We caught up with the always hilarious Terry Crews, where he discussed playing Sergeant Terry Jeffords on Fox’s hit show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
What led you to get involved with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”?
Terry Crews: It’s wild because I had just finished “Arrested Development” for Netflix and I had also just done “Newsroom”. I was back to back with the HBO thing and the Netflix thing, and I was trying to figure out my next TV show. I got three offers for different pilots. I had always been a fan of “Parks and Rec” so I had a meeting with Dan Goor and Mike Schur who executive produced “Parks and Recreation” and I love that show. They basically said ‘Terry we want this character to be you. We’re going to write this specifically for you.’ I was like ‘what?’ I had never had that happen. Usually they have some guy that they have figured out … make him big and black and I’ll just have to do what he was gonna do. They were like ‘no the character is so much like you we’ve already named him Terry’, and I hadn’t even signed on to the pilot yet. There were like ‘if you don’t take this part somebody is going to be running around with your name.’ I was like wow these guys ain’t playing. Then I said ‘I have to read the pilot.’ I read this pilot and I knew that Andy Samberg was involved because I have been a fan of Andy’s for forever. I had never met him, but I was like this guy is the future of comedy. I just had the same feeling, I felt like he was a Chris Rock, he was Adam Sandler and I was like I’ve got to get involved. You’re only as good as the people you work with and I knew I had to be involved with Andy and the rest was history. We locked it up and I never looked back. It’s a decision I will never regret. It’s such an awesome deal.
There are a lot of office comedies on TV right now. What do you think sets “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” apart from them?
TC: I’m glad that you called it an office comedy because a lot of people would call it a police thing, but it is an office comedy in a lot of ways. I think what sets us apart is the fact that you see the police work in this kind of way. You see it as an office as opposed to a regular cop show. A lot of the times it’s all about the fun of arresting people, jumping up and doing crazy stuff, or either the serious where it’s like “Law and Order” that kind of stuff. With us, it’s about our relationships, and that’s what sets us apart. Another thing is, each character on the show is an original. You will never see anyone like Andy, you won’t see anybody like me, and you won’t see anybody like Andre [Braugher] on TV at all. You got Stephanie [Beatriz], Melissa [Fumero], plus Chelsea Peretti who’s awesome, and Joe Lo Truglio. These guys are original characters that you just want to know. The biggest thing that I’ve heard, and other people have said, is that they think the show should be an hour because the show has much more to give. You just want to learn more and hang out with these guys more. That’s what a good office comedy will bring you and a good sitcom, period. It’s one of those things where you really want to spend time with them. I remember watching “Sanford and Son” and shows like that and I was like man, I’d get mad when they were over. It’s too quick!
Do you think that’s what keeps people coming back to watch the show, the characters themselves?
TC: Definitely. Just think about this, TV is where it’s at right now. You have major, major stars that want to do TV, but they won’t do it because there’s no guarantee that it’ll work. When you’re on a show that works, it’s like lightening in a bottle. TV is where it’s at, you look at shows like “[The] Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad,” “Modern Family”, “Big Bang Theory.” I mean when it works, it’s like its own animal. You can’t really call it, you don’t know. They put out so much stuff and it doesn’t hit the wall and it doesn’t even stick. I’ve had the awesome privilege, I mean you’re talking about “Everybody Hates Chris,” shows like that that go on for four years and become classics. I mean I’m honored to be apart of this kind of stuff, and playing different characters every time, it feels really, really good. People binge watch. Now you can sit down and instead of watching a movie, you can watch and hour and a half of your favorite sitcom back-to-back, which has change the way we look at entertainment. I remember when I was a kid you had that half an hour once a week and you couldn’t go back and look at it. I didn’t even have a VCR when I was a kid. It was one of those things. I remember when “The Cosby Show” was on and we’d get that gigantic VHS and we’d watch back, all fuzzy and we’d be like ‘Woo we can watch it again’. And now you can watch it at will on your computer, on your phone. It changed the way we do it, and I think “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is the perfect, perfect show for your lifestyle today, and that’s why we’ve been able to stick around.
What’s it like filming out in Brooklyn as opposed to LA?
TC: We’ll it’s funny, and I hate to bust your bubble, but we shoot in LA. People think it’s Brooklyn all the time. I’ve had people from Brooklyn like ‘dude, you shoot right outside my house. Y’all were shooting there yesterday’ and I look at them and I’m like ‘uh, huh’. I’m not telling, but I guess I just did. So, we shoot in Studio City in LA, that’s how we got you.
What do you like most about your character?
TC: The best thing about Terry Jeffords is that he’s me. He is me. Terry loves yogurt, I love yogurt. Terry loves his family, I love my family. He loves his co-workers, I love my co-workers. It’s never really a conundrum. I always get worried. Sometimes when you do a movie they want you to do something that you know isn’t you at all, and it’s kind like ‘I’ll see how we can make this work’. And again, that’s acting. I totally get acting, but sometimes when you’re doing this every week, and now I can give you every intricacy and things you didn’t know about me. That to me makes it a much more satisfying part. It makes it much more real. I get to reveal a lot about me. I’m a nerd. That’s what I am. I’m an artist, and they put all of it in the show. I have a minivan and they put that in the show, because I mentioned my minivan and now it’s a part of the show. I’m very thankful for that because it shows that the writers of this thing know what kind of person I am. You know, what was so cool? One of the coolest things ever was when the executive producer Dan Goor came up to me during a table read and he was like ‘I just read your book over the weekend’ and he said ‘I loved it and I really know you even more’ and I was like ‘oh you’re about to add some of the stuff into the script now.’ That’s all I could think about like ‘oh lord, now it’s really going to be real’. We going in, you know.
How do you feel about the show taking on current issues? Are they treated as a big deal, or are they just another aspect of the show that makes it more real and relatable?
TC: Yeah we don’t do that. The fact that Holt is gay is not even touched on, or the fact that there are two Hispanic ladies in the office. You know there are so many shows that would turn this into to ‘all right we’re going to deal with the Hispanic this and the Black this and the gay this’. You know what, we’re just people. This is what I love. We are just people, we are there. And the fact is that there are two African American men who run this precinct, and it’s not even thought about. It’s not even a big deal. Now it’s about the relationships, and I think that’s the best place to be. People are way too complex to start going ‘ok you’re the black guy in this thing, and you are the Asian guy in this thing’ because we’re too deep. We’re way too deep and way too complex to even simplify people that way and I think that when you see stuff that is simplified it’s boring. That’s why it’s always interesting to see us because you don’t know what we’re going to do as people.
Where would you like to see the show go from here?
TC: One big thing that I’ve liked that they’ve done this year is expanded the world of Brooklyn. Ed Helms comes in, Eva Longoria comes in this weekend. She’s a defense attorney. We get to go to court with these guys. Nick Canon comes in and plays Stephanie’s future love interest. You get to see outside of the precinct a lot more, and I like that aspect of it because we are police officers. It’s not like some sort of goofy police story, we’re really out there doing it, but we care about each other and the whole thing becomes the backbone of the show.
What’s it like working with Andy Samberg and everyone on set? Is it a very goofy atmosphere?
TC: Andy is more serious than anyone will ever, ever guess. He is 100 percent working on his comedy. Now, Andre and I we’re older. I mean I’m 46 he’s 46 plus, let’s just say that. We can’t play around. I don’t got time to fool around with some guy that wants to goof around all day and lalala, boasts I’m so good, and ‘I’m getting paid’ because hey man look we need to do a really good show. I’ve got five kids. I’m a grandfather okay. We ain’t goofing around here. He has an old soul attitude. This man comes to work to work. And I was like, this dude works on the comedy. He works on every aspect. All that goofing around and the crazy Andy that you see, he has planned it. He has worked on it. He has totally got every detail of that down to the point that he makes it look effortless, but when the cameras off he’s like ‘alright Terry you know man I was just with my wife the other day’ and I’m like we’ve got these deep talks, and then we cut to and bam, he’s out there holding a mouse on his desk, you know doing something crazy.
How would you feel about hosting SNL in the future?
TC: I would love to. I’ve got some script ideas, some sketch ideas. I would be honored. It would never be the same, it’s kind like “Who Wants to be A Millionaire”. You host the Millionaire and it’s not the same anymore. People are like ‘what in the world?’ I’ll either ruin it or I’ll make the best thing ever, and I’ll do the same thing to “Saturday Night Live”. It’ll be like ‘man we can’t ever do this again’ or ‘man he is amazing’. There is no middle ground with Terry Crews. I’ll tell you right now there’s no middle ground. I’ll blow that thing up.
What was the moment or thing you encountered that made you want to write a book?
TC: This is small thing it’s crazy. My wife and I would go out and people would come up to her and they’d come up to me and they’d go ‘oh isn’t it the most wonderful, it must be so fun living with him. He is so amazing’. And I would look at my wife and she’d give this eye roll and she’d grit her teeth and smile through, and I was like I got to bust this bubble. This bubble has got to get bust, there is no way because she’s like ‘oh my lord if they only knew’. I had to bust the bubble. I had to let people know Terry Crews ain’t all that. He’s just like everyone else. What happens is people put you up there and go ‘man I ain’t you. You’ve got all this or you’ve got all that’ and I’m like I’m just like everybody else. I’m from Flint, Michigan. I started out with less than everybody else, and the whole point is that I failed. I’ve failed several times and I fell forward. Sometimes I just flopped right on my face, and you got to get up and limp away in front of everybody, and I’ve done that a whole lot of times.
You also have a film coming out soon called “Reach me”. What would like people to know about it?
TC: It’s kind of cool. It’s all about a guy who writes a self-help book that affects everybody around him, and I mean there are so many stars in this thing. I mean Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Danny Aiello, Omari Hardwick, [Sylvester] Stallone, myself, Kevin Connolly it just keeps going on. It’s all about how this book has affected everybody and it’s a real cool, very small indie thing I’m really very proud of. I really like to push the limit. I don’t do anything for money. I do everything for creative satisfaction, and it’s so cool to be a part of a movie like this.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” airs Sundays on Fox.