Terry Crews began hosting America's Got Talent in summer 2019, following his introduction earlier that year as MC for the spin-off series America's Got Talent: The Champions, and it has come to hold a special place in his heart, so much so that he tells Parade that he would work for free.
“First of all, everybody tells me never to say this, but I always say this: ‘I would do AGT for free.’ I’m not kidding you. It’s that satisfying, it’s that wonderful. To watch these acts go from relative obscurity into worldwide fame, it’s just the most powerful [thing]. Giving someone a Golden Buzzer is better than money. This thing is not about money. It’s never been. It’s about achieving a dream. It’s the reason I moved to Hollywood to chase this thing.”
Terry’s early struggles to build a career after retiring from the NFL in 1997 make him relate to the acts who are hoping that America’s Got Talent will make their dreams come true as it has for artists like Terry Fator, Shin Lim and Mat Franco, who all have their own shows in Las Vegas.
“I didn’t care if I was making money or not as long as I got to perform, as long as I got to do my thing,” Crews told Parade via Zoom at an event to promote Natrol, America’s No. 1 sleep aid brand. “I feel these guys and I learn from them. It’s so wonderful. Again, I would do it for free it’s so beautiful, but my agent and manager won’t let me. He’s over here on the side going, 'Like hell.'”
Terry also enjoys the camaraderie of the judges—Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Mel B, who are always competitive, hoping that their Golden Buzzer will win. But with Fantasy League, they each have a team of 10, so it’s been even more competitive than usual, which has doubled the fun.
“When they were picking the acts, Simon got the short straw [meaning he got last pick],” Crews says. “He almost left. We were like, 'Simon, don’t leave.'”
As we saw in the first episode, Mel used her Golden Buzzer to steal one of Simon’s best acts, Billy & Emily England, the rollerblade sister/brother duo. And then last week, he was unhappy when he got stuck with Wes-P, who was the last artist remaining after the teams had been picked, so he landed on Simon's team. But the Brit wit rose to the occasion and mentored Wes-P— even though the comic didn't make it to the semifinals. Now, with two weeks remaining, Simon may get a little revenge.
“Yeah, he was pissed,” Terry says. “I don’t want to give anything away, but Simon is Simon Cowell. He’s always got a trick or two up his sleeve. Make no mistake, it’s going to get real interesting for the future. Don’t count Simon out is what I’ve got to say.”
Our conversation with Crews also included a discussion of why he was excited about the return of Mel B, more on how competitive the judges are this season, the international aspect of AGT, and how he teamed up with sleep-aid company Natrol to demonstrate that revitalizing sleep helps him to be the best version of himself.
We’re coming up on the third episode of Fantasy League. There’s a different approach to it with the coaches having teams and working as mentors. What has surprised you about this season?
I love Mel B. Mel B. being back, come on. First of all, she was there my first year when I hosted Champions and then I didn’t see her anymore. Now for her to be back, it’s like “Ahhh. This is the AGT that I remember watching when I was at home with my family looking at Mel B and her being just her Mel B-ness, she does not play.
Then the fact that these judges, we all know they’re competing. Even in the regular flagship version. Now it’s just no secret we’re against each other. I think it’s the best. I’m the commissioner, so I get to sit back and watch all the fireworks and it’s so much fun. Howie hitting his Golden Buzzer with his head was just genius.
Oh, my gosh, yes. Heidi wrestled him, trying to keep him from stealing the Ramadhani Brothers. I can’t believe how competitive the judges are. And Mel B. stole from Simon. Wow!
This is how competitive it is. You’re like, “Oh, my God." It makes everything more interesting, I think. I think it’s a great format change, I do. It’s a little bit like when you’re talking about fantasy sports, it makes everything a little more like there’s an investment here. People at home can pick their favorite acts and we’ve got the best. These guys are some of the best we’ve ever had on any version of AGT. These are just amazing.
It’s interesting because while a lot of our favorites are there—like Jon Dorenbos, Tape Face, Piff the Magic Dragon and Chapel Hart, there’s a lot of international acts that we’ve never seen before.
Remember, America’s Got Talent is the flagship. I just went to Japan over the holidays, and it was an incredible experience. I can’t tell you the number of people who came up to me about Avantgardey, a Japanese dance act that was on AGT. I’m in their country. Listen, AGT is big. It’s the flagship. You might have a Japan’s Got Talent or South Africa’s Got Talent or Germany’s Got Talent, but everyone wants to be on the American version. It’s the flagship; it’s the one. A lot of people say it’s the World’s Got Talent. That’s why I know it’s the No. 1 talent show in the world.
Everyone’s looking for fitness tips for New Year’s and getting enough sleep is an important one. Why did you get involved with Natrol?
I have to start that with a story. About 12 years ago, I was doing several different things: movies, TV shows, advertising campaigns. I was doing five things at once. It was all about doing more and getting more. I was getting maybe three or four hours of sleep a night and feeling like this is the way you live your life. That’s that kind of pressure.
All of a sudden, my body stopped, everything stopped. I got a huge migraine. I got achy, my stomach was hurting, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was having a panic attack. I remember going to the doctor like, "Oh, my God. I’ve caught some kind of crazy bug; I don’t know what this is." He gave me a thorough examination and he said, “Terry, there is nothing wrong with you. You are just exhausted.”
I had heard this thing before where people were talking about exhaustion. He said, “You need to go for three days and just stop everything. Just go in your room and sleep for three days.” I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I had been sold a bill of goods because everyone said you can do more, and you can burn the candle at both ends, but I burned out.
I incorporated melatonin into my routine. I have a whole pill tower of morning, afternoon and night. I incorporated melatonin into my life back then. I realized that guys like me, fitness goals, very goal-oriented guys, type-A personalities, no one is talking about the importance of sleep.
In fact, the rap term is don’t sleep. You won’t catch me sleeping. Even if you did talk about sleep, you felt like people were telling you that you were lazy in some regard. You have to stay up all night. That’s not true.
I realized instead of doing 20 things below average, I started to do three or four things excellently and my life improved exponentially. The 20 things below average made my life below average. The things that I did excellently always tipped the top. I go to bed at 8:30. I have a routine. Believe me, when I’m there at AGT past 8:30, I’m like, “OK, time for bed.”
That’s funny because so many people are talking about early to bed these days, like Jamie Lee Curtis, Mark Wahlberg and, of course, the morning news show people. Do you feel like you’re missing out on anything by going to bed so early?
No, not at all. Especially in the age of streaming, you can watch anything you want when you want to. That used to be the problem where you’ve got to stay up until nine to watch this or stay up until ten to watch this. Now you can just click it and it’s there.
Even back in the day, I figured out something. I’m a sports fan, I love to watch sports. I realized something. Instead of spending three or four hours on a football game, if I watched just the highlights, I realized I missed nothing. They are going to show you anything interesting that happens. I remember going through, “Did I miss anything?” The first couple of weeks that I just watched the highlights, I could enter into any conversation about the game. Everybody spent four hours watching, I spent 20 minutes on the highlights and I got all my time and I can go to bed.
America’s Got Talent: Fantasy League airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and next day on Peacock.