Terry Crews Sharpens Blade for "Ultimate Spider-Man"

Terry Crews is everywhere these days. He has a new weekly gig as one of the stars of Fox's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" alongside Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg, and he appears in guest spots on shows like Comedy Central's "Drunk History," "Arrested Development" and Showtime's "Newsroom." Beyond his television work, Crews will return as Hale Caesar next year in the third "Expendables" outing. And despite his already amazingly full schedule, the football-player-turned-actor recently started playing in a brand new arena: voice acting.

In addition to voicing Benjamin King in the "Saints Row IV" video game, Crews took over the role of Earl Devereaux from Mr. T in "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2," which opened last weekend. Next on his list is Disney Channel's Halloween-themed "Ultimate Spider-Man" two-parter, "Blade" and "The Howling Commandoes," where he dons the half-human, half vamp's iconic shades to teach Spidey about things that go bump in the night.

The two-parter finds Spider-Man and his teen hero pals assigned to pick up an object from a mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D. ally, an ally who turns out to be none other than Blade. Soon enough, they're all fighting Dracula and a group of shadow vampires, a situation which eventually leads to the reveal of another secret S.H.I.E.L.D. team: the Howling Commandoes, a squad which consists of Frankenstein's Monster, Werewolf By Night, The Living Mummy and Man-Thing.

A huge fan of Blade's big screen appearances, Crews told CBR News that he was honored to take on the role for the cartoon. In this exclusive interview, Crews discusses his personal history with characters like Blade and Werewolf By Night, what it was like learning the voiceover ropes and what he really meant when he said he was pulling himself out of the running to play Luke Cage.

CBR News: You're no stranger to playing strong, heroic characters on the big screen, but how did you wind up voicing Blade for "Ultimate Spider-Man?"

Terry Crews: I basically went to my agent and said I really want to do more voiceover work. I like to keep my career eclectic and try new things. I wanted to do as much as I could, and I hadn't really broached that world in a big way. I went to them and just said, "Man, put me out there, anywhere I can." It was shocking! I was like, "Wow!" when Marvel called and said, "Yo, we were looking for you to play Blade." I was like, "Whoa -- that's more than I expected, right off," you know what I mean? I couldn't believe it. I loved it. I loved the series. It's funny, because my son is 8 years old and he was like, "Dad, you're gonna be on that show? I love that show!" It was really, really cool.

Speaking of cool, your Blade voice is really cool, because while it definitely sounds like you, it's also got a few more things going on. How did you develop the character's voice?

In the studio, we have directors and different voiceover people who basically tell me the tone. We're in the room with all these other guys, and you have to really act. It's strange -- as big as I am, I have a higher voice than most big, big guys, so I have to come with it with some more bass. To get into the mood, you find it, and once you find it, then it's just trying to stay there in all the episodes. When you leave and come back, you've got to hear it again and then jump back in. The directors did a great job of keeping us all right there, in the moment.

Being in the room with all the other actors is something the Marvel cartoons are known for. What was the experience like and how is it different than being on the set of a live action movie?

It's different, because you're all in the room and you see them doing their thing -- everybody kind of hops around -- but they're looking right down at the pages, so they're not looking at you in your eyes. It's weird. It's a very, very different vibe than you're used to.

As an actor, it took about two or three times before I really got used to it, to understand what it takes. I was working with people who have been voiceover acting for a long, long, long time, and I just watched them and mimicked the way they did it. It worked out for me!

Was Blade a character you were familiar with from the comics, the Wesley Snipes movies or even the TV show?

Oh, my God. The movie, that's where I was first introduced to Blade. I was kind of like everybody else. Blade was not really a comic book phenomenon for me, it was the movie with Wesley Snipes. It changed my life. As an African American, seeing a hero like that, who was so good, it's something you cherish forever. It's like the first time you see Superman. For me, it was iconic in so many ways. It broke so many barriers and was so successful that it was really special to get the opportunity to play him in any way. I loved it.

Did you revisit any of the movies before going in to record your version of Blade, or did you want to keep that voice out of your head?

I basically avoided it. Also the movies are so violent, and this is for children, you know what I mean? I didn't want to make it too dark. The movies go there, they go way there. That's David Goyer, he goes all the way in. I wanted to keep with the tone [of the show] and kept reminding myself, "Hey man, your own kids are going to be watching this." "Spider-Man" has a lot of comic tones to it, which I like on top of it being cool costumes and cool characters and all that. Its got a funny, funny bend to it.

Blade teams up with Man-Thing, The Living Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and Werewolf By Night in these episodes. Were those characters you were familiar with before reading the script?

I had the "Werewolf By Night" comic book. I was a big Marvel guy when I was a kid. You're kind of either that or a DC guy, but I grew up on Luke Cage, Power Man and "X-Men." The old Dark Phoenix series that changed comics forever, I was a part of that.

I kind of separated from it in college, and then names came back up when I read the script and I was like, "Oh, Werewolf by Night!" [Laughs] It's like an old song -- you remember where you were back when you heard it. I immediately jumped back to being 11 or 12 years old.

Towards the end of last month, you took yourself out of the running to play Luke Cage and talked a bit about creating new heroes to play on the big screen. What kind of hero would you want to create in that scenario?

Well, first of all, I wanted to say about the whole Luke Cage thing was specifically that Marvel has not even expressed an interest. I haven't heard of a script or it being greenlit or anything. Usually, when actors are talking about roles, it's for a part that's ready to happen. When I said that, it was about, "Hey man, if Marvel hasn't said they're going to do it, why should I say I'm going to do it?" That was the whole thing.

People like to pick me over someone else and that kind of thing. People get a lot of joy out of, like, "You versus The Rock, who's going to get the part?" And I was like, "There's no part. Why would I discuss this?" That's what I wanted to do. Let's talk about things that are actually going to happen and be greenlit.

That's why I did Blade. I was like, "Hey, is it going? Are we sure it's going to happen?" As soon as they said it's going down, I did it. Also, when you look at it, there are not a lot of African American characters to chose from. That's pretty much the thing. So, when I said to make a new one, that's what we really have to do. I don't want to have ten guys battling for one part or one role.

So we probably have to make something original or jump into some other universe entirely. I know DC has Cyborg, but there's still very few African American characters to choose from. That was what I meant. I would love to do somebody who's totally badass. I cut a video for a music group called Major Lazer, which is basically a very cool comic character that was created musically. My big thing is, is the video getting greenlit? Then I'll do it. And we did it.

Terry Crews' stint as Blade can be seen in the two-part "Ultimate Spider-Man" episode "Blade" and "The Howling Commandoes" which premieres on The Disney Channel at 9:00 PM on Oct. 5 and then plays again on Disney XD at 11:00 AM, Oct. 13.

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