Athlete-turned-actor Terry Crews might look like a superhero, but surprisingly to date he’s never played one. But that’s changing this weekend when he voices the Marvel character of Blade for Disney Channel’s Ultimate Spider-Man Halloween Special. Set to air Saturday October 5 at 9pm/8c, this prime-time hour-long episode puts Crews’ Blade alongside Spider-Man and a host of supernatural characters out of Marvel Comics into a face-off with the biggest horror icon of them all, Dracula.
“The aspects of Blade I’ve enjoyed most is how deep the character is. You’re talking about a guy who straddles two worlds; he’s a vampire who gets rid of evil vampires. That’s kind of nuts,” Crews tells Newsarama. “There’s a certain dichotomy to Blade that’s important, but in doing this with the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series you also have to do it for a children’s audience; people sometimes forget that.”
Although he admits he couldn’t go “all the way” with the character like as Wesley Snipes did in the Blade films (which he’s a big fan of), he enjoyed what he did and how it turned out.
“What I wanted to do here is deliver Blade’s gravitas and seriousness to the show, but also bring some fun to it as well,” said the Expendables star. “It’s harder than people think to do something serious that’s also palatable for kids. But if you do it right and fine the tone like we did, it works out great. When I saw the results, I was really happy.”
Doing a project like Ultimate Spider-Man is something Crews had been aiming to do for a while as it intersects one of his favorite mediums and favorite genres.
“I’ve been talking to my agent about doing more voiceover work for awhile now, because the best films I’ve seen in the past ten years have largely been animated. From The Incredibles to Iron Giant, they’re doing some great things,” says Crews. ”Ultimate Spider-Man mixes animation with great comic book characters, and I couldn’t pass it up.”
For fans of Crews’ work in action movies like the Expendables franchise or his various comedic sitcoms, his on-screen presence as an actor is impressive – and it’s easy to see how doing voiceover work without the ability to harness his physical acting ability might be limiting. Crews say that getting into voice acting gave him new respect for others in the field.
“I’m a very physical actor; everything I do is pretty much body-oriented. I sometimes am able to deliver information just with a look; my face does two or three different things and it says it all. Here, I don’t have that; I have to say it all with my voice,” Crews explains. It’s really hard, and it made me look at voice-over actors with all new respect. Michael Clarke Duncan was a great friend of mine, and a great voice actor. When I spoke with him I could really understand all the training and preparation he did for his work.”
Crews compares voice acting to “playing basketball without a basketball,” but said he worked closely with the Ultimate Spider-Man director to hit the right notes with his performance.
Currently Marvel hasn’t announced any future plans for Blade in animation past this weekend’s episode of Ultimate Spider-Man, but Crews is gung-ho about doing it again if given the chance.
“I grew up on comics and animation, and I find this very creatively satisfying. I’ve always been impressed with the end product when I’ve done projects like this, and previously on Boondocks, so I’d love to do more – especially with Blade.”
Although he can’t spoil the events of this episode of Ultimate Spider-Man too much, he was able to talk about a scene between Blade and Nick Fury in the episode that elicited quite a reaction for the former NFL lineman.
“Once they showed me the playback of Blade and Nick Fury facing off with each other, I said ‘This is cool as s#$t!’” Crews says with a laugh. “Nick Fury there with his eyepatch, Blade with his sharp teeth; seeing those two getting angry and facing off, forcing Spider-Man to separate them, was great. It’s a cool movement, and I’d love to see that in a live-action movie even.”
The idea of Crews as Blade in a live-action movie standing opposite Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is an image most fans dream of, and Crews admit he’s among them.
“Sometimes you sit back and go wow, cool.”
Although his well-toned physique and acting chops have led him to be on many armchair pundits list of casting choices for superhero movies, this role in Ultimate Spider-Man is the first time Crews has worked in the superhero genre. The actor admits that he’s surprised he hasn’t done more, but says part of it’s due to the relatively small number of significant African-American characters in superhero comics.
“Some people bring up Luke Cage, but honestly I have to step out of that because Marvel’s never really expressed an interest in making it,” Crews tells Newsarama. “If Marvel hasn’t expressed interest in it, why should I? I’m interested in actually doing a character that’ll see the light of day; that’s one of the reasons I chose to do Blade here. I don’t want to be a part of something that’s going to sit on the shelf and never get made.”
Crews’ practical viewpoint on the matter might be surprising, but he seems well versed in matters both of Hollywood casting directors and of comic books. He is quick to laud praise on Samuel L. Jackson’s casting as Nick Fury, as well as Anthony Mackie’s upcoming debut in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Falcon, and says there’s a number of character he’d like to play if casting directors are open to some changes.
“One character I always thought I could play is the Thing from Fantastic Four,” Crews reveals. “Another character I’ve always loved as a fan is Colossus. If there was a way to make that happen that worked, I would love to be Colossus.”
Crews hesitates in going further with dream casting of superhero roles, and says ultimately it’s not up to him of what he will play – but the fans.
“You can’t make yourself President; the people make you the President. If people want me to be a part of this superhero genre, it’ll happen. People get what they want,” says Crews. “I feel like we need to make new superheroes, African-American superheroes, that people would accept. Whatever I do, it has to be right – for me, for the character, and for the fans.”