Terry Crews: Dead Sprints to The Truth
(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
“I’m going all in. Terry Crews is 100%”
Crescendoing voices descend upon our conversation on the line; “Terry we have to go now!” a publicist calls out. “Yep, they’re telling me I have to get out of here,” Terry laughs. It’s 8 AM and Terry Crews just landed in NYC following a successful West Coast press run. The East Coast feeding frenzy begins as one of the summer’s most anticipated films, "Sorry to Bother You," is releasing next Friday.
Our phone call was slated for fifteen minutes, but if you have had the pleasure of speaking with Terry Crews, you know that’s at least fifteen minutes too short. It’s customary for Crews, one of Time Magazine’s 'Person of the Year 2017’ to use a media platform to share personal anecdotes and platforms he is passionate about, such as addressing the ongoing Flint water crisis, his lawsuit with William Morris, the difference between ‘symbolic victories’ and ‘real victories’ and occasionally referencing the film. It is easy to follow his stream of consciousness as his commitment to exposing injustices is front and center in even in what was to be a 15 minute press interview.
By the end of the call, approximately 30 minutes in total, I was convinced I had to enter my credit card information. He’s an open book recanting his experiences and hoping they inspire others to believe in themselves. I found myself in that sweet spot where you don’t want the dialogue to end. Crews was connecting the dots from his pain to his passion. It all makes so much sense that what he had to endure became the muscle that fuels his creative choices, each asserts a dialogue, each begs the audience to work through the questions that remain. Crews is less concerned with a beginning, middle or end; he is all about the uncovering and the process by which we, as a society, own our pain and collectively find ways to eradicate the ugly, from poisonous water to poisonous people.
How has the build up been leading to the release?
Since Sundance [Film Festival] this movement has taken over. The buzz for ‘Sorry to Bother You’ was on par with a film I did not too long ago, ‘Deadpool 2.’ We premiered ‘Sorry to Bother You’ after Sundance at the same time in Oakland and San Francisco. Places are going crazy every where we go.
I very rarely have been a part of something this unique on this grassroots level and it feels really good.
As you alluded to this is a thought-provoking, socially conscious Indi-film. Do you purposefully take roles that are now fitting a mold of awareness?
You know what, I took this role before all the ‘MeToo’ stuff happened. I knew Boots [the film’s director] was on to something. I wrote my book ‘Manhood,’ which is all about toxic masculinity in 2013, but it was published in 2014. I was attacking a lot of these issues years ago. Landing ‘Sorry to Bother You’ was a part of the course I had already been a part of. There are things in the film that parallel my life today to the point where I say, “Oh my God!”
What’s been the biggest challenge as a major voice of the ‘MeToo’ movement?
There are people who are really trying to manipulate their place in the world. The goal is to get you to buy in to this self-image that you’re less than everyone else. People now are telling me that I am supposed to accept that I am less than a human-being and all I’m saying is, “No! I’m a full fledged human-being” and that makes people angry-he laughs out of disbelief.
What do you feel the movement is trying to accomplish?
When you’re talking about ‘Me Too’ you’re just talking about people who are demanding they be treated fully human. That’s it. We’re not talking about people who want more than everybody else and that’s where everybody gets it confused. They’re like, “these women want this and that and you got to expect this is what comes with the job,” he snarls. These incidences don’t come with the job.
What I’ve learned through film is that it addresses these class distinctions. There are economic, social and racial distinctions. Someone is always trying to pin you as less than you are. This film that has such a diverse cast and attacks different tropes where we usually say, “that’s the way things are” and it questions all of them. For me the best thing about this movie is that it raises more questions. It really makes you think and doesn’t give you answers.
(Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
How do you believe this toxic cycle can be broken?
We are used to getting answers and the problem is that answer is different everywhere you go. You have to think for yourself. If someone tells you what the answers are and you just take it, you haven’t really internalized anything. You have to think about what’s good for you. You have to think about how this is going to change your situation.
It’s like when someone sees a movie and tells you it’s good, then you run around telling everyone it’s good. But when you see it you don’t like it. Well, now what? You have to experience this stuff and there is a big different between believing something and knowing something. Knowing comes from experience. It comes from actually doing. I think this film is actually transferring these things into real-life.
You know what, I'm tired of symbolic victories. “Yay! We did that, we beat that and all of a sudden we’re out wearing pins and walking around. We had a dinner and its over,” Crews says as he mockingly claps over the phone. Well it’s not over. Everybody eats and goes to bed and life goes right back to normal and the people who are doing really really bad things continue to do them. Nobody does anything because we had a dinner and that was a huge symbolic victory and everything is supposed to be fine now, but it’s not. I want real victories. I want real things to happen.
Have you seen a victory you’re proud of?
When Rosanne went down. Everybody was like, “Wait a minute. There are actually consequences to this stuff?!” It was groundbreaking to lose a show from tweets. You know how important that is? You know how many people she hurt from that? Now we’re talking because that was more than symbolic.
Anything outside of entertainment?
We’re seeing people with bad behavior losing their jobs. You cannot go to work or be at a work event and molest somebody and keep your job. You should not be able to do that, but they are at William Morris. There are people out there that think, “wait a minute, this is ridiculous. How can you go to work, molest someone, and still keep your job?”
I am not about rushing to judgement. I am not about accusations knocking people out. I’m talking about people who have done it. They did it! Let’s get rid of the one’s who did it. Do the investigation and due diligence, but if he did it then we can’t stand for it.
Let me tell you, whatever you serve you have to eat. That’s the thing people forget. If you let a guy get away with that stuff eventually it’ll come back around. Eventually he’s after your kid. Eventually he’s touching your wife. Eventually it’s affecting your family and that’s the way it is. If you don’t stop it, then it won’t stop. That’s what happened with Weinstein. The guy just kept going. Everybody knew. These are open secrets. Even with the President of the United States-“what is going on here?” I mean let’s just talk about what he did. I’m not political, but lets look at what he did. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. You just got to go.
What advice would you give to someone in the workplace?
You have to clean out your workplace first. Men call out other men! You see a dude doing some crazy stuff you got to say, “hey dude, don’t do that.” If you don’t do it then it’s going to get worse.
Remember I was in the NFL. I’ve seen some crazy stuff. I’ve been to places where I’ve seen guys say, “I can do drugs. It’s all good and you know what, I’m going to try crack.” Then 20 years later they go, “Wow, crack doesn’t work at all.” I’ve seen it.
I’m from Flint, Michigan. I’ve seen the results of bad behavior and the results of people using other people. I will let people know. I have no problem saying, “that’s bad and you need to stop!”
So who is Uncle Sergio? And how does he fit this narrative?
He basically has run out of everything. He is trying to play the game and do his thing and makes ends meat. He literally has to sell out. He has to give up his dream and become a part of this corporation called WorryFree. He wanted the American Dream, the house, the cars, take care of his family, three square meals.
The way I see it, coming from Flint- I saw a lot of people give up their dreams to the factories. They thought it would take care of them and it never did. They wanted that security and gave up dreams for meals and benefits.
The factories said they'd take care of them their whole life and they never did. I always tell people, “please think think think. You have to look at it on your own and don’t let anyone else think for you or speak for you.”
Currently, what’s going on in Flint?
Flint is not solved. Politics used it and then they left it. It was great to talk about at that time. “FLINT STILL DOES NOT HAVE CLEAN WATER EVERYBODY,” he annunciates in a pitched tone after clearing his throat. People always say to me, “Hey man, if you came back-” and I say, “No. There are people that live there and drive right through Flint to go to Ann Arbor and go ‘what a great life.’” They don’t mind people are dying and they have no interest in helping the people of Flint. If you saw your neighbor drinking poisoned water wouldn't you help them. You can bring all the water you want, but if the whole infrastructure of the system is complicit with poisoned water then nothing is going to happen. *long pause* I’m sorry, it got deep.
Your passion has propelled you to keep moving forward. What’s next for you?
I’ll be honest with you-I’m still handling my case with William Morris. I just finished a film called ‘John Henry,’ which is dealing with a lot of these topics. It is my first dramatic. It’s with Ludacris and first-time director, Will Forbes. I love the independent movies because that’s where you can really do some great things. But I really don’t know [what’s next] and I like not knowing. I’m so glad 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' came back, but I see more dramatic roles in the future because of how passionate I am.
I have always loved comedy, but comedy allows you to say some really crazy stuff and people don’t take it hard. *laughs* I’m an intense comedic actor. I will say it like it is. I don’t take roles I don’t believe in.
(Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images For EIF)
Let me tell you a story. When I used to run down on a kickoff you had to come to terms with the fact that you might die or something very bad could happen. You have to really know that anything can happen. I’m going to run 100 yards and throw myself at someone and I might not stand again. I was playing in a game when a guy got paralyzed. I’ve seen it. It’s a constant thing and you learn to go anyway and that’s been my career. Just go. Whatever is going to happen will happen, but just be on the right side of history. Do your thing correctly and usually you end up in a good spot. Go as hard and fast as you can and you can say you’ve had a great life and that’s how I feel right now. I’m going all in. Terry Crews is 100%