Terry Crews is more than the Old Spice mascot or that guy who sang Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” in the 2004 comedy White Chicks. The multi-hyphenate — who carves out time to host World’s Funniest and a staple on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine — recently shocked the world when he appeared in Kendrick Lamar‘s brand-new video for “These Walls.”
In between hearty laughs, Crews will reveal that he has been a longtime K. Dot fanboy, gushing about his viral cameo and spewing out his favorite tracks from Lamar’s breakout Section.80 project (he name-drops “Kush & Corinthians” as one of his go-to jams) to the more recent material, like To Pimp a Butterfly (Crews co-signs “Alright”).
The brolic-yet-smily actor recently called Billboard to recall how he booked the gig for Lamar’s video three weeks ago, when they first met, and how he and Kendrick ended up “hitting the Quan.”
How were you approached to do Kendrick Lamar’s video?
I follow Kendrick on Twitter, and I’m one of his biggest, biggest fans. We met at the BET Awards, and this was right before good kid, m.A.A.d. city was about to come out, because I was a big fan of Section.80. I just played it nonstop, all day. When I saw him, I was like, “Oh my God!” Listen, I was fanboying. I was like [Screams]. I told my wife, “Becky, this is the guy, this is Kendrick Lamar, this is the guy I’ve been telling you about!” And Kendrick was a little taken aback because he was on the red carpet. People didn’t know who he was yet, but he direct-messaged me like, “Hey, man, hit me up.” He went through my manager, and I was like, “Whatever he wants, let’s do.”
Where was the shoot?
We shot in L.A., and I got to meet [director] Colin Tilley. He’s one of the great, great directors. The videos Colin has done with Kendrick was beyond belief, so I knew it was going to be something special. The shoot was on a Saturday because I was off from shooting Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and they had a three-day shoot. They just said, “We’ll work it around your schedule,” and I showed up in the morning. We kind of went all day from the morning to the early evening and got stuff done. Believe me, I’m so proud of him. He’s a true artist. For me, I get invited to do this kind of stuff all the time for music, and I’ve only done it about a couple of times. The other time was Major Lazer, which I’m a huge fan of Diplo and the group. I knew this was the right thing to do because I only deal with people who want to make art.
Who came up with the concept of a black comedy and ultimately, you and Kendrick hitting the Quan?
It was Colin, Kendrick and the whole Top Dawg Entertainment family. We sat and linked right before we started shooting. I was talking to Kendrick, and he gave me this vision of how it was going to be, how the song was, and I was a fan of To Pimp a Butterfly too, so I’ve been banging that for a really long time. I thought, “Wow, this song is so different from what the song is.” I think it’s gonna shake things up. Talking to Colin and all those guys, it was kind of a group effort. I was just down to give him what he needed and make sure Kendrick’s vision was realized because everything he puts out is his baby. I wanted to make sure it was going to be right.
Did you both have to choreograph your dance performance?
All of the stuff was ad-libbed when we were doing the [scene] in the car and I just got pumped. This took me back to my days in [my hometown] Flint, Michigan, and what was going on. I think it’s good for me a lot of times to do that stuff because it was one of those things [where] they let me just roll. So a lot of that was improvised but we spent some time, practicing the Quan. I had a video of the Quan and we went through it a little bit. We did it about 10 times and made sure it got better every time. We kept practicing it and it kept getting more and more intense. It’s weird because it kinda had a life of its own. We didn’t even know what we were doing at one point. It just became what it became.
Do you have any personal talent show horror stories?
Growing up in Flint, Michigan, my mother was very, very protective ‘cause it was the crack epidemic and it was a lot of people getting shot and killed. It was a wild place and she didn’t want me to be around that element. There was talent shows in Flint. Ready for the World was a big thing, MC Breed came from Flint. But I said, “Ma, can I host the talent show?” For some reason, she thought that was better than being in it. [Laughs] I feel like she thought I was going to get shot if I was onstage, but oh no, they’ll leave you alone if you host it. [Laughs]
Your attire in the Kendrick video is reflective of your work, because your pecs have been known to dance on-camera as well. Would you and Kendrick ever take your talents to Magic Mike?
[Laughs] Maybe not. I would never be in a Magic Mike movie. That’s not my thing. Again, I’ve been approached to do that kind of stuff before, but I think it’s too obvious. I like going against the things people expect you to do. To me, everybody would say, “Magic Mike, that’s perfect. Yeah, [Terry] would do that,” but hosting Millionaire, everybody was like, “What the hell?” Me in this Western with Adam Sandler [Netflix’s The Ridiculous 6], they go, “Whoa. I never saw that coming.” I want to shock the world in every way, like you don’t know where Terry Crews is going to pop up. I can do a Kendrick Lamar video and Sesame Street all in the same day.
The Kendrick Lamar video says “To be continued” at the end. Will you be involved in his next venture?
I don’t know anything. I have no idea, but I know I’m down. Whatever Kendrick calls me to do, I’ll support it.