Brooklyn Nine-Nine creators borrow from Crews’ own life to flesh out his character Terry Jeffords on the NBC comedy. In fact, the character was given his moniker as an enticement for him to choose their show. Crews plays a talented host on America’s Got Talent on NBC. (Brooklyn Nine-Nine photo by Jordin Althaus/NBC; AGT photos by Trae Patton/NBC)
THE COMEDIAN, ACTOR AND AUTHOR OPENS UP ABOUT REDEFINING MANHOOD, HIS FAMILY AND HIS LOVE FOR HAWAI‘I.
Terry Crews needs Hawai‘i. He misses Hawai‘i. If he could, he might even walk a thousand miles to see Hawai‘i again. But not right now.
For the past decade, Crews and his family have made Hawai‘i their annual getaway from the frenetic pace of Hollywood life. But as he shared in the recent Hawai‘i Hotel Industry Foundation’s Aloha Later campaign, he’s staying home and putting off his vacation until after the threat of COVID-19 has eased.
“Hawai‘i is one of those things where it’s like don’t ruin it, please,” he explains. “With the pandemic and being on an island, it can’t be a good situation.”
Throughout the years, Hawai‘i has become a home away from home for his ‘ohana—a sanctuary to escape to for some much-needed rest.
“It’s mandatory, we do at least one week a year in Hawai‘i,” says Crews, not- ing he made a second trip to the Aloha State in 2016 for an event hosted by Dwayne Johnson honoring U.S. troops. “I’m barefoot for a week. My deal is to just lay on the beach. It’s really not about going anywhere, it’s really about checking out.”
Crews says he’s always dreamed of visiting Hawai‘i, and finally made his way to Maui 10 years ago, staying at Ho‘olei at Grand Wailea. His initial thought was “to do Hawai‘i big” with an overbooked itinerary of activities, such as scuba and horseback riding. But his wife, Rebecca, had different plans— forced relaxation—and it’s been that way ever since.
“Maui has a real special connection for me and my whole family,” says Crews, a father of five. “We brought my mother … she passed away about 5 years ago, so it was in the last 5 years of her life.
“We had a photo shoot on the beach, and I treasure those pictures forever. When I see those pictures of my mom and my family, it’s almost like we’re in heaven with her. That’s how special it is to me because she’s in heaven now, but she was in heaven then. It’s very emotional for me because it just means so much.”
Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, Crews went to Western Michigan University on an art scholarship and later a football scholarship. He married his college sweetheart and played in the NFL for 7 years before moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting.
Currently, you can catch him on TV as the host of NBC’s No. 1 summer show America’s Got Talent.
“We started (work on AGT) basically 17 days before the stay-at-home orders,” he recalls. “When we started, it was packed, and as we kept going, the audiences started to drain out and people were nervous and we were wondering, can we continue? We pretty much got all of the auditions done and then they were like that was it.”
Cameras stopped rolling with judge cuts and live shows still to go. But Crews assures they will finish the season, even if it means hosting from his driveway.
“AGT is actually going to be the guinea pig to see how the industry starts up again,” he says. “I don’t know what the rest of the show is going to look like, but I can promise you we’re going to do it. We’re going to make it happen. To me, that’s going to make this year even more special. It will be something no one will ever forget.”
Crews also stars as the lovable Sgt. Terry Jeffords in NBC’s Golden Globe Award-winning comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which was picked up for sea- son eight. Filming was supposed to start late July, but has been pushed back to possibly September.
“First of all, Terry is me, they stole from my life,” he says about his on-screen character. “It all goes back to how I got the job years ago. There were several pilots that were coming to me and saying, hey, we would like you to be a part of our cast. I was in a hot spot in my career.
“Dan Goor and Mike Schur (creators of Brooklyn Nine-Nine) came to me and said, hey, we want to let you know that we have named the character Terry, so you’re going to feel awful if another guy is walking around with your name. Once they did that, I said, it’s mine. I had never in my career ever had a role that was written specifically for me, and they took things from my life. I remember eating yogurt every day on the set and they made it a part of the show, that I eat yogurt.”
Then there’s Crews’ third job: all the other stuff, and there are a lot—commer- cials (remember those iconic Old Spice ads featuring a shirtless and screaming Crews?), campaigns, YouTube videos, books and more.
At the moment, he and Rebecca have been writing a book titled Stronger Together about their 31 years of marriage, to be released on Audible this fall. He’s also working on a motivational story-driven book, tentatively called Action Figures, touching on some of the obstacles he’s faced in life.
Going on 20-plus years in showbiz, Crews, 52, has had many career highs, but he lists his top three as Training Day, White Chicks and The Expendables.
He was just an extra in the 2001 film Training Day, but credits the experience, specifically when the director put him in a scene with “the Denzel Washington,” for the affirmation he needed to become an actor.
In 2004, he stole the show in White Chicks, revealing his hulk-like muscles, shirtless robot dancing skills, and, more importantly, hilarious comedy chops.
“Sixteen years later, it’s loved by all and it only gains in popularity,” says Crews. “This movie was pre-Kardashian. It was back with the Hiltons, and to be a part of what I would call Americana. Vanessa Carlton’s song A Thousand Miles (which he sings in one of the most
memorable scenes of the film) is still one of the highlights of my career. I love her. I love that song. I love that movie.”
As for The Expendables, Crews says being part of the franchise with movie legends Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, was an action movie dream come true.
Off-screen, you might find Crews building LEGOs, playing the flute, read- ing, shopping at Sideshow Collectibles in Thousand Oaks for sixth scale mini figures, or eating ice cream (his favorite is Pots of Gold at Salt and Straw).
Of course, he also works out for about two hours daily. He’s usually in the gym by 4:30 in the morning, lifting heavy weights (he typically squats 500 pounds and bench presses 420 pounds) and running 4 miles on the treadmill. For the last 8 years, he’s been on an intermittent fasting diet.
He also has become known for his work as a human rights activist, sup- porting charities such as Polaris in their fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and Rise in their campaign to pass the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights in all 50 states.
But of all that he’s accomplished, Crews says the role he’s most proud of is being a husband.
“It was rough,” he confesses. “There were times when we thought we weren’t going to make it, this is it, it’s over. And we look at each other and we’re like we did it, and we continue. That’s why I’m so proud of the book we’re doing, and to take it back, it’s why Hawai‘i is so special to us because this is a time when we re- ally look back and see what we have.
“You can get so busy that you forget all of what you’ve done, and Hawai‘i for us has always been a time for reflection.”
When it comes time to look back on 2020 and how the coronavirus pandemic changed the world, Crews is grateful for the time it gave him to be at home with his family.
“My wife, right before COVID in January, she was diagnosed with (stage 1) breast cancer and two weeks before the stay-at-home order, she had received a double mastectomy,” he shares. “We had no idea and I was doing America’s Got Talent at the same time, but we also didn’t have any idea that the whole world would shut down and the beautiful thing about this was that during this whole quarantine, I had been her nurse.
“There’s no job to go to. I’ve been doing all these things via Zoom and the Internet. I have been the one to bathe her, feed her, get the food, clean the house, do the laundry and take care of all the other stuff. Even though it is a pandemic, I’d like to think of it in a romantic way—it’s like the whole world shut down so that I could take care of you. No other time would I have been able to be home. When I’m here, my wife sees me going and she sees me coming. Everything shut down and now I’m like, wow, we just spent 10 weeks together. I’m just thankful for that.”