I pity the fool who dismisses I Pity the Fool (premiering Oct. 11 at 10 p.m. on TV Land) as just another celebreality show. To lump Mr. T in with the, well, fools, of The Surreal Life (or worse, The Simple Life), would miss the point of his show entirely.
The A-Team and Rocky III star is using his "reali-T" television time for good, traveling around the country dishing out advice to help regular people. Need a little motivation to boost your job performance? Family life stuck in a rut? Want to get that couch potato bod back into the gym? This tough-talker is more understanding than you'd think.
After all, as Mr. T says, the 'T' now stands for "tough, and for tender"
First, I have to tell you, I was a total A-Team geek growing up, and I never dreamed I'd actually get to speak to Mr. T!
Oh, wow, you make me blush! I'm humbled by thatthank you, thank you.
I'm not the only oneit seems like a lot of people on your show are motivated by the fact that Mr. T is there to help them.
I hope so. I really hope so. I try to get them to believe in me, and trust in me. Because I can't just go in there and say 'Hey man, do this, do that.' They've gotta believe in me for it to work, for them to want to make the changes. I tell them little stories about myself and stuff like that. That way, you touch the people.
How is your show different from other reality shows?
I tell everybody, this is not a reality show, it's a reali-T show. There's no nudi-T, and there's no obsceni-Ties.
Where did the idea for the show come from?
[A buddy] brought it to me about two years ago, but in his idea, the show was going to be called Tea Time With Mr. T and Fools. Then some other people asked if we could use my catchphrase, 'I pity the fool,' and the show would be me going on the road to talk to people. Like Dr. Phil on wheels.
You're tough, but still very respectful. Despite the title of the show, you're not really treating them like fools.
Oh, yeswith [the dad who was alienated from his family], the important thing was that they really loved each other, but things just kinda slipped away. I told the director when we went in there, 'We can't get in this man's face like we did with the car salesman.' This man is a family man, and he's a proud father. I didn't want to come in his house and berate him. When we leave, he's still got to be the father of the family.
It's a little weird to see you without the chains, but there's a good reason you're not wearing them anymore, right?
Yes, I took them off last year when I saw the Katrina victims. It's because I'm a Christian, and I'm supposed to feel the needs of other people. Somebody asked me the other day if I was trying to send a message to rappers or something like that, to take off their chains. I didn't take them off just for show or anything. I put [the chains] on for a reason, and I took them off for a reason.
It must make life easier going through airports, too, right?
Oh yeah, much easier! I don't have to have bodyguards with me now. I used to bring two or three of my brothers with me. And then when I'd leave a hotel, I'd have to check around and make sure I had all my rings it was a chore. Now, my heart is lighter, and my neck is lighter.
You went through a big health scare a few years ago
is everything good now?
Yes, I was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma back in 1995. I went through the radiation and the chemotherapy, and my hair fell out, and I was really sick, but I always tell people that was a test of my strength.
Are you going to be involved with the Rocky Balboa, or Rocky VI, movie?
No, Sylvester Stallone had wanted me to be in it, but we couldn't get our schedules together, 'cuz we were filming our pilot at the same time they were filming the movie. But I still have much love for Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone because he gave me my big break back in 1982.
And what about The A-Team big-screen movie? Will you play a role in that?
I met with the producer, and he said he wanted me, but he didn't want me to play B.A. He said he would find a part for me. That's when I got insulted. If he wants someone else to play B.A., that's fine, that's his movie. But don't insult me to ask me to be in the movie [with someone else playing B.A.]. That would be me, in The A-Team movie, somebody else playing B.A., and I'm looking stupid.