You have the right to remain smiling

By Chris Schulz

NFL player turned screen star Terry Crews tells Chris Schulz why his new sitcom has become an unlikely hit.

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast at the Golden Globes. Photo / AP
The Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast at the Golden Globes. Photo / AP

It was quickly becoming another predictable night at yet another predictable Golden Globes ceremony.

No one had given the little sitcom that could, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a chance - not even one of the hit show's stars, Terry Crews.

"I was just happy to be at a table," Crews laughs. "To me, I'd already won. Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon were all there. I was flipping out."

But Crews and his fellow cast mates - including A-list comedian Andy Samberg - were given plenty of reasons to celebrate that night as they took home two awards against the odds.

First, Samberg beat big names like Michael J. Fox and Don Cheadle to win best actor in a TV comedy. Then the show topped Parks and Recreation, The Big Bang Theory, Girls and Modern Family to land best TV comedy.

Terry Crews says winning two awards was surreal, but it's back to reality now. Photo / AP
Terry Crews says winning two awards was surreal, but it's back to reality now. Photo / AP

Crews is still buzzing about the win.

"I was standing up on stage looking down on Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep," he says. "It's one of those things where you go, 'Did that really happen?' I have to look at the photo of us standing on stage [to remind myself]."

It was enough to see the show fast-tracked on to screens here, with TV2 adding Brooklyn Nine-Nine to its Monday night schedule. The first season's third episode will screen tonight.

It's up to episode 19 in America, and critics say the show - about a bunch of oddballs working together in a New York City police station - gets better, and crazier, as it goes on.

Crews - an NFL-player-turned-actor who is a recognisable face from B-grade comedy films like White Chicks, Get Smart and Scary Movie 5 - says Brooklyn Nine-Nine's formula for success is simple: great writing, combined with great comedians.

"People say improv is the best way to do comedy, but it's not actually true. It's like the law of averages. When you improv anything, you only end up with a small amount of real, usable comedy. Our writers do all that work before we get out there," he says. "Sometimes we have these fun runs doing improv, but we end up doing everything the writers give us, only louder."

Alongside standout performances by Andre Braugher, Chelsea Peretti and Melissa Fumero, Crews plays Sergeant Terence "Terry" Jeffords, a family man who is deskbound after suffering panic attacks following a shootout that went wrong. Crews, a father of five, says many of his own traits - like his workout routines and artistic talents - have been written into the show.

"When I look at Terry Jeffords, I see me in every way. He's a lot like me in terms of intensity and passion. I cry at the movies, I'm in touch with my feminine side. Yet at the same time I got my body by hitting people at 25 miles an hour [in the NFL].

"I've lived a very violent life ... I know how to turn it up [but] I remember being in the NFL and being afraid of getting my neck broken and not being able to feed my kids. It's the same fear with Terry Jeffords."

And he has high praise for his co-stars, saying they've become so close they're "like a second family".

"One of the reasons I did the show in the first place was Andy Samberg. They didn't have the pilot written but I knew Andy was involved. I was such a Samberg fan I was like, 'Dude, this show has gotta be great'. I've worked with a lot of comedians, and a lot of them just rely on their charm and after a while that gets old.

"Andy's constantly working, constantly trying to improve the scene. Andy makes it look like improv, and it's not. He's thought about every iota about what he's saying. I'm his biggest fan. I've worked with Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler - I think he's the future of comedy."

He also singles out stand-up comedian Chelsea Peretti, who steals scenes as sarcastic, dry-witted office secretary Gina Linetti.

"She is the funniest woman on television right now. You have no idea what's going to come out of her mouth or how she's going to say her lines. You'll see it written down, but then she'll say it and you're like, 'I had no idea you could say it like that'. Everything she says kills me. I go home quoting her lines."

But being on a successful show doesn't mean you can bunk off once in a while. Even after the Golden Globes success, Crews couldn't celebrate too much: he had to be on set the next day - at 6am.

"I had three hours sleep but I was still rolling on the energy from that whole night. It was the best example of what true Hollywood is: you celebrate one minute but you have to get back to work.

"It's almost like winning the Super Bowl. As soon as you've won it, you turn around and it's all new. It's like you never won anything."

TV Profile

What: Terry Crews in Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Where: TV2, tonight, 9pm.

- NZ Herald

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