Russell Wilson Talks His New App Tally, Giving a Lucky Super Bowl Fan $250,000

The Seattle Seahawks quarterback sits down with THR to talk about his Super Bowl schedule, why he admires Will Smith and how his new app could infiltrate the live events business.
Daniel Mogg, West2East Empire

Russell Wilson will be the first to tell you that he wishes he were taking the field this weekend in Atlanta, but the Seattle Seahawks didn't make it to the big game, and pouting on the sidelines isn't really his style.

Instead, the 30-year-old superstar athlete is making the rounds this weekend, promoting partnerships with Nike, his Super Bowl TV spot with Uber and the one closest to his heart — a gaming app he founded called Tally. Seated in a private VIP lounge space inside the massive Wheel’s Up party on Saturday not far from Atlanta borough Buckhead, Wilson — longtime friends with Kenny Dichter, founder and CEO of the private jet membership club ("He’s like a father figure to me") — spoke exclusively with The Hollywood Reporter about Super Bowl weekend, his aspirations to be a mogul in the vein of role models John Legend or Will Smith, and why he's so charged up over the app, which is backed by none other than the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos. 

Well, he's pretty stoked about everything he's doing through his West2East Empire, but the app is the most timely, since it offers one lucky user the chance to win $250,000 on Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. "My creative mind is probably what drives 70 percent of my thoughts," he says with a megawatt smile, though football is a close second. He’s not even close to losing focus on the gridiron; in fact, he’s confident that, in the next 15 years or so that he has left in the game, he and his Seattle Seahawks will get back to the big game, and he predicts they will do so imminently.

That said, he does want to continue to build his multi-faceted company West2East Empire and expand his Hollywood imprint along with his wife, singer Ciara. (The duo recently signed with powerhouse agency CAA.) West2East is expanding into film and television production, and there's a new management division on the horizon, too. But don't just chalk him up as the next sports star turned producer wannabe. He wants to be legit, like LeBron James or Steph Curry. "I don’t want to be a sports star who is trying to get into Hollywood," he explains. "But we want to be known as the next up-and-coming production company. We are working with some of the best people in the world."

Tell me about your app, Tally.

We really want everyone to start playing tonight. Tally is based on a very simple idea; think of HQ Trivia, but for live events. What if for every live event, every game, every TV show — even shows like The Bachelor, the Grammys or the Oscars — you could predict what was going to happen? The app offers multiple choice questions, and if you get all the answers right for the Super Bowl, you get a jackpot of $250,000. There will be different levels, with first, second, third place winners, all the way to 10th. You have to predict before the game starts. Get your predictions in tonight! [The app is available for free download on iOS and Android devices.]

As your interests in film and television expand, do you look to any role models in the business for the kind of producer or mogul you want to be?

We are really fired up about the film and production stuff. We have a bunch of scripts coming our way. I really admire John Legend and his Get Lifted. He's a great example of someone who has been really successful in one category and then moving from winning Grammys to [other awards like an Oscar and an Emmy] and his producing work on movies like La La Land. He's done a tremendous job and is so well respected. I’ve always been a huge fan of Will Smith — just how he approaches people and culture. He’s a tremendous person and actor. Those guys I personally know and have been able to watch from a distance. I want to be a mogul. It doesn’t stop with football. When people look at me, I hope they don’t just see a football player. I hope they see a person who is innovative and creative, someone who builds something from nothing. I’m trying to build one of the best companies in the world.

What's your taste? 

We want to be able to impact lives. That’s what we want to do at the end of the day — even from the kids space. We just want to tell stories that connect with the world and to the emotions.

How does CAA fit in with that?

Ciara and I both are excited to be working with CAA, in terms of TV and film space and in all things, really. We’re excited about what we’re going to do together. We have our production company, and my creative director, Daniel Mogg, is really talented. Jordan Dinenberg is really, really smart and knows tons of people throughout the game. For us, we want to be able to create, create, create. We want to tell amazing stories, and CAA is going to be a big part of that. Ciara and I, we also have [manager] Jason Weinberg on our team too, helping to direct us on a path. [We have a new publicist too] with Chantal Artur. For West2East, we always say, "A+ only." That's our motto, and that’s what we say around our offices in Seattle and L.A.

What is your Super Bowl weekend like? You have Hollywood ties, and this is the weekend when Los Angeles has come to Atlanta. 

First of all, the Super Bowls that I’ve been fortunate to play in and winning one my second year was a really cool thing. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to even go to one. I believe I have a lot more to go, and I have 15 more years of playing. For me, when I come to the Super Bowl, a lot of it is to embrace the experience. It's very challenging for most people to be at all the stuff you have going on and all the events you have going on. Ciara and I both embrace it. One of these days, I hope that I’m playing in the Super Bowl and she’s playing the Super Bowl. We really love coming. I love going to every Super Bowl, there’s always something to learn, always something to see, and you get to meet some of the best people in the world in different fields.

How do you do it right? There’s always the danger of overdoing or not going to the right party. What’s your strategy, and what’s been on your schedule?

Well, I was fortunate to play in my sixth Pro Bowl, and then we came here straight from that, and we arrived on Monday. We rented a house for the whole family. Ciara is from Atlanta, so we just hung out Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday we started getting busier with a few things to do here and there. Thursday is usually my busiest day because we go to Radio Row and do all the interviews. We did Dan Patrick’s show and Colin Cowherd and a lot of cool things with Bose. Ciara performed Thursday night at State Farm Arena, and that was amazing. Friday we hung out some and did some activations, one with Nike, which was really cool. I talked about my brand new cleat that’s coming out in 2019. Ciara and I had a date night on Friday, which we do every Friday no matter where we are in the world. We went to Umi, this sushi restaurant in Atlanta that has amazing, amazing food. Saturday, I woke up, got a workout in, and then came here to Wheel's Up. Tonight is NFL Honors, then the GQ party and later, the Bruno Mars and Cardi B show at State Farm Arena. I'm speaking at Verizon tomorrow, and then I'll go to the game. 

Tell me about that. Obviously, there’s a part of you that’s dying to be on the field tomorrow…

Yeah, you obviously want to play. As a competitor, I want our team to be in the best in the world. There are 32 teams fighting for one spot. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there this year, but I believe we have a chance for next year.

So where will you watch? And do I dare ask who you are rooting for? 

We’ll sit in the Mercedes-Benz suite, and we’ll go there, and hang out and I always sit in the front so I can be in tune with the game. And ah, I don’t do predictions, but if I am — really the only place I like to do my predictions now is on Tally — and I shouldn’t tell anybody. But, to be honest with you, I’m thinking that Tom [Brady] will win. As the weekend goes on, I’m feeling that the Patriots are going to be ready. They’ve been here so many times before. But make sure everybody predicts on Tally.