EW talks to the 1-800-COLLECT pitchman about God, Mom, and the big C

By Scott Brown
Updated April 11, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Pity the fool who interviews Mr. T. The former ”A-Team”er, current 1-800-COLLECT caller, cancer survivor, and born-again star of the Christian thriller ”Judgment” called for a round of 10 stupid questions. But, strangely, all we got was one long answer.

? Thanks for calling —
I never met a microphone I didn’t like. I can’t teach what I don’t know. I can’t lead where I don’t go.

? Um, what —
I tell people, ”The only people that don’t like a test is the ones that didn’t study.” My test came in 1995 when I was diagnosed with cancer. That’s where my faith comes from.

? Uh —
I needed something to test my faith. I needed that fear, because I wasn’t afraid of nothin’, the livin’, the dead, nor the unborn. I been in gunfights, I been in fistfights at disco bars. I’m tough, I’m bad. I needed something to test my faith, so here comes cancer. Boom!

? Boom?
Cancer knocked me to my knees. But Scott, let me explain something to you. That was a great position for me to be knocked to, so while I was on my knees, I just kept prayin’ and I got my swagger back.

? Right.
And that’s important for a black man, to have his swagger back. That means I ain’t afraid of nothin’, you know.

?So, um —
When I was 9, I was living in the projects on the south side of Chicago. Drugs and crime was over me, under me, and around me, but drugs and crime was never in me. Why? Because I loved and respected my mother too much. You ain’t gonna get me into disrespectin’ my mother.

?Absolu —
I’m nothin’ but a big 48 year old mama’s boy. And I tell ’em, that’s a problem in society. We don’t have enough mama’s boys. If we had more mama’s boys, we wouldn’t have to rape our women, you know.

?Guess that makes sense —
Like David said in the 23rd Psalm, ”Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” See, nobody say, ”Hey, man, let’s go shoppin’ in the valley of the shadow of death! Let’s go buy a condo in the valley of the shadow of death!”

?True, true.
I had to have a setback in order to have a comeback. So that means God…. You might hear somebody say Michael Jordan might come back. Like Mario Lemieux, he came back. But Shaquille O’Neal can’t come back, see what I mean?

Because he’s playin’ already. Me, I just always keep my feet on the ground, my head towards heaven, just help the less fortunate. That’s the type of guy I am. I’m a man for the people. [Short pause]

?Well? thank you. And I pity the fool who tries to tell you otherwise.
You know it, brother. Here’s my last little rap. I say, he’s big, he’s bad, he’s black, and he’s back: Mr. T.

?You said a mouthful, Mr. T.
Okay, Brother Scott.