“Equality is more opportunities for everyone because the more people who can play, the more successful everyone gets,” says Terry Crews of the era of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up. “The more people who can enter the story, the more female driven stories, the more African American driven stories, the more Asian stories, you need every kind of entertainment, every facet to make the whole thing work,” adds the Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor who was one of Time’s Persons of the Year 2017 for speaking out against sexual harassment and sexual abuse. “That is what Sundance is about. This is what this new energy is about.”
The SAG Awards nominee is at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend for the premiere of Sorry To Bother You. In the U.S. Dramatic competition category, the Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson led Boots Riley directed film opens this evening in Park City.
Having announced online back in October how he was assaulted at a party by a high powered agent in February 2016, the former NFL player sued his former agency WME and the temporarily suspended Adam Venit in December.
As that case moves its way through the California courts, the now UTA signed Crews spoke with me about gender and racial discrimination and today’s Respect Rally set for this morning in Park City. An alum of the Robert Redford founded fest, the actor also delved into the legacy of Frederick Douglass and what he thinks needs to happen to solidify the change that is seemingly sweeping across the industry and America.
DEADLINE: So how does it feel to be feel to be back in Park City 15 years after your Sundance debut?
CREWS: It’s great, man. It’s great. I did a movie for Sundance years ago called Baadasssss! with Mario Van Peebles. It was all about the making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. I literally went to Sundance alone and nobody knew who I was. The movie actually played in Salt Lake but I went up to Sundance for a couple of little things. So it’s not this isn’t my debut but I love the energy, man, believe me. This is what moviemaking is about. That grassroots, the fact that you can change the game, it’s super exciting, man.
DEADLINE: Sorry To Bother You debuts on January 20, the same day as the Respect Rally, so will you be attending the commemoration and continuation of last year’s March On Main?
CREWS: Absolutely. Yes. As soon as I found out about it, I planned on participating on Saturday. I’m going to be there marching with everybody there, man.
DEADLINE: Obviously you have been fighting your own battle against assault with what happened with Adam Venit and now your lawsuit against WME. Looking back over the past several months and all the allegations of harassment and assault in Hollywood that have become public, we’ve seen the rise of the #MeToo movement, the Time’s Up legal defense fund and the creation late last year of the Anita Hill led Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, where do you think things are right now?
CREWS: Let me tell you right now, and this is my concern, symbolic victories are no good. People tend to get satisfied by symbolic victories. I mean, when you’re talking about Time’s Up, hey, Time’s Up is one of the greatest ideas of all time and I’m standing with these women. I am with it, I could not be more supportive, but when you let William Morris just put in $1.5 million dollars, pledged that to Time’s Up, and my assailant still works there, I was hung out to dry, and now they’re pledging this money in an attempt to buy your justice. To me it’s arrogance on top of arrogance.
CREWS: Just imagine, if I had done something like that to his wife, would I get a pass? Or if he had done that and just imagine if I hit him back, would I have a career? No way. No way. That’s the arrogance. I believe in second chances but all you have to do is look at actions. Now giving money is great, but the change isn’t real to me until people actually get fired for what they did.
These big agencies, they haven’t admitted any guilt. None of these guys have. CAA, William Morris and a lot of these companies, none of them. They’ve protected them. They’ve abetted them. In my case, when you look at me in my eye and tell me you didn’t know and I told everybody less than 24 hours after it happened I’m going, okay, that’s not a correction, that’s a cover up. And a cover up can be worse than the crime. It is. Admit you did it and let’s move forward. That’s a real victory.
DEADLINE: Which is what you are aiming for out of the sexual assault lawsuit you filed against WME in December?
CREWS: Exactly. Look, it’s good news, Dominic. I do not want to make it sound like I’m oh, poor me, it’s not. I’m handling my case and I’ll tell you, I’m handling it the best way I could handle it. I filed a police report and we’re going through the courts. I won’t be shamed. I feel good about what I’ve done and whatever happens next happens. I feel great.
DEADLINE: I know you’ve received a lot of support …
CREWS: What has shocked me more than anything is the support. It’s like I get stopped literally walking down the street and people are like, keep going, Terry, keep going. I can’t tell you, I cannot describe to you how encouraging, how empowering it is. Because you realize you are not alone, you know what I mean? And again, I don’t want to get all emotional, but this is a fight that needs to be fought.
DEADLINE: It’s funny you use those terms, because I think a lot of stereotypes kicked in when you first revealed what had happened, a lot of people’s reactions were look at Terry Crews, he could slap anyone aside like a gnat…
CREWS: I hear that too. I hear people say well, Terry Crews, he could just beat everybody up and do his thing. But I’m not a fighter, I’m an artist. That’s what I am, you know? I’m not a fighter.
This is the deal
I played NFL and all this stuff and everybody has this narrative of a superhero movie, but you know what the heroes do? The heroes are guys and women who stand up like this. See? This is the real hero. Like, you know, everybody has Dirty Harry as a hero, you know? But just reverse it and what if Dirty Harry was black. He’s not a hero now, he’s an assassin. You have to look at the stories that have been subliminally told for eons, for African-Americans, for women and everyone who’s not a Dirty Harry.
DEADLINE: So, to shift perspective a bit, with that, in the Time’s Up Hollywood, what role can Sundance play changing the narrative?
CREWS: My feelings aren’t just limited to Sundance, which I love, but to the whole industry and what we’re fighting. I believe there is a deep seated belief, and I mean that permeates through the town, probably throughout America and throughout the world, that if women are treated equally, paid equally and put on the same level as men it will mean financial ruin. That they think that if all of a sudden every woman was equal it is the death now of all success, and that is a really deep-seated belief. Now you know where else they thought that same thing? Slavery. When they thought that if you would abolish slavery and everyone would come and enter the workforce they thought it would mean financial ruin for everyone but you can’t be more wrong.
Equality is more opportunities for everyone because the more people who can play, the more successful everyone gets. That’s the truth. The more people who can enter the story, the more female driven stories, the more African American driven stories, the more Asian stories, you need every kind of entertainment, every facet to make the whole thing work. That is what Sundance is about. This is what this new energy is about.
DEADLINE: How should that energy be focus in your opinion, for everyone but especially how should men be focusing it?
CREWS: It’s all about being mindful in a lot of ways and we have to question what we’ve been thinking the whole time. Like, why do you see this guy as a star or a real action hero or whatever and this woman can’t be?
One of my favorite heroes of all time is Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass fought just as hard for women’s suffrage as he did for the abolishment of slavery. I mean, just as hard. Once the Emancipation Proclamation happened he switched right over into women’s suffrage. America has been built on exploiting Indians, on slave labor, and on women being second-class citizens. That’s what the country was founded on. That’s a part of our history. But I’m telling you right now we have to challenge it. We have to challenge it if we’re going to go on and if we’re going to be a better America.
DEADLINE: That’s a big goal Terry, with a lot of vested interests.
CREWS: Yeah and I know some people in Hollywood have said this feels like it is becoming a witch hunt. They’re wrong, it’s not. it’s a fumigation, man. That’s what’s really going on in Hollywood right now. Sometimes it hurts for some people, who don’t want change. But this is good, because I think we will never go back.
Once you’ve let people free there’s no going back. You won’t push slavery on African Americans again in America. Never again. It will never happen. And I’m telling you the same thing with women right now. I’m encouraged, and I love it. I’m supportive, and I’m 100 % there for it because with every woman who makes it and is paid the same that’s actually more success for all of us. I truly believe it’s going to get better.