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It’s one of his first days on the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and he has just welcomed a new contestant, Josh. Crews is wide-eyed and laughing hysterically as he wraps both arms around Josh in an aggressive bear hug, screaming, “I love you!” at the top of his lungs.
SEE ALSO: Terry Crews’ Total Body Workout
Josh’s adrenaline spikes; he’s out of breath, red-faced, and mirrors the host’s euphoria. He shakes as he laughs. The hundreds in attendance are laughing and smiling now. The whole studio becomes an echo chamber of pure, unbridled joy, with Crews at the epicenter. It’s a wild and chaotic scene—and borderline insane when you consider that amid all this sidesplitting laughter, not one funny thing has actually happened.
If you spend any amount of time in a room with Crews, though, you’ll realize that the frenzy on Millionaire is typical of the kind of scene he creates wherever he goes. His lust for life can give anyone a contact high. You hear all the time about people with no “off” switch—but Crews gives new meaning to the term.
You probably know Crews’ story—especially if you’ve been reading M&F for the past few years—the unlikely rags-to-riches tale of an aspiring artist from Flint, MI, who skipped around the NFL for seven years before breaking into film, ultimately starring in three Expendables films and counting, conquering YouTube with the batshit craziness of his Old Spice ads, and now, entering daytime TV at the helm of a syndicated game show.
Hearing Crews speak about his journey from Flint to the red carpets of Hollywood is just as fascinating as hearing him talk about training and diet, which he does at length in this, his fourth M&F cover story—while offering an extra-strength dose of tough love for Internet haters.
A word of warning before you read on: You might want to put on your training gear first. By the time Crews is done motivating you, you’re going to want to run through a brick wall, bench-press a house, or grab a stranger and shout, “I love you, man!”
M&F: When we post your cover on Facebook, there will be a ton of comments — some negative. They’ll say either: 1) Big deal. He’s a genetic freak. 2) He’s paid to look that way. 3) At his age, he must be on some kind of steroids. How do you feel when you see stuff like that? And how do you address it? Let’s start with the “genetic freak” jab.
Terry Crews: Well, I think that it tends to be a cop out in a lot of ways. It’s like looking at somebody who’s rich and saying, “There he goes—he just got it.” We all know, especially in America, that very few people are rich because it’s inherited. Most rich, successful people have worked very, very hard and planned and scraped and saved and did everything they could do.
I’ve been married for 25 years. What would people say? They’re genetic freaks? They’re meant to be together? I mean, come on. We went through hell. It could have gone either way every day. And it still can. If I’m not on it, I could be getting divorced next week. Things are not automatic. You have to work on it. I have to work on my marriage, I have to work on my money, I have to work on my body. The work never stops.
The truth is: You’re either getting better or getting worse, but you never stand still. Ever. Any change in your habits, any change in what you do, affects you long term. If, all of a sudden you decide you’re going to have a dessert every day for the rest of your life, that adds up. It’s true mathematics: You know what I’m saying?
M&F: The second thing people will say is that you’re rich and you have a personal chef.
TC: Hey, man, I’ve never had a chef. I promise you, I will get one as I keep moving on! I don’t want to knock on it—I will get one. But the thing is, even if it is a chef, the people who are saying that won’t answer this question: What are you putting in your mouth? Is that someone else’s responsibility?
I know a lot of people who have chefs who are not in shape.
Again, it’s one of those things where if you have to put someone down in order to make yourself look better, it does not work. Life does not work that way. I see that with a lot of people. It’s like, “If I knock this guy, then I’ll look good,” but people see through that in five minutes. It’s just hatin’.
First of all, you are responsible for everything that happens to you in your life. Period. You are responsible for every iota of food that you put in your mouth. No one is forcing you into anything. No one is taking anything away from you—especially if you live in America. There are plenty of ways to eat. You could go to McDonald’s and find a healthy choice. That’s just the real deal. You can take the bread off and just eat the chicken breast, whatever you’ve got to do. There’s always a choice. When you try to get rid of the fact that people have choices by saying things like, “Well, you’ve got this, and you’ve got that…” Hey man, I’m from Flint, MI. I promise, nobody has a chef in Flint, MI. You come up just like everybody. I had to figure it out. I made a lot of mistakes—a lot of diet mistakes. I tried to go vegetarian one time and got fatter, which was crazy;
I didn’t get enough protein. I’ve tried every diet. I’ve tried everything you can do.
M&F: The third thing people will bring up is chemical enhancement. They’ll say you’re 46 years old, so you have to at least be using a topical testosterone cream or something like that.
TC: Never. I love the fact that they think that because it’s a badge of honor. If they really think I’m doing that, then that’s the coolest thing. I am anti- any drug. I love vitamins. And vitamin-wise, I’ve done my research and I’ve found natural ways to increase my testosterone.
But I know a lot of people who like to cheat. Let me tell you something: I have been successful, have five kids, and been married 25 years—because you can’t cheat. Cheating comes back to bite you. I’m not going to mention any names at all, but there are a lot of celebrities who have a lifestyle of cheating, and it comes back to bite you. I don’t care who you are. Those little gaps in your morality come back to get you. You cannot cheat, and you cannot have a lifestyle of lying to people and stay successful because what happens is, especially nowadays, all that stuff comes out. There’s no way to hide it. Somebody’s going to name names. “Hey, man, I sold him this yesterday.” If anybody wants to put that on me, I dare you to bring me anybody who’s ever sold me a steroid. Bring him out. Come on out. It’s not going to happen because it didn’t happen. It’s never happened. In the day of Facebook and the day of Twitter, somebody’s going to talk. Just like if I were cheating on my wife, somebody would say something. It’s not rocket science. People catch you.
They can say whatever they want to say. It feels good. But at the same time, I expect that from people who have a mindset of finding excuses. If you want to find excuses, you’ll always find one. But if you have a mindset of taking responsibility, there’s nothing that will ever stop you.
M&F: You’ve brought up diet a few times. What is your diet like right now?
TC: For me, the intermittent fasting thing has been a bit of a fountain of youth. I would never recommend intermittent fasting for younger guys, to be honest. People in their 20s or early 30s, I think to some extent there’s still growth to be made, and you haven’t really matured yet. With me, I’m 46, this is Phase 2 of my life, and I’ve found that I didn’t need that much food. I just didn’t.
I’ve always been a guy who ate six or seven small, clean meals a day. That worked for me for a really long time. It got hard, though, because I would eat a lot, and I would work out, and I would feel bloated, and I was tired from eating, and then you feel funny when you’re working out. It was just an endless cycle of, like, “Wow, something’s gotta change.”
I read a lot of books on intermittent fasting, and there’s this thing called autophagy where, once your body has stopped digesting, it starts to work on your cell regeneration, and it just fascinated me. You know who actually turned me on to it was [Expendables co-star] Randy Couture. Randy blew my mind. He was like, “Hey, man. I’m doing this intermittent fasting thing.” And I was like, “What? You’re not eating breakfast? What is that?”
M&F: There are a few different ways to do IF. How do you structure it?
TC: Every day, I eat in an eight-hour window. It starts at 2 p.m. and goes to 10 p.m. I eat clean, but I do have Ezekiel bread. My biggest meal is at 10 o’clock. I have a cheat day on Sunday. I eat whatever I want, but even then, I only eat in that window.
When I started this, all of a sudden my skin was clearer. I felt better; I actually had more energy. I was already in pretty good shape, but then I got in better shape, and I’m telling you this right now: At 46, I look much better than I did when I was 25, and that’s scary. I think at least for the next 10, 15 years, I see this as my way to go. It’s kept pounds off, and my workouts have been amazing.
Just this morning I was deadlifting 500 pounds. It’s a struggle with your brain, then your hormones will kick in and push you through. It’s like your body says, “We get it. You need this, so we’ve got to give you what you need.”
It’s funny, if you listen to your body and if you do what your body is telling you to do, it’s going to lead you wrong. You have to tell your body what to do, and all of a sudden your body gets in shape. You have to get in shape in your mind before your body will get in shape. Things tend to happen spiritually before they happen physically.
M&F: The 500 you did this morning: How many reps did you get?
TC: That was twice. But that took years to work up to. I’m sure I could try a 600-pound one-rep max, but if you blow your back out, it’s not gonna be a good deal. You ain’t doing nothing. The fact that I could do two, at 500 pounds, I say that’s a good day.
Let me tell you, and this is the truth, man: Everything you want in life takes white-hot desire. That’s what a deadlift teaches you. It teaches you that you gotta want to lift that weight more than you want to live!
I watched Hugh Jackman—his video [that appeared online in November 2014] when he was doing his deadlifts, and they were going to touch it, and he yells at them, “DON’T TOUCH IT! DON’T TOUCH IT!” You can hear him scream it. Man, I jumped out of my seat and I cheered for him. He understands what it’s about. He understands when you want some- thing that bad, you’re gonna get it. And your body has to give it to you. This is the way I live my life.
When I started doing Millionaire, you know, we did 175 episodes all while I’m doing Brooklyn Nine-Nine at the same time, and people were like, “How do you do it?” But the thing is, when you say, “I gotta do this,” you’ve reached a point where the desire is so great, you want it more than anything. Decision followed by action is a magic formula that can change your life.
It changed mine.
M&F: What made you want to do Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? A lot of people remember when it was the biggest thing in the world when Regis was doing it back in the early 2000s. When you mention it now, the typical response is, “That’s still on?”
TC: This is the thing: I have always gone against what everyone said you should be doing. I’m a big guy, so people say, “You should be doing action movies.” Well, I do comedy. Early on, I found that I was doing things for other people. Now I had a new opportunity. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, where it’s my show and I’m the host. I wanted to do Millionaire because it opens up a whole other life for me. When you’re talking about most actors, you wait until they pick you. You’re waiting around, and then they say, “Oh, you’re too old, and you’re too this, and you’re too that.” You don’t have any decision on that. If I want to be in a Bond film, it’s not like you call up the Bond people. That’s not what happens. They call you, and then you audition and they run you through the gauntlet and you’ve got to see. This, I’ve got control over. There’s always a need for a host, for a personality. Some of the best times I’ve ever had were on talk shows—from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon. Just because I have muscle, that should never restrict me from being a personality. A lot of people feel that muscle and personality don’t mix. They do. I break that perception. This opened me up to a whole new world. You can say whatever you want, but now I am a game-show host. Only a few people can host a game show, and I’m one of them. Right now, anything goes. I would never say, “Nah, I’m not doing that.”
M&F: People probably advised you against doing soap commercials too.
TC: First of all, me and Old Spice, we changed what commercials were. You could actually watch commercials for entertainment now, and that was unheard of before. You could maybe watch the Super Bowl commercials here and there, but people watch the Old Spice commercials as if they’re watching a TV show. People did say, “Why are you doing commercials?” Why? Because there are no rules. There are no rules—at all! You’ve got to throw out what you think some- body should be doing and think about what YOU want to do. What is it that you want to do? What did you ever dream about doing with your life? I was horseback riding about a week ago. I enjoyed it so much, and I was thinking about how many times when I was a kid I wanted to ride a horse; you see somebody riding a horse in a western or whatever, and I would talk about it. You know what was told to me by other dudes in the neighborhood? They were like, “Oh, man, you’d look stupid riding a horse. You crazy. Don’t do that. You grown up in the city, man. Get yourself that Cadillac and chill out. You’ll get killed on a horse. That horse’ll step on your head.” And you hear all this stuff growing up, and finally you’re like, “I ain’t riding a horse.”
But let me tell you something: When you challenge it, and when you get up on a horse and you’re galloping—now I see why everybody loves it and enjoys it. I’m not listening to anybody else anymore. I’m not listening to what their opinions are on what I should be doing anymore. I’m doing what Terry Crews wants to do, and I think everybody has to live that way if you’re going to find your true calling and your true life. Think for yourself. That’s my biggest thing for everyone. Please, please think for yourself—and this goes for lifting, it goes for your diet, for everything.
I would never recommend everybody in the world do intermittent fasting—that’s crazy! Because it’s not right for everybody. But through study and searching, I’ve found what works for me right now. In five years I might be back to eating seven meals a day. I don’t know. But I could do that because there are no rules, and I won’t allow myself to be put in this thing where, “OK, this is the way it’s gotta be, and these are the rules.”
That’s a mistake I see trainers make all the time. They’re doing this kind of round-peg, square-hole thing. Well, guess what? You need to put around peg in a round hole, and a square peg in a square hole. The only question you’ve got to ask yourself is, “Is it working?” Whatever you’re doing, is it working?
I played with guys who were on steroids, and it ain’t working for ’em now—and in a major way. They have a lot of problems, a lot of issues. When you cheat, it works for a second, and then all of a sudden it’s a mess. I’m gonna tell you right now: Be healthy, think for yourself, but stay true to who you are. That’s my mantra for life.
M&F: But the first time you tried to move outside the genres that directors and producers wanted you in, you must have gotten tons of pushback.
TC: I slowly realized that people will laugh at you. The thing that gets you accepted by your peers is the same thing that gets you rejected by them. It’s crazy. Because if you try to fit in, eventually that all backfires on you. It’s when you do your own thing and they don’t want you around that you become a star and they want you. It’s so crazy. I call it like this: You get so nerdy that you become cool. It’s like Bill Gates. You know what I mean? I’m sure Bill Gates didn’t get anything for a while, and now he’s the coolest man on Earth. It’s even like Arnold. When he started, lifting was crazy and no one did it. Now he’s become the coolest man on Earth.
M&F: So much of your success in the gym and in life stems from your positive attitude. Most people know they’re supposed to have a positive attitude and can do it for a little while. Living that attitude on a moment-to-moment basis is a whole different animal. How are you able to do that every day?
TC: I heard this great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that sums up a lot of life for me: “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” That sticks with me and haunts me daily. Am I scared to fail? Or scared to succeed? Am I willing to do everything it takes to make it? Or will I hide safely behind my excuses forever?
I discovered you don’t even get to be born unless your mother has the courage to endure childbirth. Everything fantastic, amazing, or extraordinary takes courage. But here’s another thing I discovered: You can’t be a pessimist and courageous at the same time. In order to move forward, you have to believe that you are going to win. What you believe engages you with power that trumps everything in your life.
That works good and bad. If you believe you won’t make it, there is no way you can. If you believe you will, you are unstoppable. I believe some people don’t sustain their fitness goals because of a subconscious desire to fail. “What if I look too good? Will I stray from my family? What if I gain 20 pounds of muscle? Can I face the pressure of hearing I’ve changed? That I’m not the same old person I used to be?”
These are hard questions to ask yourself, and if you never ask them, then “you didn’t want it” automatically becomes your answer.
I’m optimistic because at this level there is no other way to be. Any other mindset will take you down and out. One of the most successful men who ever walked on the face of the Earth, Andrew Carnegie, said this: “A wise man is the confirmed optimist.”