Dr. Phil, move over – there’s a new advice guru in town. Though in his heyday Mr. T warned folks to “quit their jibba jabba,” these days he’s encouraging talking and even a hug or two as the host of TV Land’s I Pity the Fool (premiering tonight at 10 p.m. ET). The 52-year-old mohawked tough guy – who was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in 1995 and is now in remission – is traveling across the U.S. to dispense common sense to people in need. PEOPLE caught up with Mr. T (real name: Laurence Tureaud) between house calls to chat about watching who you call “dude” and why he’s put his gold chains away for good.
You give advice to people on I Pity the Fool. What kind of training do you have?
I have training from the streets. I don’t give advice. Dr. Phil gives advice. I just help people. I’m like a basketball player, giving assists to people. I assist, inspire and motivate people.
You base your advice on common sense?
And my T-ism. We did an episode with a lady with an 18-year-old son. He called his mother “dude.” I told him, “I’m an old-fashioned mama’s boy. I want you to look in the dictionary under the word ‘dude.’ You won’t find your mother. So you respect your mother.”
Will there be hugging on the show?
A lot of hugging, man. A lot of it. I never did it on The A-Team. I hugged offscreen on The A-Team. I’m not a camera hugger. When I went to the White House with Nancy Reagan there was a hug.
Who assists Mr. T in real life?
My mother. There is no other.
You no longer wear your gold chains. Why?
I took them off because of Hurricane Katrina. I was watching it all on TV. I watched as they said “Pray for us.” I saw the people on rooftops, with signs saying “Help me.” I took it off for for the black and white people down there. I’m a Christian and a sensitive guy. I was disturbed. I was wearing the gold in the ’80s. There was no catastrophe, no big storm, no one hurting like this. People are hurting now. I can never wear my gold again. But now I have a heart of gold, but no gold around my neck.
What did you do with the gold?
It’s a secret. It’s under my bed – I’m joking. I gave it to my family.
How is your health these days?
My health is good. I just got my blood count. The doctor checked my lymph nodes since I had T-cell lymphoma, CD3. It’s the CD3 part that scares you. It wasn’t regular T-cell. That’s something extra. I’ve been through the chemotherapy, I’ve been through the radiation. Me going through all of that gives me the opportunity to speak with authority. I am no longer just some guy speaking off at the mouth about something. Everything I speak to, I’ve been through.
That’s the lesson you learned through cancer?
I thought I was tough, but going through cancer, that was tough. Cancer patients are really tough – they don’t quit. That’s why I wear it like a badge of honor. I’m proud to be a cancer survivor.
Did you lose the mohawk completely in treatment?
That’s the only time I went without it. It’s back now.
On a lighter note, we have to know – could you take Sylvester Stallone in a fight?
My mother always said, “Don’t bite off the hand that feeds you.” Rocky is the ultimate hero. I was honored to be in the movie. I was honored to lose to him. I always give him his props.
So, you could take him?
No, I couldn’t take him. That’s my humility. I cannot take Rocky.