Words by Kevin Duffel, photo courtesy BET Networks.
As anyone who’s been to any skateboard-related Website in the past couple days knows, Terry Kennedy has a new show premiering on BET right about now. But you won’t find the old “Compton-Ass-Terry” of his Jackass past. Instead, Terry’s grown up–and in all reality, who wouldn’t mellow out after getting shot and losing a best friend? Rather than strictly hijinx, Being Terry Kennedy seeks to portray the more mature side of TK. Here’s what the star of the show has to say about it.
How’d the show come about? Did Pharrell hook it up at all, or was it all you?
Nah, actually me and my manager [Circe Wallace] and these two guys from Roadside Entertainment, Ron and Sasha–they had helped put the project together and we started pitching it all together.
How do you feel about it? Are you stoked on the way it came out?
Dude, I’m excited because every time before when I’d go pitch a show to people, they’d be like, “Why you ain’t got Compton-Ass-Terry?” and I’m like, “Dude, that ain’t me. I was eighteen years old. I’ve really got my story to get across–my upbringing and where I come from and what I’ve been through.” I want to motivate my generation and my culture. I wanna tap on the good shit in life. So once we put the pilot together, we took it to MTV and they were super sold on it but they still wanted some of that Compton-Ass-Terry stuff and have me doing stuff I didn’t really wanna do.
So does that mean BET gives you total control over it?
Yeah, and they let me get my story across the right way–not just to make television. They’re like, “Let’s get the story across… the real genuine stuff about your life and your career and the stuff you’re doing as a whole.”
So they’re not going to be sugarcoating skateboarding? It’s not going to be another Orange County beach fest?
Nope, none of that.
Yeah, I’m not too sure we ever need another one of those.
Nope, not at all. I come from Long Beach, California man, so I’m giving you the straight [story] and to show you that that’s where the majority of skaters come from–inner-cities.
Being Terry Kennedy trailer.
Totally. You don’t wanna see skateboarding portrayed as this totally mainstream commodity. Most kids can’t really relate to that.
That’s what I’m saying. Most of the kids who skate are inner-city skateboarders. So it’s just showing how I came up and how the next person’s going to come up. If I go back to Longbeach, there’s five skateparks. All the most roughest and toughest cities have like five-to-six skateparks. It’s like, Theotis [Beasely]–Inglewood, you know what I mean? It’s telling you, where do the majority of street skateboarders come from? Inner-cities. When I was coming up, there was just Cherry Park–there wasn’t no five skateparks. And sure enough, my little cousin skates, my nephew skates because of that. It’s right there at your fingertips so why not try it.
Totally. It’s something to do to pass the time that doesn’t cost money.
Exactly. It just keeps them out of trouble.
So why should we watch this rather than the other skate shows? How’s it going to stand out?
Just as me as a person first off. Like I said–my struggle, my upbringing, and me just being an African American in skateboarding. You know, something that we used to look down upon. [This] is a very family-rooted show and showing you how everything I went through or go through in life, my family is always my backbone no matter what. I never lost my head. I’ve always been a family-rooted person.
Speaking about the African American part, is that a main reason you took this show to BET or was that just to reach a different demographic?
I’m gonna be honest; yeah it was. I grew up and I got shot–just because I grew up in Longbeach and I skateboarded. I just wanted to tap into my culture and show them it ain’t always about negativity because where I come from it’s nothing but negativity. You ain’t gotta come up gangbanging… carrying a gun. You don’t gotta do these negative things but that’s all we’re taught growing up. I wanna show them they can be different and be black and push a skateboard and actually still be cool. My best friend’s been killed and I’ve been shot over the fact that I just skateboarded coming out of that city. So it’s deeper to me. So that’s what I told MTV. My life was almost taken, my friend’s life was taken, and this is deeper.
Yeah it’s not all about Compton-Ass-Terry
No, it’s about pushing the youth in the right direction. We’re in a new time and age. It ain’t about [drugs and gangs] anymore. It’s about people being comfortable in their own skin, not following something else or doing something negative all the time.
Are you prepared for all the potential hate that might come your way after people see this show? It seems like some skaters get bummed when they see pros doing mainstream or commercial stuff.
What’s funny is everyone always told me I should’ve been doing this from the start. Every time I bump into Tony Hawk, or Andrew Reynolds, or Eric Koston, they’ve been tellin’ me, “This is your life. Look at how you came up and look what you’ve been through. You should be rapping; you should be skating. That’s the epitome of you. Nobody has been through the shit you’ve been through.” And this is what I heard from the people I look up to and the people who are the most respected. These guys were like, “Step into your shoes. Stop being scared of who you are.” And I’m stepping into my shoes now and pushing my generation and culture and nephews in the right direction. Once I heard it from Andrew, that’s when I was like, “Alright I’m going in.”
Yeah, if the Boss is telling you to go for it, then it’s gotta be a good move. He’s the one who’s got your back and gonna tell you the truth.
Yeah. Andrew helped me see that I’ve always been this person but that I haven’t wanted to step into this position. Once I heard it from Andrew I decided to do it–I had nothing to shame away from.
It seems like Baker portrays that whole DIY and noncommercial aesthetic–and I’m sure they’re psyched as hell with the publicity it’ll bring them–but did you ever feel like there were initial tensions or worries from their side?
Yeah, I always did, especially with Andrew. I never wanna let that guy down. I’ve never wanted to let that guy down or do shit that would discriminate Baker. So going to them, I found out they were psyched. And then Lizard King and Koston were like, “I wanna be a part of it.” Sure enough all these guys are a part of it and I thought, “Who would’ve thought in a million years you’d see Koston on BET, or Lizard King.” And they’re down for it.
So it was always a hundred percent when you went to Andrew and told him about it?
Yeah, just super down for it. And he broke it down to me like, “Don’t worry about anything else but riding that skateboard.” And sure enough, anything I’ve ever wanted in life came from riding this skateboard. And that’s what he taught me. Skating saved my f–king life. It’s amazing.
You just wanna show that to the rest of the world then, huh?
Yes. I love it, man. Where would I be without it? It’s not even about the material things; never would I have a friend like Paul Rodriguez. Those people are great people. That’s what I’m so hyped about. I would’ve never had these friendships or learned so much without it. That’s the stuff you’ve gotta reflect on. Everyone who’s seen the trailer has been excited about it because I just poured my whole heart into it. What I want people to gain from this is to be motivated and be comfortable with who you are as a person no matter what.