- RatedPG /GenreComedy
He cuts an imposing figure.
Muscles rippling, broad shoulders and standing at 1.88m tall, one look at Terry Crews might either intimidate you or break you… into fits of laughter.
“Never judge a book by its cover”, the saying goes, and this former professional American football player defies Hollywood stereotypes, eschewing action roles for mostly comedic ones.
Who can forget Crew’s freaky Latrell Spencer who sang ‘A Thousand Miles’ in the Wayans Brothers’ ‘White Chicks’? Or his over-the-top ping-pong tough guy Freddy Fingers in ‘Balls of Fury’.
To be over-the-top, it seems, is Crews’ forte and he does a great job without going camp.
Terry Crews as Nickens in 'Blended'. Photo: Warner Bros
“I never thought I would be an actor,” the 45-year-old said.
“But here I am. I'm an actor for 15 years. You get to where I am by trying but if you stay in one spot, you're never going to get anything. You'll just be that guy,” said the player who retired from American football in 1997 to pursue an acting career. Crews has played for NFL teams such as Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles.
He has also starred in films such as ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2’, ‘Bridesmaids’, as well as TV shows including ‘Everybody Hates Chris’, ‘The Newsroom’, ‘Arrested Development’ and most recently, in ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s’ as gentle giant detective Terry Jeffords.
GETTING SEXY WITH IT IN ‘BLENDED’
He returns to the big screen in rom-com ‘Blended’, where he plays Nickens, the hip-swaying, muscle-flexing frontman of a nine-member harmony group called Thathoo.
The movie, also starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, opens in Singapore this week. It follows single parents Jim and Lauren who, after a disastrous blind date, find themselves stuck together at a resort in Africa with their families.
Crews said with a laugh about his character in ‘Blended’: “He’s the South African Tom Jones.
“He really is one of the most stylish characters in movie history. I can’t wait for audiences to see Nickens in all his glory, in his splendid outfits and showing off his guns.”
Crews said the idea for the character took on a life of its own during his first script reading with producer and co-star Sandler and director Frank Coraci.
“It was kind of like a guy who comes in and sings and does some things. Well, I had some ideas, Frank had some ideas, and Adam had ideas. And what happened is, it started to become this monster character,” Crews recalled.
“It's like he's the sexiest man in South Africa. And he's really all about himself. And it just became a great way to keep the story moving, keep the laughter flowing, and to break up the tension,” he added.
Crews in 'Brooklyn Nine Nine'
THE ‘BEST OVER-ACTOR EVER’
Director Coraci said: “Terry is the only person alive who can pull off the crazy wig and suits he wears in the movie. That guy oozes charisma, and now people are going to find out that he can sing and dance, too. There’s really nothing he can’t do.”
Of course, Crews had a blast hamming it up for the movie.
“I am the best over-actor ever. If you give me something and you tell me to do it big, I'll do it really big. I love that, because it's kind of my personality. I have a very big personality. I like doing things loud, I like being explosive, and I like attention. So it all works together,” Crews said.
Thathoo, the nine-piece vocal group in the movie, also provides a sort of vocal soundtrack to most of the films’ hilarious moments.
Thathoo, without Crews, is the renowned South African a-capppella group Junior Mambazo, and their style of music harkens back to the Great Zulu Empire.
It is recently popularised as isicathamiya or “tip-toe music,” and has influenced many contemporary artistes such as Paul Simon and Dolly Parton, as well as Broadway and Hollywood productions including ‘The Lion King’.
“(Mambazo’s music) reminds me of the African spirituals back in the day, where it's so heartfelt, the way that they intone and the beautiful chorus that they have,” Crews said.
“The sound is distinct for South Africa. It's nowhere else. And these guys were so amazingly professional and beautiful. They became my brothers.”
A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE
But the biggest thrill was being able to film on location in Africa, which was an emotional and life-changing experience for the actor.
“As an African-American, you often feel a tie to Africa. You know somewhere in your past you come from there,” he said.
“I went everywhere. I went to Cape Town. I went to Madikwe, which was a safari near Botswana. I went to Nelson Mandela's home, where he was arrested, right in Soweto. I went to Johannesburg. I just went everywhere I could, and I was changed. Because you feel like the spirit of the people was so good and so beautiful. It inspired me to come back to America and do some good things.
“We visited a school, and we handed out some clothing to some kids. It was one of the best experiences I ever had. And I don't know what else to say. It's a little beyond words,” Crews said.