The energetic actor returns for his first regular hosting gig for the 14th season of America’s Got Talent.
Is there anyone more excited that Terry Crews? The hulk-like actor has surprised us with almost every turn of his resume–he can pivot from comedy to action faster than you can blink–but one of his most surprising roles is that of host of NBC’s summer smash America’s Got Talent. Crews is so thrilled to be there that it feels like he’s ready to bounce off the stage and crowd surf. Even at home, you can feed off his energy.
Crews was offered to step in for previous host Tyra Banks when NBC debuted America’s Got Talent: Champions earlier this winter. A lot of reality shows bring back former contestants to have them compete in a battle royale, and why not AGT? It’s continually ratings monster for NBC in the summer, so bringing back talent from 13 previous seasons–not to mention foreign iterations from across the globe–makes a lot of sense. One would normally buckle under that swell of pressure, but Crews shines. He’s thrilled every time a new act walks out on stage.
You can tell that Crews doesn’t view this as a regular job. He’s a massive fan of the show. He views his hosting duties as vital the the contestants’ success, because he’s such a willing ambassador of the show. Other hosts have been silly and outrageous, but Crews is the first host that is living his dream as those contestants bare themselves on stage. It’s an old saying, but it’s true: when you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Crews is definitely living his dream.
I heard you watch America’s Got Talent with your family. Was it surreal to actually get to be a part of it?
It’s like walking into your own dreams. It’s like the thing you’ve always imagined, but you actually get to do it, you know what I mean? I don’t know what else to say. It’s kind of like there’s an opening to be the King of England and someone says, ‘You’re the King of England now!’ It’s surreal. It was great to start with the spinoff, and I thought that was going to be it—it would be great. And then they asked me if I wanted to take over the main show, and I was like, ‘What!’
So you weren’t expecting that at all?
I wasn’t, but I was happy with whatever they wanted to give me.
What did you want to bring to America’s Got Talent? You have a really fun energy, so I was excited to see you host.
It’s made for me. It’s giant—it’s the world. I feel like I am both of those things. I really study creativity. I want to get a masters in creativity. What makes something special? What makes something spectacular? I am a big fan of other talent, but I am not, honestly, a fan of competition. It leads to people fighting each other. What I respect and love about the show is that while it’s a competition, it’s more about these people doing their best. It’s not about outsinging and outdancing each other. It’s not like sports. It’s about being the best you can be and the rest is subjective. When I call myself is the bodyguard to these acts’ dreams. I am the first person they see when they go on stage, and I am the last person they see when they come off. I want to make sure the atmosphere and everything is right for them to be their best. There is nothing worse than messing up right before you perform. I once did a movie, and right before I said my line, a guy said, ‘Hey man! Don’t mess up!”
Those people are the worst.
That is the most horrible thing you can say to a performer right before their performance. I don’t want to be that guy. You’re talking about people dangling from trapezes and performing very dangerous moves—shooting arrows at their best friend. You don’t want to be responsible for that. That’s why I’m there for whatever you need. I got you. That’s how I see myself and that’s what I think I bring to the show. I want to be like an advocacy for talent.
You’re like the shaman of America’s Got Talent.
Yeah, I’m the therapist!
Your Golden Buzzer, Kseniya Simonova, is who I wanted to win Champions.
Oh, I know!
She got so close!
Yeah, she did.
Can you describe what it was like to see her perform for the first time to make you hit that Golden Buzzer.
I am a graphic artist myself. What made me hit the buzzer was that you don’t know how hard that is. She’s putting a story together with sand and you only have three minutes to do it. You make one mistake and nobody gets it. It’s a wrap. It’s sand! Literally if a breeze comes through, your act is gone. Like, my God! Not only did she do it, but it was heartfelt and emotional. She did a movie with her hands, and that’s what the essence of art is about. What performance is all about. It’s truly original. I said, ‘Man, if you don’t give that woman the Golden Buzzer, your whole life is a farce!’ I had to jump out there. You see great singers and great dancers, but you never see anything like that.
Something that I like about is that while her performances will on on YouTube and online, but once the story is told, it’s gone.
You got pulled up on stage for Deadly Games performed with the balloons, right?
Yes…we were holding balloons…
Was that scarier than any action movie you’ve had to do?
First of all, it was real and it was horrifying. And I realized—what was really horrifying—that if anyone was going to get hit, it was going to be me! I truly am the bodyguard—even for the judges. I would’ve saved all of their lives! You get a heightened sense of just life. What if something goes wrong? You don’t want to be that blurb on the New York Times the next day. I’ve done time with the NFL and the whole thing, but I always felt there was a sense of control. With that act, I felt no control over it, and they were amazing. That made it more thrilling. When I was in Africa, I walked with lions. There was this cage and lions walking around and they were throwing a chicken ahead of us. And there were no cages. If someone asked you to do that at the LA Zoo, you’d tell them no way! Anywhere else, I’d ask if they were crazy, but there you can feel the energy of everywhere there. I had to do it. It’s bigger than me.
I love how much you love the show. You guys are in the middle of season 14 auditions, right?
I wasn’t sure if you were still in the middle of it.
Yeah, we’re doing Judge Cuts right now.
How is it transitioning from Champions to the regular season? With Champions you did more at the end, so you’re more involved with the entire process with season 14?
This is what’s so wild. Watching people from the beginning…people won’t know who they are and once this airs, they are going to be superstars. It’s like I’m watching it happen before my eyes. It’s like watching Lady Gaga before she was Lady Gaga, you know. It’s like…’Oh my Gooood!’ Not only am I watching it, but I’m the guy who puts them out there on stage. With Champions, everyone was really well know. Everyone had history with the show—even Kseniya because she won Ukraine’s Got Talent. I go home and tell myself I need to do better, man. These people are so amazing that I feel like a slacker.
You’re in Judge Cuts right now, so you’re getting towards the serious eliminations. Do you already feel the weight of that?
This is my first Judge Cuts, and I’m in tears. I didn’t know that I was that emotionally invested. It hurts. People’s dreams have to stop here, and it’s not about how they performed on the show. You realize that through no fault of their own, the judges have to make the choices of who they feel will win it all. You can have a great act but can they possibly win it all? That’s the thing that hits you. A musician may have a very eclectic style but you realize they will be a superstar in their genre. But will the entire world love it? Maybe not. It’s almost like the world of film. There are independent, quirky films that are great, but then there are the tentpoles. America’s Got Talent is the Avengers. It’s gigantic. It has to be that kind of show. You win a million dollar and you get to perform in Vegas. That doesn’t mean a small indie isn’t great.
Kind of like how a small indie is wonderful and acclaimed, and just because it doesn’t win Best Picture, doesn’t mean it’s not great.
Exactly! We want you to do well. It’s not about X-ing anyone out. We don’t want crush anyone’s dreams. We’re there to lift you up.
Season 14 of America’s Got Talent premieres on NBC on May 28th.