After playing young Chris Rock’s father Julius for four seasons on Everybody Hates Chris and landing his own BET reality show, The Family Crews, featuring him, his wife Rebecca and their five kids, Terry Crews realized that father knows best.
“For years I tried to get away from the whole ‘TV dad’ thing,” Crews says. “I was like, ‘I want to be an action star, I want to be this and that.’ The path that opens up in front of you is usually the one that you should take. After Everybody Hates Chris, everybody was like, ‘He’s a TV dad. This is it.’ And then to be presented with the whole reality show thing, I said, ‘You know, this is cool.’
Now Crews is as cool as Ice Cube in the new TBS family sitcom Are We There Yet?, premiering Wednesday, June 2, and joining Meet the Browns and Tyler Perry’s House of Payne on the TBS Wednesday night lineup. Crews plays Nick Persons (played by Ice Cube in the 2005 movie of the same name), once a playboy bachelor who’s now settled down with his new wife Suzanne (Essence Atkins) and her two kids, Lindsey (Teala Dunn) and Kevin (Coy Stewart). “It’s definitely a spinoff in that here the characters have changed, but in essence it’s everything the movie had and I think a little bit more,” Crews explains. “You get to delve into who the characters are and what happens to each and every one of them after [the movie].”
If Crews seems a natural as a TV dad, it’s because the father of five has had plenty of practice in real life. “There’s been very few situations that I haven’t seen. Over the last 23 years, I’ve seen everything that kids can do. And yet they still surprise me,” he says. “You have to be a family person to do a family show. You have to like kids if you’re going to be around them. I love family. It’s just a good thing. The tone that I set is the tone that the show is going to have. I know that we have a good time because I know that I am.”
Crews also loves showing off his wackier side in Are We There Yet? “I was the solid guy in Everybody Hates Chris, but when you look at [Nick], it’s good to play a character that plays in the now and is not so serious in a lot of ways. He’s not so concerned with money and that kind of thing. He’s kind of almost like a big kid. He’s one of the kids in the family. It’s a real big departure from Julius, but a lot more of who I am,” Crews says. “I’m I goofy, crazy guy. People see my character, so it’s kind of like I get to be who I am.”
And if you’ve seen Crews pumping his pectorals, punching out B.O. and kicking buildings in commercials for Old Spice Odor Blocker, then you know just how zany he can be. “I love that stuff,” Crews says. “My wife goes, ‘Oh my God.’ And when your wife cringes like that, you know you’re doing it right. When your kids go, ‘Oh my God! What are you doing, Dad!?’ I love that. I love those reactions. When you just let it all go. I feel privileged and honored that they chose me to do it.”
Ice Cube, who executive produces Are We There Yet?, will also have a recurring onscreen role. “He plays my brother-in-law, and we have a real antagonistic relationship,” Crews says. “It plays into vintage Cube. He is awesome. Cube knows comedy, which is the greatest thing. People forget. Yes, he is the Godfather of Gangsta Rap, but he’s funny, funny, funny. Over the years he’s tapped into many different personas. He blows this character up. I’m just telling you, it’s going to be really really entertaining for everybody.”
Crews and Cube have a relationship that goes back to the late 1990s, after Crews retired as an NFL player and moved to L.A. to pursue acting. “I was a security guard for Ice Cube during a movie he did called Next Friday,” Crews says. “I would stand outside his trailer and make sure nobody messed with anything.” Later, Crews would win a part in that movie’s sequel, Friday After Next. “They actually remembered me from my security days and the whole thing. But I had to go in there and earn the role like everybody else. It kind of started a great relationship over the years.”