'Expendable' Terry Crews Always Has Game Face On"/>
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'Expendable' Terry Crews Always Has Game Face On

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Updated: Thursday, August 23, 2012 17:08

Terry Crews discovered his special gift way back in high school.

No, we're talking about football, which he grew up playing and which took him to Western Michigan University and a seven-year career in the NFL as a defensive end. It was something else, something that's served him well as he jumped into acting.

"I'd be walking the high school halls, and people would look at me and go, 'Yo Terry, you okay? Something wrong?' No, I'm fine. What? 'You've got this intense look on your face.'"

Crews laughs. He laughs a lot. But when he isn't laughing, he can scare you half to death with just a scowl.

"I realized I could really flip it on people. All I do is furrow my brow and people get worried. I have to tell a joke to let 'em know everything's cool. It became my thing.

"I learned that could be a cool way for a big guy like me to be."

Crews, 44, is the big scary dude who turns up, often as not, in comic roles. He was the scary but henpecked dad in "Everybody Hates Chris," an assortment of bouncers, bullies and jocks in films from "Friday After Next" to "The Longest Yard." If you saw "Bridesmaids," you almost certainly laughed at Crews, as a fitness boot camp instructor who lights into the leading ladies for spying on his class without paying for it.

"He can look scary, but he's really a total sweetheart," says Dax Shepard, who worked with Crews in "Idiocracy" and who cast Crews in his upcoming action comedy, "Hit & Run." Crews had to bow out of that film at the last minute, but Shepard knew better than to make an issue of it. "I mean, LOOK at him!"

"I call myself 'The Amusement Park,'" Crews says. "The Amusement Park is funny and scary, all at once."

Crews is one of the stars of "Expendables 2," holding his brawny own with the likes of Stallone and Statham, Arnold and Bruce.

"Stallone put me in the company of the best, biggest and baddest brothers in the world. I'm just a kid from Flint who grew up watching these guys' movies. And I get to act with them?

"And then he gives me the best character name ever put in an action movie – Hale Caesar! Best name I've ever heard. Well, next to Hellraiser!"

When his NFL career ended and he tried his hand at acting, Crews realized he had two assets: The scary-funny thing, which he modeled on one of his favorite actors. ("I look at Christopher Walken. He's always funny and scary at the same time. He taught me that's a great place to be.")

And to go along with the persona, Crews had the build. He's a veritable man-mountain.

"You don't get a body like this in a gym. My body comes from hitting people at 20 miles an hour. I know a lot of people TRY to get there other ways. But you can't fake it. This body comes from collisions, 20 years of collisions ... Every lump on my head, every scar. I earned it."

Football taught him to "work on a team, play your role, know where you fit in."

Caesar's role among the Expendables?

"He's Elmo with a gun! He's all emotional. When Caesar's happy, everybody's laughing. When Caesar's mad or sad, watch out!"

The knowing-your-role thing even came in handy with another piece of work that Crews signed on for, the new reality series "Stars Earn Stripes." A guy who's played at being tough, rough and ready, had to prove it with other actors, athletes and reality TV stars as they take on tasks with the military and assorted groups of first responders.

"Nothing prepared me for that. Acting is one thing. You pick up the gun, point it off camera. You're not aiming. They cut, and you hand the gun off (to the armorer) and walk away.

"But real soldiers? Snipers? SWAT team members? Police? The type of danger they deal with and handle with level-headedness and coolness, all these high pressure situations that they're in yet they have to maintain their cool – I HAD to get some of that. Biggest challenge of my life."

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