Not content to simply ease into retirement after breaking the single-season NFL sack record and being the most dominant defensive end of his era, former New York Giant Michael Strahan has been keeping plenty busy. On the weekends, he co-hosts "Fox NFL Sunday," working as an analyst alongside fellow players-turned-commentators Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long. In addition, he's starring in and producing a new sitcom called "Brothers," in which he plays Mike Trainor, an ex-NFL pro who moves back home with his parents (CCH Pounder and Carl Weathers) and estranged brother (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell) after retirement. The show is the only series on broadcast TV to feature an all-black starring cast. Somehow, Strahan managed to find a few minutes to answer a couple of our questions, coming clean on his new career and his old one alike.
MSN TV: It would seem like doing the FOX football stuff every week would be enough to keep you busy. So why the motivation to have even one more project?
Michael Strahan: First off, it's a challenge. And it's fun. This is stuff that I've never done so it piqued my interest, but it definitely hasn't been as crazy as you'd imagine. The football show is only on Sunday and the sitcom is Monday through Friday so I still have a lot of time to spend at home with family.
Does that mean that every free second you have during the week you're back in your trailer watching tapes for the upcoming football games?
For the "Fox NFL Sunday" show -- maybe because I've been so connected to the game -- I don't have to sit and watch hours and hours of tape. When I'm at work on the sitcom I'm focused singularly on that. And then when I do FOX football stuff I'm focused just on that. I just know how to turn it on or turn it off depending on which set I'm on.
You came to football kind of late for a guy who eventually went pro, but how much of being a professional athlete is pure talent vs. hard work?
I can't say that hard work is going to get you everywhere because I've seen guys work extremely hard who just aren't talented have a hard time. You probably could have more talent than hard work and make it, but the thing is, you won't have any longevity. If you want longevity, you have to have talent and be able to work hard. And hopefully whatever you don't have in talent you can learn and develop it.
Is the same true with learning comedic timing and acting?
This is hard! There's nothing natural about it. You have to study it and you have to learn from the people you're working with. And I'm fortunate to be working with CC and Carl and Daryl to the point where I'm picking up their cues and learning how to make something work, learning when to press, when not to press. Watching them and seeing the way they do things has really helped me. I swear I used to watch movies and TV shows and think, "Oh, I can do that." And now to have the opportunity to do it, you realize it's tough. It's no joke.
Did you do the same thing when you were studying football? Would you watch other players to try to learn their moves on the line?
You steal whatever you can if it works for you. And it's not that you're stealing, you're actually honoring that person's talent. In football, I was looking at guys who were successful and that knew what they were doing at my position. So I would study every one of them and see what made them successful and then say, "Hey, could that work or could I incorporate that into my game to make me successful?"
When you're on the line waiting for the snap, is all that posturing and trash talk a form of acting?
All of that is acting. It's acting when they introduce you and you come out of the tunnel. You've been in there warming up and doing curls and push-ups to make your arms look more threatening. And then you line up on the line against this guy who outweighs you by 100 pounds, you have to convince yourself that you're better than he is, stronger than he is. There's so much acting, so much posturing, so much deception about being something that you're not. After you become successful at it there's a great carryover into acting.
Does the NFL give players media training or did you have to figure out how to act in front of a camera on your own?
They show videotape about how not to stick your foot in your mouth, but other than that you really need to learn on your own. That was the great thing about being in New York for all those years. For me, it was hands-on training to have that camera in your face. At the same time, it got me prepared for commentating and doing a sitcom.
Do you remember your first on-camera experience?
I don't remember my first interview, but I remember the one thing that really got me thinking I was in over my head is when I was a rookie, I was asked to go to this Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition party. And I was like, "Sure, OK, why not?" Then I got there and they handed me a microphone and said interview the girls. And I was so nervous and I was a horrible interviewer. But at the same time, they put me on the spot. And I found out that being put on the spot kind of takes you out of your comfort level, but I enjoyed it and I wanted to work on it.
Will we see any NFL stars showing up on "Brothers" this season?
Right now we don't have anybody lined up, but they're in the middle of the season. Hopefully if we get picked up for the back nine, I wouldn't have any trouble convincing anybody to come on. I have the guys from the pregame show (Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson) interested in coming on. But we've had Mike Tyson and Kim Kardashian. We're filming with Snoop Dogg this week. T-Pain, the wrestler Kevin Nash -- so we've had some great cameos so far and I'm sure when the season's over I'll get some great players to come on.
Have your old teammates all been supportive of this?
They've all been great. The players have all been receptive because I think in their heads they're thinking, "Heck, if he can do it I can do it." You don't have to let people define you to one career. They can look and say, "Hey, there's something I can do afterwards."
At least with this you're not sore the day after.
That's true. I feel great on Monday morning.
"Brothers" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. PT/ET on FOX.
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