Crews flaunts sensitive side

BIG DADDY: Terry Crews is a popular cast member on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
BIG DADDY: Terry Crews is a popular cast member on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

He might have been a straight shooter on the sports field, but when it comes to his acting career choices Terry Crews has torn up the rule book.

As a former NFL defensive end turned actor, the 1.83m, powerfully built Terry Crews might ooze machismo but that doesn't mean he isn't in touch with his feminine side.

The star of comedy cop show Brooklyn Nine-Nine and recent Adam Sandler rom-com Blended admits he really has no choice - after all he has four daughters and only one son.

"The daddy-daughter relationship makes you more sensitive as a man - you have to be," the 45-year-old says down the phone line from Los Angeles.

"All that gruffness, bigness and strength is no good around these ladies. You have to be empathetic and have regular tea parties with your little baby girl."

Much to his family's amusement, art seems to have finally imitated life with Crews' role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He plays Detective Sergeant Terence Jeffords, a highly-strung father of twin daughters - Cagney and Lacey. Crews says the character is no accident. Brooklyn Nine-Nine creators Dan Goor and Mike Shure wrote the role especially for him and have clearly been keeping watch.

"They've nailed all those little idiosyncrasies. They saw that I arrive in workout gear and put it on when I'm leaving so they've added tonnes of gym jokes. Likewise, they see me drive away in my mini-van - the most feminine vehicle imaginable - so that went in the script. To me that's what smart writing is all about."

Crews says he was attracted to the show, not only because of Goor and Shure's work on Parks and Recreation, but also the chance to work with Andy Samberg.

"I was always a big fan of Andy and I knew he was going to break huge. Andy is the future of comedy - young, talented, smart - I thought ‘this is a guy I want to be in business with'."

Standing on the podium at the Golden Globes just months later to help collect the award for Best TV comedy, Crews knew it was the best business decision he had ever made.

"We won after just 10 episodes had aired; it just doesn't happen that way. We have lightning in a bottle right now and everyone wants to make it work here. I've done some projects in the past where some people have only been into it at 50 per cent - that's a horrible place to be. I promise I'm never going to mail it in - I'm at 150 per cent all the time."

He describes the show as a workplace or family comedy rather than a cop show. "Holt (Andre Braugher) is the dad, I'm the mom and all the other detectives are the kids, with Samberg as the petulant child. It's my job to make sure the family runs smoothly."

It's a role that Crews has extended to around the set as well. "I act as advisor to the younger cast members, warning them about what's going to happen with social media and trolls. We also talk relationship stuff. I give all the secrets - everything I know, I tell.

"When Andy was about to get married [to musician Joanna Newsom] I told him it was going to take his career to a whole new level. Often guys hide their wedding rings, but I say ‘tell everyone you're married and run with it and you'll see that it's your greatest glory'."

He knows what he's talking about. Crews has been happily married for almost 25 years to Rebecca, a former beauty queen and gospel recording artist. She is the one who has encouraged him in his varied career choices.

"To me there are no rules when it comes to acting - you do movies, TV, commercials (Crews has been the face of Old Spice) and animation. Really the only obstacle is what's in my head. Many people do their career for other people - old teachers, professors, even their parents. Me, I had no such baggage. I came from the NFL, so I'm just happy to be here. Most athletes want to be actors and all the actors want to be athletes. I've been living two dreams."

He believes that also gives him a unique perspective on both worlds. "I have too many friends that play football to get involved in a fantasy football league - I find it very objectifying. Likewise, I don't like it when they talk about my Hollywood friends either. People tend to be very heartless when it comes to someone who is famous. ‘I've spent time with their families - they are no different to you', I always say.

For his own part, Crews says he is more than happy to continue mixing things up (as well as filming the second season of Brooklyn, he will also appear in next month's The Expendables 3), although he is not keen to do anything that will take him away from his family for any great length of time.

"I spent two-and-a-half months in South Africa on Blended so we flew my family out there and we had a wonderful time. Man, I need to be around my kids all the time otherwise I start to lose influence. They start to forget your name after a while."

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 9.55pm, Wednesday, TV2.