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This story first appeared in the July 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.“>
The new host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, MVP on the Golden Globe-winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine and co-star of Sylvester Stallone‘s Expendables franchise, Crews, 45, has come a long way since hurling himself at quarterbacks in the NFL and working as a bouncer at L.A. clubs. Below, Crews offers hard-earned advice for other athletes looking to make that leap from the highlight reel to Hollywood.
1. Be humble: “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
When you leave the NFL, you’ve got a cocky attitude. You almost feel like someone pretty much owes you a movie career. There were a lot of athletes for a few years who felt like that was a natural transition — Brian Bosworth, Howie Long, Dennis Rodman — you know, guys just felt like, “Now it’s time for me to do a movie.” But it’s not that simple. Here, you’re facing off with guys who were in drama class while you were at football practice, and these guys can act circles around you. I had to realize I didn’t know what I was doing.
2. Look forward: “Think that your best days are still ahead.”
The problem is that when you retire, a lot of athletes think the best thing that has ever happened to them has already happened. That’s a hard transition. You always have to think that your best days are still ahead of you, like there is something greater that you can do. But sports builds you up so big, and it’s so pressurized; I’m looking at the World Cup, and these soccer players are gods now — can you imagine them trying to get a car dealership when it’s over? When you have a hundred thousand people worshipping you, you want more of that. And pretty much the only way to cure that is entertainment.
3. Leave the rage behind.
It takes a lot of anger to make it as an athlete. You thrive off someone telling you that you can’t do it and you’re proving them wrong. The only place where you survive longer off anger is jail. You got to fight your way up and you got to stay there. You need anger; you survive off that anger. Hollywood doesn’t work like that. One thing I learned about Hollywood is that the most successful people I’ve ever seen were nice. People who are jerks usually end up getting cut out pretty soon. But I’ve never heard a bad word about Tom Hanks.
4. Don’t be afraid to be pigeonholed.
Typecasting is lovely; typecasting means you’re going to work. This is the thing, though: You get cast as the stereotype, but then you put you in it. I got the chance to audition for Friday After Next, which was a comedy. Basically it was a typecasting because Tiny Lister would not come back to be in the sequel. And it was like, “We need a big guy who looks just like that.” I remember going into the audition, and I played it as if it was the most serious thing in the world. And I played it so intense, you would think it was The Deer Hunter. Ice Cube laughed and was like, “This is my guy.”
5. Steal the show.
When we were doing the first Expendables, Sylvester Stallone was looking at the playback, and he said, “Man, take your moment. Never ever let them take your moment. When the camera’s on you, you have the whole movie, you have the studio, you have the audience; the whole world is yours at that moment. So take it. Don’t drop it.” I’ll never forget that.
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek