Depending on what you watch, Terry Crews could mean a variety of things to you. To movie lovers, he's the freak who sings "A Thousand Miles" in White Chicks. To football fanatics, he was the defensive end of the former L.A. Rams (among other teams). To TV nerds, he's Terry Jeffords, Brooklyn Nine-Nine's resident gentle giant detective. Oh, and he's also the Old Spice guy.
But Crews isn't just a big, goofy retired football player-turned-comedian. As it turns out, he's a thoughtful guy whose years in the NFL and whose role as a father has sharpened his perspective on life and American manhood.
On the vilification of Jonathan Martin:
"People are saying, 'You’re so soft' or, 'He’s probably gay.' That’s like vilifying a woman who is being abused by her husband for leaving him. Why should you feel uncomfortable in any workplace? Why should the NFL have special rules that exempt it from that? Women walk into the locker room and get disrespected and it's excused for being good ol’ boy culture. But you still have to respect people as human beings.
"Now, I loved my time in the NFL because I love the game. But I really feel that Martin made the right move. He could've come back with a gun and shot somebody, which happens. It happened last year. I played with so many guys who are dead now.
"You have to ask yourself, 'Do you really want to drink the Kool-Aid?' The NCAA has been exploiting kids for years. Plucking the top guys from the ‘hood and giving them a scholarship takes the same mentality that would cause the Rutgers coach to throw a basketball at his guy's head. He owns you. It’s the same culture that was the cause of the Penn State scandal. Everybody is so shocked about it, but the seeds were there, and we need to address it.
On bullying in football and the macho mentality:
"The NFL has a culture of intimidation, humiliation, and violence. It's used to control. Once you wake up and realize you don’t need the NFL, people won’t play. That is really what it’s about. It’s like boxing. The best boxers don’t come from Beverly Hills. It’s really hard to play in the NFL with two good parents. You have to have some kind of pain, you have to play with your pain.
"The NFL has gone a long way to Disney-fy its image, but it’s not Disney. It’s the MMA. It’s a violent, brutal human war, with rules. The same guy who says, 'I’m going to rob everybody,' is the same guy who would be successful in the NFL.
"I’ve had guns pulled on me in training camp. I’ve seen guns pulled on the buses. These guys are not stable individuals. And I could feel myself getting slowly get pulled in, too. You get invited to places and guys will say, 'Man, don’t bring your wife.' And you’re thinking, 'Whoa, what’s that about?' Then you go there and you find out it's because of the girlfriends. It's like this: 'Let’s all share a little bit of dirt so that I got something on you.' Let’s share in this so that we have something on each other; you become bonded with guilt. It’s the same thing in Hollywood, too."
On how Hollywood compares to the NFL:
"Hollywood is a very cult-like activity as well. We can only talk about certain things and if you say one thing that sounds contrary to where all the waves are going, you are ostracized. It's the new McCarthyism. You should be allowed to have a different opinion. But in Hollywood, you have to agree.
"I have four daughters. A lot of the time, I don’t allow myself to be in projects that objectify women. People call that comedy. It’s the same thing that happened with Incognito. Saying it's a joke becomes an excuse to do anything you want. I don’t like that turn comedy has taken lately. It’s just very mean and very brutal. I love doing great entertainment, but I like the joke to be on me. I don’t want to take advantage of some poor person and dog ‘em out and let the chips fall. "
On his character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
"My character can’t stay behind his desk the whole time. They’re figuring out ways to get me out with the other detectives. A great part about my character is that he's a badass, but he’s got his kids and he doesn’t want to die. That’s a real fear all cops live with every day. He wants to see his kids grow up and that makes him panic. [Laughs.]"
"Comedians are very serious people. They have a lot of pain, usually. If I wasn't in a funny place, I’d be in a cold, dark place. To go the other way is very tension-relieving. That’s what laughter is.
"One thing people don’t know is that comedy is the hardest thing to do, ever. If I’m in a dramatic movie and my dog dies, everyone knows that situation is sad. Nobody can agree on what’s funny. When someone can, on a worldwide level, make someone laugh, that's power. A lot my heroes—Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, the Wayans, Adam Sandler—they get it. And I've always felt that Andy Samberg is the future of comedy."