Q&A With Terry Crews

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 14, 2014
6 min read

Q: How does your background in the NFL help you in your acting career, most recently in Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine?

"It helps me every day, immensely, mostly because when you play sports, you are relentlessly examining yourself. I mean, everything you do when you play is recorded and gone over again and again, and each move, each step is broken down to try to improve it. I know some actors don't watch themselves on film but I definitely do. There's a saying: 'What gets measured gets done.' I say: 'What gets examined gets better.'"

Q: Any ways your sports background has held you back?

It did not help me with regards to health, I think. What I mean is that the basis for exercise should be to be healthy. Not about just trying to catch a ball or something. So when I retired from the NFL, at first I felt like I didn't really have to work out anymore, because there was no game on the horizon. That's why a lot of star athletes gain so much weight. I eventually realized that I needed to work out for my brain and my body. My brain is my tool, and the best thing for it is exercise.

Q: So you find working out enjoyable now?

Getting in my workout every day calms me down, helps me think better, and helps me learn my lines faster. The actual specifics of the workout don't matter. It's the habit. Just getting there and doing it. You almost have to think of your workout like going to a spa -- the minute it doesn't make you feel better, it's not going to be a habit you can sustain. So the whole 'no pain, no gain' thing, it doesn't work. In fact, exercise can never feel like work.

Q: You're 45 now. What's the best health advice you've ever been given? 

I've done a lot of reading about health over the years but it actually was my wife, Rebecca, who gave me a wake-up call about taking care of myself. And it wasn't a statement -- it was an action. I was 30 pounds overweight and one day she simply came up behind me and pinched my back fat. Look, a man never thinks he's out of shape. And when she did that, it helped me see myself for what I was, and that I was heading in a bad direction. I realized I needed to be healthy for my kids. (Of course, I later learned exactly how bad all that mid-section fat is, in terms of your overall health.)

Q: What is your worst habit?

I love sugar -- I am a sugar addict. I mean, I can just smell a blueberry muffin -- the 1,000-calorie kind that's more cake than muffin -- and I have to fight off the urge to just inhale it. And no, I don't want healthy muffins -- I want the big bomb of a muffin. Pies, cakes, and all baked goods -- I am a sucker for them and unfortunately I am the kind of guy who could eat a whole pie. So I have to control myself, but I don't exclude them entirely because I think that's too extreme. So I have my cheat days -- it's all about balance. 

Q: What does a perfect day look like? 

Well, I'd start out with a workout -- I run every day. The cardio is for my health and the strength is for my looks, honestly. Then I would spend a few hours just reading. After that, I'd go to the set for a quick 4-hour workday. I love my job so much -- it doesn't feel like work when you love it. After that, I'd head to my favorite restaurant with my wife for an early-ish dinner, followed by a good movie date, and then I would probably be in bed by 10 p.m.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in writing your new book, Manhood, which is coming out this month?

One of the biggest challenges was simply finding the time. You always think you don't have time, so I had to really examine where I was wasting it.  I discovered there's more time than I would like to admit. I carved out time here and there -- even between filming scenes I was writing; I was always jotting things down. I definitely had to call a moratorium on things like Facebook or other social media. In fact, I would only let myself write Tweets but not read them. I had to cut out the "time bandits!" As for the actual writing, it wasn't that hard. I just spilled my guts. I tried to come from a very honest place. And frankly, then I relied on my editors to help smooth out some bumps.

Q: You got married relatively young and have been married for 25 years. Any secrets to making it work for so long?

You have to own up to your mistakes. And boy, I have made a lot over our marriage. You also have to evolve together, and realize that no matter how close you are, you are always going to be very different. Some people get married and think you should both see and like the same things. You have to be constantly talking to one another, and evaluating where each person is in their life. I really had to come to grips with that. My wife has been amazing throughout all my transitions, from football to acting and beyond. I think women deal with change a lot better than men. Women don't hold onto foolish pride.

Q: So how did you evolve?

You need to allow yourself freedom to change -- even your mind. Sometimes, when you're wrong, you don't even want to admit it. But over the years I learned to change that. In fact, a long time ago I actually told my kids to tell me what is wrong with me. This book isn't meant to be a textbook, but it's my story and this is where my experiences led me. Sometimes the best way to learn is through others' experience.

Q: What do you miss about the NFL days?

Oh, I miss the camaraderie of a team, which can be so wonderful. But honestly, a lot of that has been replaced by the on-set camaraderie I've enjoyed. Especially on Brooklyn Nine-Nine -- it's great. We're a family and we clicked right from the beginning.

Q: How is the character Terry, on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, like you?

This character is me! In fact, they based it on me and are constantly incorporating little bits of me and my life into the storyline. The creators will mine everything. For instance, the bit about driving a minivan, that's from my life. And about loving yogurt, that's true! I think that it's better to play against type in a movie. You film it once and it's over. But when you're doing TV, I think it's better to play someone closer to you since you're going to be doing it day in and day out, hopefully for a long time!

Q: You've had so many sides to your career: football, Old Spice ads, movies, and TV. What do you get recognized for most?

Hard to say, but it depends where I am, really, or the circles people inhabit. If I am at the mall, it's often a movie like White Chicks. Someone watching The Expendables might be more likely to recognize me from sports.

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