Terry Crews is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s the type of guy you don’t want standing next to you at a party in fear that he’ll easily make you look bad. An art major at Western Michigan University, a former NFL defensive end and linebacker, and someone that is undeniably hilarious but also has the capability of beating you to a pulp in a matter of seconds.
A man who once starred in White Chicks and Norbit isn’t the type of actor you’d think be tearing up the screen as a crew member of The Expendables. But lately, President Camacho (which I desperately wanted to call him, at least once) has been playing in the action arena. Crews took a nice over-the-top turn in Gamer and his Hail Caesar was a highlight in Stallone’s ’80s throwback, especially with his notable weapon of choice. 10 years ago he started off in action with the The 6th Day, and now he’s going further under, thankfully, better circumstances.
I recently had a short amount of time with Crews to discuss the blu-ray release of The Expendables, and he was basically what you’d expect Terry Crews to be like: overwhelming charismatic. It was a loose, small conversation starting off with talking about the character names in the film. An odd topic to start off with, but keep in mind this is a film with names like, ‘Hail Caesar’ and ‘Lee Christmas’.
I know it’s not everyday you get offered to be a part of a cast of this caliber, but is it just as exciting getting offered to play a character named ‘Hail Caesar’?
This is one of the best movie names of all time, come on. It’s right up there up with the big guys. ‘Hail Caeser’? I can’t wait for the t-shirts. It’s a name that just says there is a spinoff there. My name almost actually got changed. We were shooting down in New Orleans, and Sly saw this place called ‘Jazz Gumbo’ and he said, “Hey man, why don’t we change the name to that?” I said, “I love you man, but I gotta stick Hail Caeser. I got to!” It was perfect. Jazz Gumbo just didn’t hit it right. It’s all good [Laughs].
Tone is really important when it comes to films like this. Here, it’s played really straight. How important and detailed was Stallone when it came to finding that seriousness?
Sly is very, very manic about the tone of every piece of this thing. There were songs we were playing on the set that he had us listening to just to put us in the right mood and that we were correct. He didn’t want any bit of that tongue-in-cheek cuteness. If it happened, it would happen naturally. He just wanted to make sure this thing was right. There were times where we’d deliver the lines, and he’d tell us to take it down. He’s a master. He knew what he wanted and saw the whole thing.
It was like him putting together a giant puzzle. You gotta let yourself go over to him, because you have to trust him. This is a guy who’s been in the business for a long, long time. There were some things on the set where people would be questioning things, and I’d just say shut up and do it [Laughs]. I appreciate him, man. He taught me a lot.
Can yo recall any of the music he played on the set?
I don’t remember the names, but it was a lot of obscure groups. There was some rock. He’s not into hip-hop, but there was some of these really moody rock songs. I was tripping because it really put you in the right frame of mind. There was a lot of blues, just very obscure stuff. I couldn’t name who these guys were. It wasn’t mainstream at all.
I was hoping you’d say Justin Bieber…
Yeah, but I love Justin! [Laughs] Let me tell you something, man. I gotta tell everyone this. I actually ran into Justin Bieber when nobody knew him at the Kids’ Choice Awards. He came up to me like, “Mr. Crews, how you doing? I’m produced by Usher and I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Justin Bieber,” and I just knew he was a good, nice kid. Next year, people are screaming and attacking him! He was like, “Hey, Mr. Crews! I blew up!”[Laughs] I want Bieber in the Expendables 2, he’ll play my son. I think it’ll be wonderful. It’ll be great, but he’ll probably get blown up [Laughs].
I think a lot of people would like to see that.
[Laughs] Oh, no! It would be a pleasure to get blown up in The Expendables, so I can go, “I got Bieber’s arm!” I’m kidding, I’m kidding.
[Laughs] Going back to the tone, do you prefer playing it seriously? This was a much different tone than Gamer, where you basically got to be over-the-top.
You gotta play it seriously to be funny, it’s weird. If you play for laughs, it tends to kinda fall flat. It can get corny. Comedy needs to happen naturally and be in touch with the character. When you see that guy in your office that everybody laughs at, he doesn’t think he’s funny [Laughs]. He’s just being him, and that’s the joke. If you do laugh, it has to be a little uncomfortable. I remember when I did a movie called Friday After Next where I played this ex-con, but I didn’t play that guy for laughs. I played that guy like a serious drama. It was so funny because people saw how serious and intent I was. I learned a long time ago never play for laughs or for a joke. Just be the person. The joke will come.
President Camacho is really serious guy when you think about it.
Dude, Camacho is serious. He’s not playing or joking when he says, “I thought your head would be bigger.” His logic made total sense. You can’t play him for laughs. He’s completely serious and he’ll cut your head off, you know what I mean? That’s just Camacho, and people love Camacho. People think he’s a really funny character, but he doesn’t think he’s funny. If you come up and laugh at Camacho, you just might get shot [Laughs]. That’s where the comedy is, he’s not playing for laughs. I love Camacho and would love to play him again. My whole dream is ‘The Chronicles of Camacho’, which would be his whole rise to power. Like, what happened after he was president? We need a prequel. We need a sequel. We need something, you know [Laughs].
You mentioned how Stallone is very detailed oriented. Can you compare working in that type environment to say, Gamer? I know on that film, like everything else Neveldine and Taylor do, has a very loose and guerrilla style approach.
I become what the director needs. It’s not my job to judge. Nothing works when there’s a bunch of actors on-set trying to figure out their own way, that’s horrible. I’ve been there. It’s when they’re trying to direct seven different movies, you know what I mean? You need to listen to one guy. When you get on-set there’s so many different personalities, and everybody is trying to figure out which way it should be. My deal is doing what the director wants, me fitting into what he wants, and me trying to enhance it. I had the best time ever with Neveldine and Taylor, because they gave me a chance to show something different. I went psycho for them, literally. I knew from there that’s where I wanted to go and what to do to shake people up from the whole comedy thing. I got a lot of paint, and I know it [Laughs]. I know I can show it if need be.
It’s people like Lionsgate who let me be in a movie like The Expendables. It’s all the gateway, man. I thank God for Neveldine and Taylor, man. I would work with them again in a second. They’re perfect guys. They don’t take themselves too seriously. When you’re in such a self-serious place such as Hollywood where you go to the Oscars and end up choking on all the self-importance it’s just like, come on. Lets just laugh at each other. To me, there were comedies that should go up for Oscars. I think Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor was one of the greatest acting performances of all time, but it’d never be recognized that way. They always go for De Niro and Pachino, but Eddie Murphy played seven different people! You can put that on De Niro! [Laughs] I love De Niro, but when you convincingly play seven different people in the same movie, wholly cow.
Is it also refreshing working with directors like Stallone and Neveldine/Taylor who actually cast real men instead of young, teenage looking guys?
I like to call it a bunch of guys with bad credit. I mean, we’ve all lost stuff. We’re the ugliest cast of all time! You cant put an uglier cast together like this. You’d have to go watch Alien to find this type of cast. With the scars on our faces and bodies, we look like we’ve been blown up and put back together, all of us! That’s what I love. Also, women loved it. Women went to go see the movie because they want to see real guys. It’s like, where all the real guys now? I don’t have a problem with it, but you gotta give it the other way, too. I always said with The Expendables and Sex and the City 2 in theaters at the same time, you just might end up with a baby! There was sexual tension in the lobby, playa!
The Expendables is now on DVD and Blu-ray.