Television’s Favorite Blended Family Returns as TBS’s Hit Comedy Series ARE WE THERE YET? Terry Crews and Essence Atkins Star in Comedy Series with Special Guest Star Ice Cube From Revolution Studios and Cube Vision, Distributed by Debmar-Mercury. The Kingston-Person family returns to the neighborhood in January with all new episodes of TBS’s comedy series ARE WE THERE YET? The series stars Terry Crews (Everybody Hates Chris) and Essence Atkins (Half and Half) as a newlywed couple whose blended family faces the challenges of everyday life. ARE WE THERE YET? will launch with back-to-back episodes Wednesday, Jan. 5, at 10 and 10:30 p.m. (ET/PT). In ARE WE THERE YET?, Crews and Atkins play Nick and Suzanne, a newly married couple adjusting to life as newlyweds and the complexities of raising children, while also dealing with the everyday challenges of romance, friendship and the drama of extended family. Teala Dunn and Coy Stewart co-star as Nick and Suzanne’s children, 14-year-old Lindsey and 10-year-old Kevin. Keesha Sharp is Suzanne’s best friend and coworker, Gigi, who has a taste for men and the finer things in life. Special guest star Ice Cube will return as Suzanne’s brother, Terrence. Recurring characters include Nick’s best friend, Martin, played by comedian Christian Finnegan, and Suzanne’s mother, Marilyn, played by Telma Hopkins.
I spoke with Terry Crews about his role as “Nick Persons” in Are We There Yet? on TBS. It was such an honor for me to speak with Terry. Terry is one of my absolute favorite actors and I can never get enough of him and his dancing. He is brilliant and even his muscles have muscles, so how can you beat that? Terry’s role as Latrell in White Chicks is still my favorite. They need to do a sequel and just focus on Latrell. His scene in the club dancing with the whistle and glow sticks was incredible. Of course, Terry singing in the car and the self portraits that he had hanging on his wall were priceless. I wonder what Keenan Ivory Wayans did with those after filming was complete? What an amazing showpiece to have on your wall. Yes, I am a fan and rightfully so because Terry has a rare quality that when you see him you just have to smile. He just puts you in a good mood and is able to “Euro Train” himself into anyone’s heart. Don’t miss Terry Crews in Are We There Yet? on TBS.
Lena Lamoray: What I love about Are We There Yet?, besides you of course, is that it’s so easy to relate to every character and situation. Can you talk about your favorite elements of the show and what it’s like to play Nick?
Terry Crews: My favorite element of the shows is the fact that it is a blended family. When I met my wife she had a little baby that was six months old and we were married when that baby was two years old. So – and the funny thing is that my wife loved me, but that baby didn’t and it was one of those things where we always had to – you know, I always was trying to win two people. I mean, you really have to – you know, you have to win the love of your wife, but you’ve got to win the love of those kids too. And it’s really a thankless position and I – you know there’s like a 100 ways you can get it wrong, but only one way to get it right. And I love walking that tightrope with Nick and what he has to do and being in that situation and ii think that’s one of my favorite parts. I’m doing this because I’m familiar with it. You know, it’s really funny because that’s what a lot of people are into right now, you know, the blended family situation, and I think a lot of people relate. They’re like, “Wow, that’s – you know, I have my husband’s kids or I have my wife’s kids, and how are we going to do this?” You know, what I mean, because being a – you can easily be the wicked stepfather or stepmother in one second.
Lena Lamoray: Now you’ve played so many different characters on shows and in films, so can you talk about a couple that you enjoyed the most and how they compare to Nick?
Terry Crews: Wow. You know what’s funny? My character in Expendables, I loved Hale Caesar. And first of all, he’s a hard-core dude. This is the thing about Nick, and this is how the two compare. A lot of people are like, Oh, man, you know, how does it feel going from a hard-core action hero to a family – you know, family guy, a father?” Well, the deal is is that anybody, you know, James Bond went from girl to girl to girl. It – that’s not hard. What’s really hard is trying to stick with the same woman for years and trying to take on kids that are not yours and dealing with (actions) and dealing with – that creates a grizzled bedroom. You know what I mean?
Lena Lamoray: Yeah.
Terry Crews: You have to be a hard core action hero to do that kind of thing and that’s where I see they – how it compares. I think the most hard-core guy ever, if you ever see a guy who’s been married for 50 years to the same woman, he’s probably a lot like Hale Caesar in a lot of ways.
Lena Lamoray: You are just so amazing in everything that you do, and no matter how small your part is you always seem to steal the show, especially when dancing is involved. Can you discuss your dance technique and how long it took you to perfect your pec dance?
Terry Crews: You know, I’ve got to tell you. It’s funny. I just – we sold a pilot to VH1 called Dancing with the Dorks and what’s funny is I am a dork, to be honest with you. It was because I had a lot of lonely days as a teenager and I would literally dance for hours. I remember dancing from probably age 12 all the way to 17 every day. I mean, I didn’t go on dates. It wasn’t – I was all into breakdancing and the whole thing. And it’s funny how all that skill was – you know, I can use it now in the movies and in TV and in all this stuff, and I never knew it would be something that would come in later that would really be a catalyst. I was – I tell people, “I’m a dancer first,” you know, I’ve always been a dancer first. And it allowed me to come out of my shell and it allowed me to be a better actor, because you can’t dance, you know, under a (bush) — so to speak — you’ve got to dance so everybody can see you. So, it got me out of my shell and it made an extrovert once I started moving on the floor, so I loved, and I still to this day, I love to dance.
Lena Lamoray: We love watching you dance.
Terry Crews: Oh, thank you.
More Conference Call Interview Highlights:
Q: With new episodes of the show starting in January, what kind of things should we be expecting this season?
Terry Crews: Well, the big thing is, you know, we did the first ten that came out earlier this year and, you know, those first ten is basically kind of the set up. You know, you have to set up who you – you know, what the family is, what they’re about, what they do. Now, it’s about getting into the family, getting into all the craziness that this thing is. And I think we were touching on a lot of things that we couldn’t really expand on, and now we’re expanding in a lot of ways. We have great guest stars, Mike Strahan, Laila Ali, Wayne Brady, (Peppa), just so many great people came through, and are still coming through. We have Deion Sanders coming in next week. Just a lot of great stars and a lot of people are just getting behind what this is. We’ve got Sinbad in last week, which is – just killed it. And I just – I’m really, you know, just honored to have these kind of guests and people. And to be working with, you know, such a great cast that I do.
Q: What would you say is about the show that attracts viewers?
Terry Crews: Well, you know, I think that it’s – first of all, you know, people want to see – it’s kind of a throwback to, you know, a lot of the great African-American comedies that have, you know, gone before. You know, a little piece of Martin, a little bit of Wife and Kids, you know, those kind of things, even the little bit of Cosby, but done in a new way. I mean, you put different people in something it’s always going to be a new DNA charge to it, I think it’s been missing on the television. You know, because there’s just not a lot there for African-Americans, so – but the good thing is I was – when I see – it’s like Cosby, I think it’s more for everyone. This is a kind of a show that, you know, it’s about blended family that, you know, really crosses the – you know, it cross all kind of, you know, generational boundaries and racial boundaries and, you know, it’s going to really hit to – you know, in a funny way to a lot of people.
Q: How do you feel about being one of the few black comedies on television? There’s not many to choose from now, except for the Tyler Perry and Meet the Browns, so how do you feel about being in that elite group?
Terry Crews: I feel great about it. I feel great. But you know, I want to say, you know, TV has changed in a lot of ways, you know? And a lot of people are still like, you know, there’s not a lot of African-American sitcoms, I get it, but there’s not a lot of sitcoms period. You know, with the advent of reality and news magazines, and these kind of stuff, I mean it’s really been pretty sparse in a lot of ways in that genre. But I always told myself, don’t resist to change, you know? Always be ahead of the curve and what – look at what’s happening in the future and find a way to be involved. When I knew the world was the reality vein, I got a reality show on BET and made sure that that’s something that I wanted to do and get involved. When I knew – when Tyler Perry changed the game with how, you know, television done, I mean the fact that he was doing more than one episode a week and was putting together whole deals where he was getting 90 episode pickups, I said, “I need to be a part of this,” because this – you know, I knew TV would never be the same again. And I’m just honored to be, you know, white or black or any other race, to be on the cutting edge of this kind of thing. It’s like it’s just never been done the way we’re doing it and I’m honored. I’m honored and, you know, I think Are We There Yet is one of the watershed moments in TV. You know, and TBS has always been on the cutting edge in the way they’re doing things. And I’m just – you know, everybody will back at this and go, “This is when it changed.”
Q: Do you feel that your character of Nick is a positive role model for black men and for black fathers?
Terry Crews: Oh, I do because – you know, it’s funny because, you know, I used to do a lot of different characters and, you know, when you – in entertainment they send a (type cast) and, you know, you’re on – if you’re on an episode of CSI you’re probably getting handcuffed, you know…when you’re talking about a black man. And what’s so wild is that to be, you know, a normal guy, you know, even with my stature and my size, I mean, you know, it’s not really played up that I’m big and have muscle and the whole thing. It’s just I’m a father. That’s what I do, you know? I know plenty of fathers bigger than me, big guys walking around and love their families. African-American and loves them kids, love their wife, and will do every – anything for them. That’s the guy I represent and he’s pretty much under represented on TV. And I think we – actually, you know, I look at the family and I’m just honored because here we are, you know, a beautiful African-American family just living our lives and doing very, very well like millions and millions of people are doing of different races, of all kinds. And hopefully, it inspires people to just feel like, “Hey, you know, you don’t have to be a particular, you know, class or race or anything.” It just – it inspires you to feel like, “Hey, we can do this too.” You know, it’s not that – it’s not out of reach.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects besides the Are We There Yet and your reality show?
Terry Crews: Yeah. Well, I’m getting into producing now. You know, I sold a show to VH1 called Dancing with the Dorks. It’s kind of a funny dance show. And, you know, it’s like a pilot deal and we’re waiting to see if that gets picked up. And, you know, I’m just looking forward to the future. I know Expendables II, they’re working on that right now, but my big – the biggest thing in my life right now is, you know, getting these 90 episodes done and making them the best we can make them. I mean, just getting – I am 100% committed to this being on the best shows in TV by the time we’re finished.
Q: How is it working with Ice Cube?
Terry Crews: Oh, that’s my man. You know, we did a movie called – we did Lottery Ticket…it just came out last year, or earlier in the middle of the year, and then we did a movie a long time ago called Friday After Next…he gave me one of my first jobs in the business…and I actually did security for Ice Cube back when I was – moved out to Los Angeles, and so we go way back. And I mean, like you’re talking like ’98, ’99, you know, 1999. So – and he’s always been, this is the thing, he’s one of the most prolific producers in Hollywood. You can hardly point to – you can point to few people in this business who have created as many careers as Ice Cube has. You can go back to Jamie Foxx, you know, Chris Tucker, myself, Katt Williams. I mean, just – the list goes on and on and on of projects that he’s produced and has been responsible for. Not to mention – and that’s not even counting the music stuff. You know, that’s just the movie stuff, but when you’re talking about the music that’s a whole other deal. So, he’s what I – what you would call one of the big boys in the business.
Q: Is your character in Are We There Yet going to have a stronger presence, I picked up from the episodes that I watched, it seemed like the woman was always right. Although, I’m a woman and I’m always right, but is Nick going to have the chance to be right as well and to put his opinion more forward in the next 90 episodes?
Terry Crews: Oh, I am glad you said that because first of all, Nick is a newlywed, and those first ten it was like, you know, “Hey, yeah you’re good baby.” Now, you know, we introduced ourselves, we know where we’re at, we’re doing this. He is letting loose right now and…it’s so cool to watch it happen. You know there’s one funny thing is when you do the first ten of any sitcom, the whole point is to introduce the characters. You’re always constantly introducing the characters that’s why it took – you know, a sitcom for it to really get going fast and get going, it has to be in the homes for a little while. I mean, I remember Everybody Loves Raymond took a little while to get started. They almost cancelled it before it got going. Then the Seinfeld the same way, but once people got in it and started investing it, it took off. And I feel the same way about this show. We don’t – before – now we don’t have to introduce ourselves and what we’re doing, now we can just go into the comedy and we can – we already know where we’re at, now let’s go for it. And you’ll see a big, big difference in the rest of these shows.
Q: So, what do you like to do when you’re not dancing or acting or hanging out with Ice Cube?
Terry Crews: Yep. I like to prepare for my dancing and acting. It’s funny. I – this is what I do all the time. It’s like, if I’m not doing it, I’m preparing for it. I like to read scripts that I’m about to do in the future. I like to, you know, stay in shape. I love to workout. That’s one of the things I love to do. I do that two hours a day. I get up super early, get that done, and then I’m off to work. But, I – you know, I have to say, you know, I would do this for free, and I tell people that all the time, but my agent won’t let me. He just…he comes in and he marches in and he’s like, “Hey,” he comes through like shooting people making sure I get my money, you know? But, I love what I do so much I don’t have to get paid. This is what I would be doing if they didn’t pay me.
Q: Well, do you have any advice for someone who would like to get involved with entertainment and acting and even dance?
Terry Crews: Well, I think that, you know, the – you learn that, you know, it’s going to be a struggle and it’s going to feel terrible and you’re going to feel like (ugh), and – but in that struggle you are improving. That’s what it is and there’s only one way to get better and (that’s through) struggle with it, and to fight it through and to try and fail and audition and fail. And – I’ve been in auditions, I’m telling you, and failed so bad they told me never come back. I mean, I’ve been there were they were like, “You know what, stay out of my office,” you know what I mean? It was like, “Okay.” And in that you learn, you learn what not to do, you know? And it’s not – there’s no other way to make it. You’ve got to be willing to go through it. I look at my co-star, Essence Atkins, this girl has been on TV since the Cosby Show. She always works and she’s always good and she’s always consistent, and you know, that’s a lot to be said. Well, there’s a lot of other people complaining and all always talking about there aren’t no jobs, there aren’t no jobs, but yet this girl finds a way to work non-stop. And she’s good because she’s great, and she’s – and in the struggle she gets better and better and better. And don’t complain, just make it happen.
Q: What are some of the other lessons that you learned from working with seasoned actors?
Terry Crews: My – one big lesson I’ve learned is to always be open to criticism, you know? And that’s another thing, it just – you know, it doesn’t feel good to hear that you’re not doing well, but it – the greatest, greatest people they may not listen to you, but they’re listening to somebody, you know what I’m saying? There’s somebody that they trust and that they care about and that cares about them that looks at them and says, “Hey, man, I think you can do this a better way or I can – think you can go this another way.” I wouldn’t say give that to everybody because, you know, you’ll need to, you know, listen at criticism, but find yourself someone who you trust. And be able to listen and really take in what they’re saying because it’s the difference between success and failure.