There are very few celebrities you’d want to invite into your home for four consecutive nights, but the CW made a wise choice when they invited Terry Crews to help families zhuzh up their holiday celebrations in the four-night, five-hour special Terry Crews Saves Christmas.
The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star talked to Yahoo TV about the special, which finds Crews and his holiday helpers showing families how to life-hack their way to a merry Christmas. He also told us the very personal reason why doing the special saved Christmas for him.
Actor, bestselling author, Lip Sync Battle champion, and now you are a holiday expert. Is there anything Terry Crews can’t do?
You know what, it’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that I don’t care if I can’t. If I don’t know [something], let’s all figure it out together, you know what I mean? That’s why even doing this show, I brought in the professionals. I have a chef, Dean Sheremet, who is awesome. Then I brought in a designer named Vanessa Deleon, who did all the decor.
If Christmas had a spirit animal, it’s me — a 250-pound, gigantic, African-American man named Terry Crews. I’ve been married 27 years, I have five kids, and one 6-year-old grandbaby. So I’ve done Christmas for the generations. I love this holiday, absolutely love it, and what’s so great is that I was learning right along with the families on the show. I was like, “Oh, I’m stealing that, what a great idea!” There are so many things I’ve taken and added to my own holiday. I actually ended up saving my own Christmas.
How did the idea come about to make the show into this weeklong TV event?
The production company, Electus, came to me … and someone just said, “Hey, instead of doing just a regular holiday [makeover] show, what if we have this outside host who could really offer up something that we’ve never ever seen before?” On top of the fun and all the craziness, we also have a lot of heartfelt, beautiful stories. I got to know these families, and you get to know them. This show is not about what’s wrong with the family; the families were amazing, the love, the joy, the camaraderie with their coworkers and with their families. The problem was that everyone is so busy, and it’s just so intimidating. The whole thing about Christmas is that you’re supposed to make everyone’s dreams come true. But that’s impossible. Everyone wants the perfect Christmas, but it doesn’t exist. We took these wonderful families and just said, “Look, you can do more than you think you can, with literally a half-hour of planning,” as opposed to no planning and you’re running around the week before Christmas like, “Oh, my God, I’m a mess.” One big problem, for instance, was that [the families featured on the show] would have parties, and they would run out of food. That was a disaster. They were like, “This should be enough,” but they didn’t plan it out. They’re running out of food, so they’re microwaving hot dogs at their party.
What are some of your favorite holiday life hacks that you got from this?
Oh, my God, first of all, in regards to the decorations, people always think bigger is better, and it truly is, if it’s right. A lot of times there’s mismatched things that people want to do, so they just end up cramming everything together. What I got from the show is that it’s better to do two things absolutely perfectly than to do 10 things really janky. Concentrate on two or three beautiful set pieces that you’re gonna do for the holidays, and let me tell you, it goes a long way.
Another thing I figured out was, especially with food service, you gotta have a flow. What happens is people put all the food in one place and everyone’s just kind of crammed in there. It’s too busy, and the conversations will be happening right there, and it’s just a mess. The thing is to set food in different places around the house; the appetizers are in the living room, the next course is in the kitchen, and then the [dessert] is in the basement, where you have the decorations. It becomes a beautiful experience, and no one’s crowding each other, and the kids aren’t under your feet. I was like, “I’m stealing that idea, that’s mine forever.” ’Cause I’m the guy who just sets everything on the table and lets everybody go at it. It starts to become kind of like a bar. Everybody just elbows their way through.
How many families did you visit?
We worked with five families, two in the Chicago area and three in the Los Angeles area. They were beautiful people.
Now that you’ve done this — and it sounds like you had an amazing time — could this become a recurring series? Could Terry Crews save Easter and Valentine’s Day and Halloween?
Yes! Terry saves Valentine’s Day, saves Mother’s Day, saves Arbor Day. Terry Crews could save your barbecue on the Fourth of July. I want to keep this going, because I have to say, I love acting, I love preforming, but I also love being around people. This is why I hosted Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I did World’s Funniest, because I love the interaction with people live. I hosted New Year’s Eve for NBC. I tend to like the uncertainty of just what this is, the unscripted stuff where anything can happen. I get energized by that. This is one thing I would love to continue to do. We could keep it going, and if it’s just this one holiday, let’s do it again every year.
What is your favorite memory from doing the show?
I am gonna use this story because it’s kind of all-encompassing, and it’s a personal story. Two days before Thanksgiving last year, my mom passed away. It really left a hole in my holiday. My mother was the spirit of Christmas for me. When we grew up in Flint, Mich., we didn’t have any money, and we were cutting ornaments out of construction paper. We would play Christmas music, and those are my fondest memories. And that she wasn’t there last year. That was really hard for me — really, really hard. I didn’t even know what to feel. Doing this show filled that hole for me, going to every family and spending Christmases with them and their grandparents, their parents, their kids, their friends and coworkers. It was immensely fulfilling for me; you see that every family is the same. It couldn’t replace [my mom], but it definitely made me feel like life is moving on, people are still having fun, people are still celebrating together. It was so beautiful, and I just thought, “This is the way to do it.” This is one of the most satisfying, rewarding things I’ve ever done.
What will you be doing for Christmas?
Wow, we’re gonna have a Christmas party at my house, and like I said, I had to save my own Christmas, too. I basically stole all the ideas I learned about while doing the show. My wife was like, “Oh, my God, look at you, you’re Mr. Christmas now.” I’m like, “I know, honey, I got the life hacks.”
Terry Crews Saves Christmas airs Dec. 20-23 at 8 p.m. on the CW.