Cam Newton isn’t short on achievements. The Carolina Panthers quarterback and reigning NFL MVP may not have won the Super Bowl yet, but the man has already broken a host of longstanding league records — and he’s only 27. In a similar spirit, his new Nickelodeon show, All In with Cam Newton, which debuts tonight, seeks to unlock the potential of young kids who are looking to do as good — or maybe better! — than Newton in their respective fields.
We talked with Newton about the show, his own motivations growing up, and hanging out at the White House with Michelle Obama.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this show come about?
CAM NEWTON: Well, there was an opportunity for me to talk to the people at Nickelodeon about some of the things I’m passionate about. So being around my marketing agent, I was telling him some of the things I really want to start being known for outside of football was having some kind of role in younger people’s lives. I grew up watching Nickelodeon and the cartoons on the network, and I was so excited to have the opportunity to talk about some of the things I wanted to potentially do, whether it was with them or not. And the fact that they were so into the idea was unbelievable.
I understand that in one episode, you got to take a young girl to the White House to sit down with Michelle Obama…
She wanted to be the President of the United States! We have a lot of kids that dream big, and there’s no doubt in my mind that all of them are capable of being the person they want to be. With meeting Michelle Obama, it was incredible — she is the person that everyone hypes her up to be. Very down to earth, very easy to talk to, very genuine. I was — for the first time in a long time, I was star-struck. Let’s just say that.
Michelle is a Chicago native. Did you guys talk about the Bears?
Nah, we didn’t talk about the Bears! We were really just talking about — I was asking her more questions about everyday life in the White House. Because I think you don’t really ever know [what that’s like], you know? And she was just pitching off facts. And I’ve done a lot of work with Michelle Obama over the years, especially with her inititative to give back with the Healthy America campaign. So it was great to finally meet her and put a face to many emails and things from her.
Did you get her to dab?
[Laughs] She has some dance moves, now! No, but… that was probably one of the most impressive things, seeing how down to earth she is.
How did the kid do around the First Lady?
Oh, she was great! She handled herself like a pro. I think she handled herself better than I did! [Laughs] Above all, that’s what it’s all about: to see kids’ lives become better because they dreamed about something and it actually came to fruition. And to not stop dreaming after the episode goes off, but instead giving them the extra boost [to keep going]. It’s like: “You know, this is something I’ve been doing since I was X-Y-Z at this age, and I’m still going to continue to do it.” People don’t realize I’ve been playing football since I was seven years old. And everybody looks at success nowadays like, “Well, he just got lucky, or this or that.” But the kids that I came across ranged from 7 to 15 years old, and every time, they’d been doing what their passion was for 4 to 5 years and were committed to their craft. That was inspiring to me, to see kids have that much dedication to the things that they like to do.
Do you see yourself doing more TV work in the future?
I really do. But not more so me being actually on the screen. I’m very intrigued about making things come to life, and showing the artistic side to myself. And I don’t necessarily have to be on TV to show that. I have different ideas that I like and love that are intriguing to me, and hopefully I’ll get other opportunities to do some more things with TV.
So you’re interested in maybe directing or producing something?
Of course, yes.
So obviously you’ve been an athlete for most of your life. But was there anything else you dreamt about being when you were the same age as these kids you’re working with?
Yes, I mean… there was a lot of things that I wanted to do. But as you grow up, there are things where you realize that that’s not your shiniest coin. You have dreams and ambitions to do certain things. I can remember — and I tell this story often — me being in tears telling someone that I really wanted to be a football player. And just the percentages of a person becoming a professional athlete is extremely low, and I understood that. But I wanted them to know that I was going to be a football player by hell or high water.
Have your teammates seen the show yet? Or do you think they’ll check it out once it’s out?
No, I don’t think nobody’s necessarily checked it out [yet]. But I think a lot of people will be impressed, because it shows a different side of who I really am. I’m not saying that a lot of people don’t necessarily know, but it’s kind of different. You know, in my field, if you’re on TV, you’re probably talking about football. And that’s one of the main things I want to go upstream from. It’s like every time I see a person talk or be introduced as, “Here he is, a football person” — they’re doing something on ESPN or NFL Network and talking about football. I don’t necessarily want to go that approach. I don’t have nothing against that, but I just have more of a passion for the younger generation and kids. I feel like there’s a lot of kids on the show who are more mature than I was [at that age].
All In with Cam Newton premieres Friday, June 3 at 8 p.m. ET on Nickelodeon.