Unlike Monchhichis, acid-wash jeans or New Coke, Mr. T survived the '80s and even emerged as an iconic figure to those who thrilled to his outrageous adventure series, The A-Team. The hard man with a soft side returns to the tube with TV Land's I Pity the Fool (premiering tonight at 10 pm/ET), a reality show that has the former bouncer dropping knowledge on average folks in need of guidance in today's mixed-up world. Think of it as Dr. Phil with a Mohawk, fatigue pants and a lot less jibber-jabber.
TVGuide.com: This is a reality show with a very sweet side.
Mr. T: Thank you. In this "Reali-T" show, as we like to call it, I want to entertain and also get a meaningful message across. We're really trying to inspire people and motivate them. I'm using my celebrity status to do some good, giving people some homespun T-isms. And unlike other reality shows where people are eating worms and silly stuff, this show is all about being positive.
TVGuide.com: You've always been a bit of a hero to kids.
Mr. T: To kids I've always been more than just some big tough black guy. I train to be tough I box and do karate but underneath all that toughness is a tender man. To women and children, the "T" stands for tender; to the bad guys it stands for tough.
TVGuide.com: You use the expression "jibber-jabber" a lot in the show. What is jibber-jabber?
Mr. T: Well, it basically means stop acting like a clown. You're not making sense, so cut the crap.
TVGuide.com: You give out a lot of advice. But do you take your own advice?
Mr. T: Oh, yes. In 1995 I was diagnosed with cancer and I had to practice what I preached. I had always said to "believe in god" and "don't give up" to little kids who had been diagnosed with cancer. I then thought if I can't call on that same God and same strength that I told people about, I would be a liar and a phony. I'm now a cancer survivor for 11 years. I never gave up, even when the smut magazines would say I was dying.
TVGuide.com: What do you think of your friend Hulk Hogan's reality show [Hogan Knows Best]?
Mr. T: He's a good guy, though it's a little weird with him and his daughter and the way he treats her and her boyfriends. [Laughs] But it's all theatrical and for the show. I hope we hook up on each other's shows soon.
TVGuide.com: What do you think of another friend, Sylvester Stallone, coming back in a new Rocky film?
Mr. T: I hope that it's good. He had wanted me to do the movie, not that we would have been fighting again [as in Rocky III], but I was doing the first episode of my show and we didn't connect. It's good to go back to your roots he'll always be Rocky and Rambo.
TVGuide.com: And you'll always, of course, be B.A. Baracus. You think there will ever be an A-Team movie?
Mr. T: They're trying. The producer was talking to me last year about it, but then he insulted me by saying, "We're doing an A-Team movie, but we want to go in another direction. We want to use other guys for the characters, but... we'll find a part for you." I wanted to walk out right then, but I stayed and didn't make a scene. It's not that I'm mad, but I'm known for two things: Clubber Lang from Rocky III and B.A. Baracus from The A-Team. So, I'm not mad that you want someone else to play the role, just don't insult me by putting me in the movie with someone else playing the character I used to play. It has nothing to do with the money. I just can't do that movie. No, thank you.
TVGuide.com: Is it true you and George Peppard didn't get along on the set?
Mr. T: Stephen J. Cannell created that show around me, and George Peppard was brought on later. He was jealous of me and all my fans and heaven forbid when he found out I was making more money than him! But I never got caught up in all that stuff my mother always told me to take the high road.
TVGuide.com: These days you've become a great comic foil for Conan O'Brien on Late Night.
Mr. T: Conan is the greatest. People always tell me that you can tell that he really likes me, like when I gave him a tour of Chicago. It's love between us. I'm always asked if we rehearse, but we don't. It's just all about timing. He's a very real guy and a sincere fellow.
TVGuide.com: Another show you always visit is Howard Stern's.
Mr. T: He would always try to get me with that sex stuff, but I don't go there. He can do a good interview when he doesn't get nasty. I've lost respect for some celebrities who get on there and talk sex. Me, I stay clean and it's all good.
TVGuide.com: How come you don't wear the gold chains anymore?
Mr. T: That happened after Hurricane Katrina. Watching the people suffering, I said I would never wear my gold again, because it wouldn't be right. I want people to know I have a heart of gold, not just the gold around my neck.
TVGuide.com: What does Mr. T do to relax?
Mr. T: Hmm, on my downtime, I take a shower or listen to the Bible on tape. I do watch some TV I like the History Channel and National Geographic, and old shows on TV Land like Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons and Benson. Oh, and no doubt about it, I still watch The A-Team!
For more reality-TV chatter, pick up the new issue of TV Guide magazine.
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