You might see Terry Crews as the tough guy with a heart of gold on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," or the frenzied, pec-flexing Old Spice guy, or a dry and stoic bodyguard on "The Newsroom."
But to know the real Terry Crews, you have to see something else
You have to see Crews pull a screeching U-turn when he passes a great piece of furniture out on the street, or fly to Switzerland just to connect with a promising designer, or get so lost in an interiors book that his wife calls looking for him.
The man's a design fanatic, and there's no better place to fully understand that than in his creative-office space: an open-plan loft in downtown Los Angeles that Crews designed himself to be, as he puts it, "the place I'm 100% inspired."
That means a mind-bending view from 30 stories above the city, eclectic wallpapers infused with metallics and "Star Wars" characters, and bookshelves stocked with enough tomes on design, fashion, animation and film to outfit a small art-school bookstore.
The individual pieces in the space speak not just to Crews' style -- one he sums up as "feminist caveman" -- but his obsession with a well-designed piece, whether it's Flavor Paper's damask, gold foil wallpaper or the quietly chic Timothy Oulton mirror that reflects the view.
Most people know Crews' back story so far as to know he was an NFL player, but the real meat of that is how he passed the time and made extra cash between seasons: sketching portraits of his teammates. He did, after all, go to college on an art scholarship before the football scholarship came in.
Though he didn't mean to be become an actor -- Crews figured he'd work as an animation artist or in special effects -- he's delighted at how his larger platform has enabled him to continue to make art, as well as be a patron in the most creative sense.
Take Amen&Amen, the design house he started with fashion designer Nana Boateng (who makes the majority of Crews' clothes -- as well as suits for David Beckham and Forest Whitaker). They made a splash with their debut, a home collection designed by Switzerland-based Ini Archibong, who Crews commissioned with two conditions. "1. I want to have no input at all, and 2. It has to be as creative as possible."
The result -- a rainbow-hued, glass-and-marble collection of tables, lighting and seating — was unveiled at the Milan Furniture Fair to rave reviews (Italian Elle Decor named Archibong an emerging talent of the show; the prestigious Design Milk blog described it as "incredible" and "ethereal"). Crews has been, understandably, delighted. He credited the success as not just a marker of Archibong's talent, but a case for the power of creative freedom.
Crews, 48, has found a similar freedom in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (returning for a fourth season on Fox on Sept. 20), thanks to an enthusiastic and supportive cast. "When we first got together, it felt like we'd be doing the show for 10 years … and that was just for the pilot," he said, going on to describe star Andy Samberg as an incredibly giving comedian and co-worker. "When you're creative, you need to feel safe enough to take risks," Crews said.
One thing this design hound isn't risking: bringing any of these pieces back to his home in Pasadena. "It's kid-proof," Crews said with a laugh -- all the better for his five children, ages 9 to 33, and grandchild.
"We have a few nice things but nothing so nice the grandbaby can't jump on it," he said. "I want to have pizza night without worrying about sauce all over the cushions, or someone swinging on the chandelier."
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