Michigan-born renaissance man Terry Crews has his eyes set on a relatively new frontier — headlining video games, with a starring role in Microsoft's long-awaited Crackdown 3. The actor, activist, former NFL player, and custom gaming PC builder will feature in this newest Crackdown entry as Agent Commander Jaxon, the main playable character in the open-world sandbox game, fully modeled and merrily mo-capped by Crews himself.
The opportunities crafted by Terry Crews aren't the result of some all-consuming need-to-please; recently, he's become known for an unwillingness to back down to career-jostling threats, and he's similarly quick with the clap back, recently summoning some menacing Twitter muscle on comedian D.L. Hughley. As an outspoken voice within the #MeToo movement, Crews broke the silence on his own experienced sexual harassment, even testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on sexual assault legislation last year.
While Crews voiced a character in Saints Row IV (Benjamin King, formerly played by Michael Clarke Duncan), Crackdown 3 feels like a true personification of the living legend. In conversation with Screen Rant, Terry Crews describes gaming with his son and discovering the magic of playing pretend without props.
Leo Faierman, for Screen Rant: Would you be able to tell Screen Rant’s readers a little bit about your own personal history and involvement with video games?
Terry Crews: Well, first of all, um, you know, I got into the gaming thing simply because— I remember, we went to a Battlefield— Remember? My son’s here, too. We played Battlefield at this exhibition, and I was just so impressed with the story, like what this stuff meant. I remember coming home one day, and I was watching my son play games on his computer, and I was like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, that Battlefield thing was great,” and then I went over here, and I’m watching him play, and he told me, he wasn’t playing. He said, “I’m watching.” And he was watching other people play the game. And I thought, oh my god like, I’m missing all of this.
Because I was a child of the 80s, I came up, did the arcades and the whole thing. And I’m sitting here like, I remember being into video games, but as you grow older and get going and life happens, you kind of lose it. You know, we had the consoles, but I could never really get on it, just because I didn’t have the time. But then, when I saw him dealing with that, I knew I wanted to get more involved in what he was into. Because I remember how I felt when I was in his age. And uh, we decided to build a computer together, and it kind of went viral, because I asked all of social media how to do it. And I remember getting a call about doing a spot, a commercial, to kind of hype up Crackdown. And then I was just like, “Man, I would love to be in this game.” You know?
And I made no bones about it. I was like man, I want to be in a video game, I want to be in a video game. It got to the point where people were fancasting me in all these other games, you know? Cause I was so vocal about it. So they were like, “You’re gonna be Doomfist in Overwatch!” You know. And my whole thing was never to hijack somebody else’s game, but I was just like, “I’m open, everybody. I would love to.”
And man, the people from Crackdown, Microsoft, came back, and they were like, “Look, let’s put you into this sucker.” And I was like, “I’ve been waiting all my life for this!” And I said it a million times, I’m thankful, because it’s really my personality.
The game itself is over-the-top, it’s— You know, a great description of it is Sharknado. Everything is big and extra and gigantic, it’s a brilliant comic, you know? It’s sort of like a comic book, you know what I mean? It’s like a live action superhero, but in a video game format. And um, I said “Man, this is my game, this is who I am, this is my energy.”
And it just, you know, I went right in, did the motion capture, spent time on all the voiceover stuff. I mean, from every little utterance, to screams, to lines, to just, you know, getting punched. It was a lot of work, man. And to be here at the finish line, to actually be in a game? My god, I mean, the 13-year-old Terry Crews is here today, you know?
SR: Wait, they punch you in the mo-cap suit? They actually like, toss you around?
Terry Crews: Oh yeah, I did everything, man. Everything. And you know the big thing about motion capture that’s different than you know, acting on a set and all this stuff is: on a set, as an actor, I use props. I’m always using my props. I’ll have a pencil, or a desk, or something, some object that I could fool around with. Or you’re driving, you’re doing something, and it helps you remember your lines, it helps your performance. Well, with the motion capture stuff, you are in a big giant empty room, and you have to imagine everything, and I mean every little detail. Nothing’s there! So I had to imagine a building, a room, a hallway, a button, all these props. They may even give you a big fake piece of board and it’s a gun. That was different. But it’s a skillset that I was really anxious to learn, because I just truly believe that this is the future of entertainment, this is not going anywhere.
And I would say this too: the thing that I’m really, really excited about is the fact that, you know, my image and my performance, it’s there for years, I mean, like, forever. Like, it could still be around when I’m long gone, and people would be like, in the year 3500, people will be like, “I’m gonna play that throwback Crackdown game.” You know? And they could play me, after I’ve left this earth, and my kid’s kids could be playing with their great great grandfather in a video game. That, that’s like, oh my god, like I could go back and play Pac-Man right now, my great great grandkids could be playing me. And it’s just, it’s one of the most thrilling, most satisfying things that I could ever imagine.
Um, I’ve answered a lot of questions already?
No, you’ve answered questions I haven’t asked yet, so I’m like, you’re good! You already kinda got the flow of this.
Terry Crews: Thank you, I’m just excited man! I’m excited.
I think it’s a really great combination too, because I would say two things about the Crackdown series. One, there’s always been people of color in this series from the very start. I remember thinking, when I saw the first game, it was interesting to see a prominently featured Black male on the center of the cover, just on there, boom. There weren’t a ton of games that were doing that.
Terry Crews: Yes. Yes.
So there’s something that’s really really right about Terry Crews being that face on the box! It just slides in perfectly.
And also, you talk about people playing the game in the far future — I mean, the fanbase for Crackdown, I would say, is pretty feverish. People love this game. The people who play this game tend to adore it, so I do think there will be echoes and returns to this game down the line.
Terry Crews: They won’t be disappointed. I’ma tell you that right now. Will not. And then the new fans— What’s so great is that the new fans can kinda just jump right in. You know what I mean? It’s not like, where you have to have all this knowledge of the first two. New people who are exposed to the game, you know, those young guys that are just now getting into it, they can just hop right in.
Do you know if the Jaxon character is going to feature in future DLC, or any possible sequels coming down the road? Are there ideas to extend the life of this character?
Terry Crews: First of all: I’m willing! I’ma tell you that right now! I can’t say, but I’ma let you know that I am wide open, and ready, and willing, as far as this thing goes, I plan on taking it. You know what I mean? Like I said: Terry Crews is in. 100%.
When I look at how long it took to develop, it’s a long time. And again, it’s worth it. I understand that it’s just so much going on, because technology keeps changing every five seconds. You know what I mean? It’s something that, you know, if you don’t get it in this thing, you gotta pause it, and let it update, and all of a sudden, the world is a little bit different. You know? So I was in this for the long haul, and I will continue to be.
You were talking about your kid earlier. Do you play games with him? What games is he playing right now?
Terry Crews: You know he’s, he’s really into Fortnite, and Just Cause. We would play PUBG together, and he would kill me. He loves to kill his dad, he’s really really good. I mean, you know, it’s funny, cause you gotta really spend some time and get good. And what he’ll do, you know, he’ll play Injustice, the DC Injustice, get really really good, and go, “Hey dad, you wanna come on in here and play?” I’ll go, yeah. And then [excitable and loud Terry Crews action noises]! He’s got all these featured moves he knows, and he’s like knocking me up into space and slamming me back down, and it’s like oh wow, how can you do your dad like that? Really?
It’s fine. It’s really really fun to watch. Actually, I like watching my son play, I’ll be honest with you. It’s one of those things where, just like he was watching the YouTubers play, I love to watch him play, and see how he gets down.
Any plans to maybe do like, a Terry Crews Crackdown 3 livestream, a Let’s Play series on Twitch, anything like that?
Terry Crews: Well you know, one thing about Twitch is that it can just be really really toxic at times, especially now. When I look at, even the Gillette ad I did; boy, I got a lot of blowback on that. So it’s one of those things man, I’m 50 years old and I just got my feelings hurt! Like, wow, I didn’t know that would affect me that much!
But there is an app called Caffeine that is more insular, a little more protected, and the people who you’re gonna play with, your social circle, is hand-picked. And, so that’s the app I’ve been streaming on. I might do one big Twitch [stream], just to see how it goes, and hopefully it doesn’t get too mean. You know, just to make sure everything is cool. And again, I don’t mind Twitch, I like Twitch, but the problem is, sometimes, with being famous, it can get a little mean, you know what I mean? And I like to feel good sometimes [laughs]. I don’t want to have to have therapy after I do every stream! You know what I mean?
I appreciate you calling that out. A colleague of mine, Tanya DePass, was recently profiled on Kotaku for the struggle and harassment she’s had being a streamer, being a Black woman who’s a Twitch streamer, dealing with the platform and managing the hateful rhetoric that can be on it.
Terry Crews: Yes.
Terry, what could you possibly tell us about what people should expect from Crackdown 3 the most, if you had just one thing to say?
Terry Crews: This is what I could say: it’s a Terry Crews simulator. Straight up. This is me. In fact, you start out as 14-year-old me, and you grow into the man I am today. You actually get more strength, you start out— You’re like a smaller Terry Crews, you’re 14, with my body style. And then you can learn and grow and become the badass Terry Crews that sits before you right now [laughs].
I love it! That should be on the box, right there: Terry Crews Simulator.
Terry Crews: That’s on the box baby!
Terry, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Terry Crews: Aw man, my pleasure. Thank you.
Crackdown 3 releases on Xbox One and Microsoft Windows platforms on February 15, 2015.