Teachin’ Fools Some Basic Rules: Mr. T Reflects On A Lifetime Of Memories, From WWE To Muhammad Ali

Even when Mr. T isn’t around, he’s around. The pop culture icon known for his work in Rocky III, the early WrestleManias, and The A-Team has continued to stay in the public eye with a variety of projects, from commercials to the short-lived World’s Craziest Fools television show (we hardly knew ye).

His look is unmistakable. His catch phrases are part of the public lexicon. And long after any of us are walking this Earth, people will know who Mr. T is. That’s something to aspire to, and he knows that, which is probably why he’s spent as much time as he has crafting words of wisdom to build people up and help to motivate.

Uproxx spoke with Mr. T on Wednesday as part of some promotion he was doing for Fairfield Inn & Suites – while his character Mr. Guaran-T tried to inspire Nik Wallenda during a high-wire act in New York’s Flatiron Plaza – and discussed everything from Rocky and wrestling to the time he once tried out for the Green Bay Packers.

Was there any talk of Clubber Lang appearing in Creed? Would Clubber’s hypothetical son beat Apollo’s son? I feel like he’d have a chance.

I think they’d be stretching it too much. They’ve gotta leave the sons out of it. Rocky had a good run for a long time. Let the Rock last, you know what I mean? You don’t want to go into a theater and see Rocky 900. We had good fights, and stuff like that. And it’s time for him to go out and do other stuff.

I never got around to seeing the A-Team movie. 

You did the right thing. The A-Team movie people would even tell you: boy did we make a mistake trying to get somebody to replace Mr. T. There’s nothing like the real thing. There’s too many perpetrators. There’s only one Mr. T. They learned the hard way. You can’t just put a guy with muscles and the haircut in there. They learned. They learned, when it got beat at the box office. People went to the movies and said, “That fool ain’t Mr. T.”

Do you have a best estimate of how many concussions B.A. [Baracus] received while he was on duty with the A-Team?

We never got any concussions! It wasn’t like football. We were a well-oiled machine, the A-Team. We loved it when we were playing together – Hannibal, Murdock, Faceman – we was a team, man. We fought hard, and we took care of business.

You did try the football thing, though, right? 

That’s when I was young. I said, “What the hey, let’s try out for the Green Bay Packers.” It was cold. But thank goodness. Sometimes, when you lose, you win. Just like with Rocky. I lost, but I won. By me not making the team, I tried out back in 1972, I had a different career, and I didn’t get hurt. Your career can be 10, sometimes 15 years if you’re really blessed in football. But not getting it was a blessing in disguise. I got to be in the movies. My lifespan is much longer. It’s fun.

Instead you rolled into that bodyguard work. Any stories you’re willing to share?

As a bodyguard, the number one things is you don’t talk about the client, and stuff like that. I can tell you it was hard. It was hard. I loved being with Muhammad Ali and all that, but it was a job. The guy hired me to protect his life. He didn’t hire me to be no goofy looking fan. He believed in me. He knew I did what I talked, and I talked protection.

Not Another Teen Movie is still having its run somehow. How did they get you in that one? Does it stand up today?

Definitely. That was a fun movie. The kids need to see Mr. T in another light. I played that wise janitor. “Believe in the ball, and throw yourself.” [Laughs.] What’s that even mean? But it was fun. You’ve got to get yourself out there in different ways. And I like to do stuff like that because there’s always a new audience out there. And you’ve got to speak to them somehow.

And one thing you’ve never stopped doing is inspiring people. You had that wire act today you had to do as part of National Amazing Month, motivating a guy who’s already an expert and is already motivated.

That’s the hardest thing. How do you motivate a guy who’s already motivated? He was already pumped. But you’d be surprised. You can never do enough motivation. They do need that. Just a pat on the back, or a smile, or a word of encouragement to someone you know. They may not seem like they need it, but it always helps. It makes their day better, and that’s what I try to do.

What are the best words of encouragement anyone’s ever given to you?

That came from my mother. “You do your best, and God will do the rest.” That’s what I do. As long as you did you’re best. Even if it’s hard, if you do your best, it’ll fool other people. Did I do my best? Or did I hold back? I don’t want to leave anything on the set or the screen. People believe in you. They hire you for a reason, so I take that serious. Each day, I want to keep bringing it. I want to be better. That’s what I always say, I want to be better. The biggest room is the room for improvement. Even when I’m filming, if the director likes it, I still want to do it better.

I’m not surprised to hear something your mom told you has stuck with you like that. Especially when we look back at that WWE Hall of Fame induction speech.

That’s what it’s all about. It was to honor her. I knew it would be out there for infinitas, and I wanted kids to see that Mr. T is a tough guy, but he loves his mother. I wanted to get the message to the kids to love and respect their mother. Anybody who don’t love their mother can’t be a friend of mine. If he doesn’t love his mother, he can’t love nobody. I want more kids to know they can go back home and say, “Mother, forgive me, I did wrong.”

When I go and talk to inmates, they tell me they didn’t respect their mother. I want to stop other kids from going to jail, so I tell them to love and respect their mother. I say I’m nothing but a big, overgrown, tough momma’s boy. There’s nothing sissified or punkish about loving your mother. If more young men loved their mothers, there’d be less people in prison. I’m willing to bet, even though I’m not a gambling man, 85 percent of the men in prison all over the country, their mothers loved them, but they didn’t love their mothers in return.

My mother loved me, and I loved her in return. I never wanted to disrespect her. I’d rather die and burn in hell than bring disrespect to my mother. Other kids can see that, and that’s what I wanted to bring out to the people.

That speech and that moment must have meant a lot to you. Who was your favorite wrestler to work with during those days?

My favorite was Hulk Hogan. When my man contacted me to be a part of WrestleMania, and originally it wasn’t going to be WrestleMania, it was just going to be some wrasslin’ because it was still so underground back then. It was like a secret society. But they brought me, and those guys out to Madison Square Garden and all that. And Hulk was a big part of that. I don’t know if you know, but I was a high school wrestler. I was okay, being modest, I don’t want to brag about all my accolades. But I do a little wrasslin’. Wrasslin’ on TV was different. But it was fun. It was physical. And I enjoyed being a part of the WWF back in the day. It was good for me.

Is there anything you’ll remember most about Roddy Piper?

He was a tough competitor. He was a tough guy, from Canada and whatnot. At the time, Roddy was the ultimate bad guy, and Hulk Hogan was the ultimate good guy. Roddy Piper brought it every night.

You’ve done a bunch of commercials, and have had some memorable characters come out of that. What’s the appeal there?

Everything keeps building like a crescendo. I enjoyed doing the Snickers commercials, I enjoy being Mr. Guaran-T. How can you guarantee something without Mr. T? And with Fuze, how can you sell iced tea without Mr. T? Certain things are just perfect for me. So it works.

I went back and watched that Conan O’Brien skit where you guys were picking apples recently.

In my Rolls Royce? Man, that was cool, we were putting all those apples in the back seat. Then I tried to get that apple, and I killed the bee? That was fun. Mr. Conan O’Brien, he’s a funny guy. That was good.

At your peak, just how many chains did you have?

In weight, it was 40 pounds. Diamond rings on every finger. Big bracelet. But that was then. I stopped wearing the gold with Katrina. I felt it would be a sin against God to wear that gold, and it would be disrespectful, and it was insensitive. So I gave some of it away to help churches, and to help people survive their situation. When I wear gold now, I get it from a jewelry store, or it’s prop gold for me to wear because that’s my image. People see me and stuff recently, it’s not mine. It’s somebody else’s. My gold is put away because of the Katrina thing.