- Kevin Winter/Getty
Terry Crews has spent his career destroying stereotypes.
After his pro football career ended in the 1990s, all 240-pounds of him went into acting. Although he was initially pegged as being the big tough guy in many of his early movies, he has since been able to establish himself as a unique funnyman, which includes being a regular on the TV show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and playing the now iconic role (thanks to the presidential election) of Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in the cult comedy “Idiocracy.“
In his latest venture, Crews decided to strip the stereotypes pegged to the city of Detroit for the Travel Channel’s series “Celebrity Adventure Club.“
The show is simple: the network asks where a famous person wants to travel to and they make it happen. Crews passed on exotic locations and returned to the region where he was born and raised to show its resurgence. The episode, premiering Saturday, looks at Detroit and his childhood home in Flint, Michigan to show the ways the community is thriving after years of economic and, in the case of Flint’s water issue, ecological hardship.
Business Insider chatted with Crews about his spotlight on Detroit as well as why he keeps his political views to himself, the reason the anti-Trump fake ads he was supposed to make with the “Idiocracy” creators won’t happen, and how the police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling inspired him to tell his experience of having a police officer point a gun at him.
- Travel Channel
Business Insider: How did Travel Channel pitch you being part of “Celebrity Adventure Club?”
Terry Crews: They were picking certain celebrities and I was very honored. They had a really nice list and the fact that they came to me was a big honor. So they basically said I could do a doc on any place I wanted.
BI: Anywhere in the world?
Crews: Anywhere in the world. But then it hit me there’s one place in the United States that everyone has heard of but no one really knows, and it’s Detroit. Unless you’re from there you don’t really know Detroit. It has never been a travel destination. People are hyper-alert to the negative things that have happened there, but if you go there you see people riding bikes and birds chirping, it’s a beautiful place. So I wanted to give another view and show the good things that are happening.
BI: You showcase so many things in the city, was there one that stood out for you?
Crews: The farming. That was crazy. You can’t get more inner-city than Detroit, and the fact that these areas were being repurposed [as farms], and there were amazing people who knew all about farming and how it went. And they produce so much food they have to volunteer people to take the food!
BI: You also highlight your hometown of Flint, which has gone through a lot recently with the water problems. How is Flint now and how is your family?
Crews: The water situation was going on the whole time we filmed there. But while we filmed it turned out that was the last time I saw my mom in person alive. She died four months after we filmed there. So I decided this is not about the water crisis, this is about my mom. There was enough news on the water crisis, so this was about my mom and my family. I never knew this would be the last time I would see her alive so it was a very personal thing for me to edit. We thought about bringing up the whole water thing but we decided it has already been handled.
BI: But outside of the show, how is the situation in Flint now?
Crews: My father is still there. And people ask, ‘Where is Terry Crews on the issue of the water crisis?’ and the way I felt was I saw so many people using the situation for their own agenda so I made contributions anonymously. I didn’t want “Terry Crews shows up with a truck full of water,” because that doesn’t solve the problem. I lived in Flint. You give the whole city a truck full of water they will just need it again next week. It’s not just the pipes, the whole system is bad. I stayed out of it [publicly] because I didn’t want to be a political football. Listen, Flint has been going through this for 30 years, man. When I was in high school there were problems. That’s what made Michael Moore’s career. Flint has had bad stories for 30 years.
BI: So you wanted to bring some positivity to the region with the show.
Crews: Exactly. I’m an incurable optimist. You have to see the good. You have to find what your thankful for to get energy. If you concentrate on what’s wrong all the time you will run out.
BI: Is it still hard to believe that Donald Trump, a real presidential nominee, is being compared to your “Idiocracy” character, president Camacho?
- REUTERS/Mike Segar
Crews: Wow, it went non-stop. Believe me I’ve been hearing it every day and even at the convention I was like “This is a Camacho opening!” [Laughs] It blew my mind. No on knew how prophetic it was when we were doing [“Idiocracy”]. Again, on an optimistic note, I really really think America needs to see what’s happening. I think now everybody sees the game. When you saw the whole plagiarized speech it was so “whoa, that really, happened!” And I think now it forces people to really make decisions. To me, this stuff only makes you better. And you have to put it out there. But I am shocked it was so quick, that’s all. I thought it would take 400 more years. [Laughs]
BI: Is it true Mike Judge, the director of “Idiocracy,” is doing anti-Trump fake ads? Is Camacho coming back?
Crews: You know what happened, it was killed because Etan Cohen, who wrote [“Idiocracy”], went out and said that we’re making anti-Trump ads, but we weren’t. This is not what we were doing. I’m not anti-Trump, I’m not anti-Hillary [Clinton]. I’m not pro anybody. What happened was we were going to do a whole thing about everyone. We were literally going to show a cage match between Camacho, Hillary, Trump, [Ted] Cruz, all those people. It was going to be funny. But when you make it an anti-Trump ad what’s funny about that? Now you killed the comedy. When you have totally picked a side, there’s no funny anymore. So I thought he killed it. Even Mike said it, he was like, ‘Dude, I don’t know what possessed him to call them anti-Trump ads because that’s not what they were.’ And I said, ‘I know.’
- 20th Century Fox
But it’s funny because the media made Trump. When it was good for ratings you pumped it up. Now you complain. It’s too late. And let me say again, I’m not anti-Trump or anti-Hillary, but what the media has to understand is if you live by the sword you die by the sword. Etan Cohen got happy and was like now we’re going to knock him down and I was like “I’m not doing that.” I never built him up in the first place.
BI: So at one time you guys were going to do something but since the debates have ended you’ve squashed it.
Crews: Squashed. It’s killed. And everyone was coming to me saying “Can’t wait for you to do the ad,” and I was like, “I’m not doing any of that.” Everyone wanted me to go against Trump, and I’m like, I’m not your gun. You’re not going to use me to knock him down. I’m on no side at all and that’s the clear message I’m trying to say.
BI: And it doesn’t sound like you want to make public who you’d vote for.
Crews: That’s my private decision. And people are angry. I’m just like I’m not getting into that. I’m not that dude. I will never stand for any agenda. Because what if the side you’re on is wrong? Then you’re stuck. I can’t do it.
Crews: My heart broke watching those videos of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. And I just felt, you can’t tell me there’s another way. That’s all I wanted to say. And with the media, and the coverage, when are you hyping it up to a point where now subconsciously it makes people who are not black feel safer that this is happening? And that’s just a theory. I didn’t accuse anyone, people were coming at me on Facebook about it. But then on the other side, as a black man, subconsciously, it makes me hyper-vigilant. If I get pulled over tomorrow I’m thinking about the videos, I’m thinking I’m going to get shot. And the day I posted that video that night the Dallas shootings happened, I couldn’t believe it. And that’s the hyper-vigilance I spoke about. BI: And some people will be reading this and think, what’s celebrity Terry Crews know? But you state in your video that you were pulled over once in LA and the officer walked up to your car with a gun drawn.
Crews: Yeah. This was my first time in LA and the cop had his gun pointed at me. And I remember I had my hands at ten and two [on the steering wheel]. And I said I’m not going to move my hands because I knew he could kill me. And I was just like why does this police officer have his gun out? But it was after the LA riots, so maybe it was police being hyper-vigilant. But I knew to be calm. I didn’t speak until I was spoken to. I wasn’t going to give him a reason. I mean, just as a Caucasian male walks through an alley that’s full of gang members and he feels very intimidated, I used to feel that way walking through a bank. A black man walking into a bank and you have all of these older white gentleman looking at me, I felt very intimidated. These are the realities of how you think and you don’t even know why. The hyper-vigilance. One by one I’ve gone through the things in my own life in my own head that take me out. And that’s what I was trying to tell people with the Facebook video. To think things out. And another thing we need are good police officers, and there are a lot of them, to stand up and say this is not me. That would heal so much. But a lot of times these people don’t say anything. And it gets people more ramped up.