Will Smith's Anger 'Used to be Me': Terry Crews Talks Masculinity in Memoir

At a time when celebrities are ducking hard questions and hiding behind their publicists, Terry Crews is willing to put it all on the line.

The former NFL linebacker turned film and television star is giving voice to the voiceless, bearing shame, exposing secrets, and embracing a new definition of masculinity in his memoir, Tough: My Journey to True Power.

The deeply personal story published by Penguin Random House, chronicles Crews' interactions with gang leaders in his hometown of Flint, Michigan and his years dealing with childhood poverty (he spent one afternoon stomping "millions of termites" into the carpet of his bedroom floor when a broken heating pipe caused them to pour in...).

The memoir also explores how Crews frequently witnessed his father abuse his mother and the toll it took on him and his siblings, his decades-long battle with anger issues and a pornography addiction and how he finally hit rock bottom both professionally and at home.

"In writing this book, I had to show how far I've come," Crews told Newsweek in a recent phone interview. "It does no good to say 'I was already a great guy, and I got a little bit better.' That's not what happened and I had to be real about what I've been through."

He also addresses the highs and lows of his 7-year career with the NFL (one day at practice he realized, "wait a minute, I don't actually like football,") and how he abandoned the sport for a career in Hollywood instead.

He discusses his movie roles like Idiocracy, The Expendables and Blended, and television shows such as America's Got Talent, Everybody Hates Chris, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

On sexual assault and the #MeToo movement

Crews also gets real about Hollywood elitism, racial and social justice, breaking free of addiction, and his experience supporting the #MeToo movement.

Having been a victim of a sexual assault himself when powerhouse agent Adam Venit groped him at a party in 2016, Crews became one of the few men to speak out among a sea of women early in the movement against sexual abuse and harassment.

"The women that came forward before me gave me the courage to come forward with my own story," he said, acknowledging that men used to say guys like him couldn't be victims.

"I remember a time when people told me 'it's impossible for you to get sexually assaulted. You're too big.' But that's like saying you're too big to get shot," he said. He explained that he's learned that the #MeToo movement, "isn't a woman's issue. It's a humanity issue."

Terry Crews releases new memoir
Terry Crews attends the Los Angeles premiere of Lionsgate's "American Underdog" at TCL Chinese Theatre on December 15, 2021 in Hollywood, California. Getty

After telling his own story which led to the ousting of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Crews was asked by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Amanda Nguyen to testify before Congress as a victim of sexual abuse. "That moment was the most impactful thing I've ever done in my entire life," he said. "Man and woman had come together to fight this problem."

Today, Crews is frequently thanked by victims of abuse — both female and male. "By me coming forward, a lot of men started to understand different times in their lives where their own lines were crossed that they hadn't recognized as abuse at the time."

On Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars

Beyond his #MeToo contributions, Crews experienced a personal awakening in dealing with his anger issues as well. "I used to have a temper where I would just go off and go so overboard," he said, adding that his book is timely coming out so soon after the infamous slap incident of Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Academy Awards last month.

"I know what Will Smith was feeling because that used to be me. I can understand the anger that Will had, and there are times I've done worse than what he did." Crews said he remembers ruining events and evenings because of his unresolved anger issues.

"It wasn't until I was Chris Rock and was (the one) assaulted and decided not to hit back that I realized (how far I'd come). The decision to go another way and not react out of anger (after Venit's assault) saved my life," he said.

Crews explained that looking back he can relate to both men because, like Smith, there were times "where I had meltdowns of my own," and, like Rock, he eventually learned to restrain himself during tense moments. "One day I was Will, and one day I was Chris. I empathize with and understand both men," he said.

On saving his marriage

Before learning to deal with his anger, it had become bad enough that he said his wife told him, "'I am going to leave you,' and I was like I have to change." Part of dealing with such raw emotion meant having to reevaluate what it means to be a man and what he really wanted out of his marriage.

"Growing up, I was always told that to be a man you had to take ownership of your house and everyone in it. The attitude was 'get your wife in line' and how everyone had to do whatever (the man of the house) said. It's a message I got loud and clear, but it was wrong," he explained. "I had to realize that you cannot love someone and control them at the same time. Your significant other needs to be appreciated, not treated as a possession."

Terry Crews with his wife Rebecca Crews
Rebecca Crews and Terry Crews attend The Hollywood Reporter's 29th Annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast with FIJI Water at Fairmont Century Plaza on December 08, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Getty

Crews said that during much of his life he felt there were two Terry's: the successful, giant of a man the world saw and someone else privately battling his inner demons. "The problem for me was always image," he said. Eventually, "Terry Crews went from fiction to non-fiction."

He said that by acknowledging the parts of himself that needed to change and through years of hard work at home, at church, and in therapy, things finally turned around. "I love this new place of honesty where I'm one person as opposed to two different people," he said. "It's refreshing when the internal work you've done on yourself matches the external success that everyone else can see."

These days, Crews has come to embrace transparency, vulnerability, and openness; and said he no longer shies away from past mistakes or the shame he's carried around for too long. "It's only in acknowledging my problems that they lose power," he said. "Most people think they are all alone, that they're the only ones on earth going through something. But when you find out you're not alone, it's eye opening."

Despite his successful evolution, he said he recognized early on that true personal transformation takes time and great effort and that he'd never be able to grow until he understood what was behind a lot of his shame and anger. "A lot of people will never hesitate to tell you that you are broken, that you don't have what it takes to improve," he said.

He explained that he was raised in an environment where he was told negative messages about himself and others all the time and that it took a long time to finally root out the false beliefs he'd adopted in his parents' home. "It really hurts to grow," he said. "You have to be tough."

Tough: My Journey to True Power is available beginning April 26 wherever books are sold.