Float like a butterfly, sting like a… T? 

The muscle-bound, Mohawked bodyguard and bouncer who became a pop culture mainstay during the 1980s through star turns in Rocky III, The A Team and more is taking on a new role.

And, as his name suggests, it’s a part he may have been born to play. 

Mr. T may be known for his hair, gold chains and signature one-liners, but as the face of a new campaign for FUZE Iced Tea, he sports a pair of Monarch butterfly wings while extolling the brand’s bold taste, enhanced with B vitamins.

We caught up with Mr. T a few days before hitting the road for a series of media interviews in New York. Here’s a recap of our conversation, which was peppered with his trademark rhymes and quick wit.

Tell us about the experience of shooting the digital ad for FUZE Iced Tea.

It was cool! And that’s something coming from Mr. T, you know. I’ve done a lot of things, but I’ve never been a butterfly. I’ve been tough all my life, so now I get the chance to be tender. And what’s more tender than being a butterfly?

Why is FUZE Iced Tea a good fit for Mr. T?

Well number one, I pity the fool who would even try to think about tea without Mr. T. Come on! That’s worse than a beach day without the sun! You can’t even spell it without T, and there’s only one Mr. T. And when Mr. T speaks, people listen. 

You played a number of iconic characters in the ‘80s. Which stands out as your favorite?

Between us, I’m really not an actor. I’m a reactor. Actors pretend in La La Land, but if you mess with a reactor, he’ll go off on you. When I auditioned for Rocky III and got the part, Sylvester Stallone told me to be myself. The character, Clubber Lang, was supposed to be from New York. But when I got there – I’m from the South Side of Chicago – so he said, “Be what you know.” I like to say Clubber is like me… we both came up and wanted our chance.

Would B.A. Baracus (from The A Team) or Clubber Lang have been FUZE Iced Tea fans? 

B.A. would have, but not Clubber. He just wanted to keep his eyes on (Rocky) Balboa. But B.A. would’ve loved it because he wanted to be relaxed when he flew, so FUZE Iced Tea would’ve been perfect for him. He worked with guys who loved it when a plan came together. And he got thirsty beating up the bad guys every week, so he needed a bold, refreshing drink like FUZE Iced Tea. If B.A. didn’t get what he wanted, the B.A. stood for Bad Attitude. But if he got what he wanted, he’d be relaxed and he wouldn’t be beating up Murdock all the time. And The A Team was a happy team.

Has Mr. T mellowed with age?

I’m still the same. If you cross me, I’m gonna get you! If you don’t cross your T’s, I’ll cross ‘em for you… with a left or a right. I’m no-nonsense – just like the guys I played in the ‘80s. B.A. was a no-nonsense guy who wanted to get the job done. He didn’t want to dilly-dally or hear no jibba-jabba. Back in the day, I was a bodyguard and a bouncer and I wanted my style to be unique so people would see me and say, “This guy doesn’t play around. He gets the job done and means business.” I’m a peaceful, fun-loving guy in my quiet circle. I don’t go around looking for trouble. But if trouble finds me, I deal with it.

How’d you get the name Mr. T?

Everything about me – from my hair to my name to my gold to my earrings – has a message. I legally changed my name to Mr. T in 1981. My father was a minister. Growing up, I watched him being called boy, and I watched my brother – I’m the youngest of seven brothers and four sisters – being called boy while wearing his uniform after coming home from Vietnam. I eventually changed my name to Mr. T so the first word that came out of everyone’s mouth would be “Mister” as a sign of respect my father didn’t get. My hairstyle is not punk rock, and it’s not Mohican Indian. I used to look at National Geographic magazines in the ‘70s. I saw a picture of a tribe called the Mandinka Warriors who wore their hair this way, with the spears and the beards and the earrings. And I said, “Oh wow, I like that!”

How does Mr. T stay in shape?

First thing every morning, I get up and do my workout. I don’t want to tell you everything exactly, because I might write a book about it. I don’t want people to think they can do my exercises and get as tough as me. Rest – and drinking FUZE Iced Tea – are really important, too, because when you rest you’re healing.

What about Mr. T would surprise your fans?

To the women and children, the T in Mr. T stands for tender. To the bad guys and thugs, the T stands for tough. I’m tough when I have to be, I’m tender when I should be. I’m an old-fashioned, overgrown mama’s boy. When I was nine years old, I drew a picture of a house and told my mother, “One of these days, I’ll be big and strong. I’m gonna be a football player and then a boxer. I said, “Mama, I’m gonna buy you a beautiful house and pretty dresses.” And I’ve done that. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do in life.

You’re the host of I Pity the Tool, a cleverly titled home renovation show on the DIY Network. Tell us about.

It’s about me going back to my hometown of Chicago and fixing up homes of veterans and other people with different stories. The first episode is about a guy I met 25 years ago in the hospital – he had broken his back. I remember crawling on the floor so he could see me. But the team behind the show, they didn’t know I knew him – and I didn’t know either until we started filming. Those are the types of shows we want to do… it’s special. We plan to do some good in the neighborhood. I try to work from the domino theory and give something back. It’s not what I make, it’s what I share. That’s who I am.