'A-Team' Stars Bond Over Love of TV Show

The A-TeamMichael Muller/20th Century Fox
The A-Team

On the set of the new "A-Team" movie, two of its stars, professional fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and South African actor Sharlto Copley, formed an unlikely friendship over their shared lifelong love of the classic 1980s television series.

Poised to be one of the summer's biggest blockbusters, "The A-Team" opens today in theaters. Copley and Jackson talked to Peter Travers of ABC News Now's "Popcorn" about what it means to be part of the new A-team.

"I grew up watching 'The A-Team.' 'A-Team' was my favorite show as a kid," said Copley, who will revive the role of the crazy chopper pilot Howlin' Mad Murdoch.


"I had an A-Team gang that I started," Copley said. "I had a rival gang start up trying to become the A-Team. We had a fight down on the field. That was my only little exposure to aggression, was fighting for the A-Team, literally. We won."

Jackson, who will take on the iconic role of B.A. "Bad Attitude" Baracus, made famous by Mr. T, equally loved "A-Team," though he didn't have a need for an A-team gang.

"My father was B.A. to me," Jackson told Travers. "I saw my dad every day. My dad wore the camouflage pants and he was big like B.A., and he talked like Mr. T and we joked around. My dad was like B.A. and, ultimately, I wanted to be like my dad and I wanted to be like B.A. So I became B.A. growing up. That's why I became a fighter."

VIDEO: Sharlto Copley and Rampage Jackson face off in their "A-Team" fandom.Play

Just because Jackson is poised to become a movie star, don't think he'll be giving up his fighting gig with the Ultimate Fighting Championship anytime soon.

"Acting is kind of gay," Jackson told a Los Angeles Times reporter. "It makes you soft."

Jackson's remark, along with gay slurs he made toward a crew member, landed him in hot water last month.

Earlier this week, he posted a response on his website in which he said, "not only DO I NOT HATE gay people, I actually accept them for who and what they are." He wrote that he and the crew member are actually friends and were simply "trash talking."

Copley's "crazy talking" actually landed him his breakthrough role in last year's Oscar-nominated film "District 9." He learned by emulating the original Howlin' Mad, actor Dwight Schultz.

VIDEO: "A-Team" movie actors reflect on Mr. T and Dwight Schultz.Play

"I grew up being very influenced by Dwight Schultz and doing different voices and different characters, just for fun, not because I'm crazy," Copley told Travers.

The A-Team Then and Now

It's been more than 20 years since the A-Team amped up to give the bad guys a beat down.

In case you're not familiar with them, a primer: The original A-Team was a four-man band of ex-U.S. Army Special Forces/Vietnam War veterans/fugitives on the run for war crimes they didn't commit who become mercenaries for hire. Over-the-top violence and cartoon-like action characterized the 1980s TV series based on their misadventures.

VIDEO: "A-Team" actors sing the theme song.Play

For the big screen, a new crop of actors has been brought in to get the job done. This time, they're united by their shared status as Iraq war veterans.

Below, check out where the former stars of "The A-Team" are now, and who's been enlisted to carry their legacy on to the big screen.

Lieutenant Templeton 'Faceman' Peck

Dirk Benedict played smooth-talking Faceman (a.k.a. Face) in the original "A-Team" series. As the A-Team's resident con man and pretty boy, he charmed his way into getting supplies the crew needed and emerged from dangerous endeavors unscathed, cleanly styled, cigar in hand.

After "The A-Team" went off the air in 1987, Benedict tried his hand at theater, attempting the title role in Shakespeare's Hamlet and earning poor reviews.

VIDEO: Trailer for the movie version of The A-Team.Play

Then it was on to film. He starred in 1993's "Shadow Force" and in 2000 wrote and directed his first screenplay, "Cahoots."

A foreign film and a TV movie later, Benedict dipped his toe in the waters of reality TV, competing in the U.K. version of "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2007. His "A-Team" fame followed him there: A replica of the "A-Team" van brought Benedict and his character's signature cigar onto the set as the "A-Team" theme tune blasted in the background. He ended up scoring third place in the competition.

Benedict divorced his wife, actress Toni Hudson, in 1995. They had wed in 1986 after she appeared in an episode of "The A-Team." They have two sons together. Benedict has another son from a previous relationship.

SLIDESHOW: 'The A-Team': Then and Now

In 1975, Benedict was diagnosed with prostate cancer and adopted a macrobiotic diet to better his health. He wrote a book about advocating a macrobiotic lifestyle in 1991, "Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy."

"Hangover" star Bradley Cooper is charged with bringing Benedict's character to the big screen this summer. With a buff body and an enviable head of hair, he's got the handsome part down. Benedict himself makes an appearance in the "A-Team" movie as well.

Dirk Benedict as Face, Benedict now, and Benedict's successor: Bradley Cooper.

Sgt. Bosco Albert B.A. "Bad Attitude" Baracus

Pity the fool who gets in Bad Attitude's way. Mr. T brought Sgt. Bosco Albert Baracus to life and cemented his own place in pop culture history with quippy one-liners and chunky gold bling. B.A. served as the A-Team's muscle. His signature move was grabbing an adversary and hurling him in the air. He also had a knack for mechanics, and could engineer pretty much anything with a pair of pliers and a hunk of metal.

Mr. T parlayed his "A-Team" fame into personal success long before the show ended. In 1983, he lent his voice to a cartoon named after him and appeared on the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes."

The following year, he released a motivational video, "Be Somebody ... or Be Somebody's Fool!," inspired by his iconic "A-Team" line, "I pity the fool." The video featured Mr. T's priceless advice to kids, like how to make tripping look like breakdancing. He also released a rap album in 1984 and starred in the movie "The Toughest Man in the World."

Perhaps his highest-profile movie role was as boxer Clubber Lang, Rocky Balboa's adversary in 1982's "Rocky III."

Mr. T as Bad Attitude, Mr. T now, and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, the new B.A.

But acting and rapping weren't Mr. T's only arenas. In 1985, he broke into professional wrestling, and participated in WWF events through 2001.

After "The A-Team," he scaled back his professional projects to commercials (Comcast, Snickers, World of Warcraft, among others) and cameo TV/movie appearances in part because of his health. He was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in 1995.

Bringing Bad Attitude into the 21st century is Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, a mixed martial artist and actor with muscles to make Mr. T proud.

Col. John 'Hannibal' Smith

Actor George Peppard played the role of Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, the leader of the A-Team. Rarely seen without a cigar between his teeth or black leather gloves on his hands, Hannibal was known for his signature line: "I love it when a plan comes together." A master of disguise, Hannibal also took on various aliases for the A-Team.

Peppard was himself a veteran -- of war films. He starred in "The Blue Max" and "The Bravos" after finding stardom opposite Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." In the 1970s, he played millionaire sleuth Thomas Banacek in the television series "Banacek." But he's best known to younger audiences as Hannibal, joining the cast of "A-Team" when he was 55.

A lifelong smoker, Peppard was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992. But he never stopped acting. He had just completed a pilot for a "Matlock" spinoff when he died in 1994 at age 65.

Liam Neeson is taking over Peppard's role as Hannibal. Tall and ruddy-faced, he bears a striking resemblance to Peppard.

George Peppard as Hannibal and Liam Neeson who is reprising the role.

Capt. H.M. 'Howling Mad' Murdock

Relative unknown actor Dwight Schultz rose to fame playing mentally unstable Capt. H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock. Producers had planned to drop his role after the series debut, but the character was a hit with the audience, so Howling Mad was written back in. Howling was the A-Team's craft pilot. His nickname came from his time spent in a mental hospital.

After "A-Team," Schultz starred as Lt. Reginald "Reg" Barclay in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," reprising the role for "Star Trek: Voyager" and the film "Star Trek: First Contact."

He now provides the voice for video games such as "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows," "FusionFall" and "Terminator Salvation: The Video Game."

Dwight Schultz as Howling Mad Murdock, Schultz now and Sharlto Copley who takes the role to the big screen.

South African newcomer Sharlto Copley, best known for his role as Wikus van de Merwe in the Oscar-nominated sci-fi film "District 9," will take on the big-screen role of Howling. But look for Shultz to make a cameo appearance when "The A-Team" opens.