The pair has most famously co-starred in two installments of The Expendables, but their initial onscreen encounter came years before.
“My first movie was called The 6th Day with Arnold. I’ll never forget it,” says Crews. “He was getting cloned and I was a goon. I had to jump up on these steps and say, ‘Adam Gibson come with us.’ The first time I ran up the steps, faced him and Arnold said, ‘What do you want?’ I couldn’t talk. I’m not even kidding you. Everything in my head said, ‘You don’t belong here. You’re an athlete. You have too many concussions; you don’t know what’s going on. They hired the wrong guy.’
“Then something went wrong with the camera, and I’m telling you I pulled myself to the side and said, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you? You wanna keep doing security?’ I literally yelled and cussed myself out. Then when they were ready I ran to him and said, ‘Adam Gibson! Come with us.’ When we were done Arnold said, ‘I like this guy, he’s emotional.’”
Crews’s career, which now spans sitcoms like Everybody Hates Chris, to reality shows like The Family Crews and Stars Earn Stripes, to movies like White Chicks and critical hits like HBO’s The Newsroom, has come full circle with The Expendables 2, where he shares a scene with Schwarzenegger.
“In the last movie we weren’t with him because he was the Governor and they could only film on Sunday,” he says. “It was him and Bruce [Willis] and they built that one scene and we weren’t even around. To have the chance to all be together, man, I was ecstatic.”
In person Crews’s action hero dimensions—he’s 6’3″ and carries 230 well-defined pounds—mask his more down to earth side. He’s gregarious; a talker who laughs easily and frequently uses words like ecstatic and thankful to describe his life and career. He underlines his sense of gratitude when speaking of his hardscrabble life in hometown Flint, Michigan.
“Flint is a city you have to escape,” he says. “I’m just being real. You have to escape that city because there are a lot of reasons your dreams get killed there. Talk about all these dynamics happening all at once the city, friends dying, crack, killings, shootings, it was not a fun place to be and I knew I had to go. Football was my way out but as I sit here now, there is no end to my thankfulness.”
He appreciates the gigs in The Expendables movies, (“People in Flint can’t believe it,” he says. “I can’t believe it!”), and working on them has reinforced his work ethic.
“Watching Sly and Arnold and Bruce and all these guys on the set I realized they all had the same attitude,” he says. “They work like crazy. The effort that Sly puts in, it’s as if he never did a movie before. You watch that and you realize that’s how they made it. That’s who they are.
“I look at it as something I can never take lightly. I always have to stay in a mode of appreciation and never ever entitlement because I was never entitled. It’s about the effort and what the work is.”