Terry Crews is such a ubiquitous presence in Hollywood that even if you don’t know his name, you’ve probably seen him before in any number of places. Like ‘White Chicks‘. Or ‘The Longest Yard‘. Or ‘Everybody Hates Chris‘. Or, yes, even those Old Spice commercials that have him riding a tiger and screaming about explosions. Suffice it to say, Crews – a former NFL player who obviously still keeps himself in peak condition – is having a moment. Fancast spoke with the actor about his new TBS series, ‘Are We There Yet?’ (June 2, 9/8c), how he keeps himself relevant in Hollywood, and yes, those Old Spice commercials.
Obviously, the Old Spice ads are everywhere at this point. How did you wind up starring in them?
It was weird – I was actually doing ‘Are We There Yet?’ in Connecticut. And I got the call from my agent that Tim and Eric – the guys from Adult Swim – they were interested in this whole campaign with me. I didn’t know what they wanted me to do. So they sent me the copy on what it was going to look like, and I was like Yeah, I’m down with this! But I was still in shooting. And Old Spice had already done the ad buys and needed me for a certain time frame and it didn’t look like it was going to work out. But lo and behold, they decided to wait for me, which I was so thankful for, because I would have hated to miss out on it. I literally flew to L.A. right after ‘Are We There Yet?’ and spent two days shooting with them and the rest, as they say, is history.
Did you think they’d become so popular?
No, I really did not expect it to be as big as it became. It’s like a cult of Old Spice! (Laughs) I thought it was a little quirky; I thought people would think, ‘Oh my god, this is nuts!’ But people really responded to it. I mean — I get yelled at all the time. Explosion! (Laughs) And especially ‘Building kick!’ That’s the one I get more than anything. It’s really fun. That’s my kind of humor – I’m a professional 13-year-old; tomorrow is always my 14th birthday. That humor is me. Those commercials make me laugh. I was just hoping they would make a few other people laugh too. And I can’t wait to work with Tim & Eric again, hopefully on a feature.
And would you do more Old Spice spots? Maybe with your fellow Old Spice pitchman, Isaiah Mustafa?
I would love to do some with him! “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like” is the greatest commercial of all time. Literally. The design, the concept, it’s absolutely flawless. And the key with ours was to never try and compete with that commercial. It’s just too good. But I realized – his commercial is for the ladies, my commercial is for the guys. There really was some competition. I would love it if there was something with both of us. I really think that’s what the people want! Like a sequel to the commercial: Old Spice 2.
You’ve done so much in your career – film, reality shows, sitcoms – did you ever think that you’d become famous for a commercial?
I didn’t. You cannot call it. You can have all these plans about how your career is going to go. Like, you get a call about these commercials – I couldn’t plan that. I couldn’t plan that these commercials came out right before the premiere of ‘Are We There Yet?’ You can’t plan that – it’s just too good. Those ads took over – when they say viral, they are viral.
They are a pretty great stealth ad campaign for ‘Are We There Yet?’ And speaking of that: How did you guys try to make the series different from the feature film on which it’s based?
The movie is all about the romance – about the meetings, them getting together – and they live happily ever after. Our show takes care of ever after. It takes place six months after they’re married and the whole Honeymoon has worn off. The movie was about a road trip; this is about life. Like are we there yet? Are we going to be a family and succeed in what we’re trying to do? It’s a very family friendly comedy. Because most sitcoms are just too young – like ‘Hannah Montana‘ – or too cool for the room – like ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ or ‘Two and a Half Men.‘ Kids aren’t going to be into those. There really isn’t a family comedy out right now that you can watch as a family. We’re filling that sweet spot.
And it reunites you with ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ executive producer Ali Leroi.
Ali Leroi is a very smart guy. He created that show. He created this. And I knew I wanted to – we wanted to really improve upon the Tyler Perry model, even though we were doing it his way. We wanted to take it broader from a comedy standpoint. I love Tyler Perry; if it weren’t for Tyler we wouldn’t be here. But we wanted to do something different.
What has your experience been like with TBS on this show? They seem very excited about airing it, whereas maybe The CW wasn’t as excited about ‘Everybody Hates Chris’.
Dude, they are like – let me tell you we went to the upfronts and I have never been in such a power packed place. This was just as big as NBC, ABC, CBS. I mean Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith were there. And Spielberg has a series he’s producing for next year. We have some major, major players; a lot of big stars. Conan O’Brien, George Lopez. And the best thing about TBS: They back their stuff up. You don’t feel like you’re just going to get three episodes and then canceled. If ‘Are We There Yet?’ does well, we get 90 episodes! So we can be there for a while. And I feel like I’m on the winning team.
You always work on a lot of projects – is being locked into 90 episodes of a series something you’re okay with? That’s a huge commitment.
The key is – well, one reason I love TV is, first of all, the money. [Laughs]. But if you do a movie, you have to wait a year for it to come out. I’m an actor. Actors act. I want to work. I like being busy. I love what I do. And my thing is, I’m also a family man. I have five kids and a wife. I love the fact that I can do something every week that my whole family can enjoy. In this business, you have to have a two, or even three-way goal. You can’t be pigeonholed into one thing. That’s why I did a reality show. I do commercials. I do it all, man. Most actors are always worried about being typecast. I have it the other way. I’m trying to be as exposed as Beyonce. I want to be the black male Beyonce!