] yet. I wanted to tell them back then, "Hey guys, I know you wanted me for Doomfist," and all this stuff, but that wasn't to be. I have something better, I'm actually a playable character in Crackdown. But I couldn't say it until we could logically announce it. So, it left a lot of people, like, "What's going on?"
I’m going to tell you, I love Overwatch. The people at Blizzard are amazing. If anything else can happen, I'm down, but again, it's all about the vision. To me, when I go into a movie, or any television project, when I'm on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it's about the vision of the creators. It's not about me. I don't want it to be the Terry Crews show.
This is why Crackdown works, because it was already part of the vision. Like you said, I'm already a guy who's the perfect Crackdown agent. I didn't want them to change the game so that it fits my personality. It doesn't work that way.
Whoever is the creator, whoever is the director, I want to be the best thing for you. When it was The Expendables. When I was doing Newsroom, it was Aaron Sorkin's vision, and when I'm doing White Chicks, it was the Wayans brothers. Whatever helped them do their thing and make them better, I want to be that, because first of all, I'm a fan.
Terry Crews is probably the biggest fan of media there has ever been. I see every movie, I play all the games, I watch all the stuff, and I'm a consumer first, so I do the things that I would like to see done myself.
You're in a very unique space, while you've made a living as an actor you've always been able to explore other options.
I've got to say this, I'm not…I've never been...I wouldn't call myself an actor. I didn't go to school for this, I didn't go to Juilliard. I'm not training. I'm an old football player. I got knocked out on Monday Night Football and I often wondered, do these concussions actually contribute to the craziness that is me right now?
But at the same time it gives me free play land. I have nobody judging me. There's no teacher that's back there, like, "Terry, you should never do this, and, Terry, you should never do that." Well, you know what? I want to host Who Wants to be a Millionaire, so I did it. I hosted 175 episodes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I started hosting other game shows. I started to design furniture.
So, I'm like, there's no real, for me, there's no end. It's all free play. I can do whatever I choose and there's nobody to judge me. There's nobody to put it down. If I try it, it's like, you know what? Yeah, Terry Crews would do that. If I just decide I'm going to have a farm and I'm going to get a tractor, then, you know, everybody would be like, yeah, Terry Crews would do that.
I don't want to ever be pigeon-holed into one thing, in one genre, in one deal. I might surprise you tomorrow and all of a sudden be doing something else, but it's one of the things where this is a free, wonderful place to be, and I try to do as much as I can so I can stay free, because there's a lot of actors who would be, like, "I can't do that. They would never accept me like that." But me, I can do comedy, I can do drama, I can do whatever you want. I want to be that guy who can do it all.
You'll be able to play as Commander Jaxon (Terry Crews) in Crackdown 3 beginning November 7 when the Xbox/Microsoft exclusive hits stores. Also, you can watch Crews in Season 5 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine when that premieres on September 26 on FOX.