Actor Eddie Steeples’ tattoos tell his life story— and as far as we can tell, it’s going to be a comedy.
Writers’ strike or not, a hit comedy on NBC is doing Eddie Steeples pretty well. Or so it would seem for the My Name Is Earl star, who is nearly impossible to track down. When I finally get him on the phone, he’s chilling in Hawaii. “I just really needed to get away for a minute, real last minute. So I figured okay, Hawaii,” Steeples explains, after apologizing profusely for his elusiveness. It seems the Texas-born, Missouri-raised actor hasn’t lost his manners since moving to Los Angeles. No doubt he was brought up right by his large, close-knit family, since they’ve influenced his career as well as his most meaningful tattoos.
Ever since Steeples was 4, he knew he wanted to be an actor—and his mom played a huge role in that. “She used to do these coat commercials on TV. Just local TV in St. Louis. … She wasn’t hardly famous, but it seemed like we were in a way, and I guess I liked that feeling,” he says. “Plus, I was always being silly, making my family laugh, and entertaining.” And Steeples sure as hell is still entertaining to this day, delivering every line he gets as Darnell “Crabman” Turner with an earnestness that makes viewers wonder if he’s the smartest or the dumbest character on the show. Darnell, who is married to Jaime Pressley’s character, Joy, and works in a crab shack (hence the moniker), doesn’t speak very often. But Steeples, a master of the befuddled grin and well-timed eyebrow raise, makes every scene he’s part of hilarious. Typically, actors are quick to distance themselves from their on-screen characters, but Steeples says he has a lot in common with Darnell. “He’s just a chill, laid-back, no-rocking-the-boat-type cat. Like me, I’m chill, laid back, and also in the Witness Protection program,” he deadpans.
It doesn’t take long to realize Steeples is as full of jokes as his body is of ink. “Aw, I hate when people ask me about my tattoos ’cause then they always want to know who did ’em, and I never remember the people’s names on the spot,” he says. If names elude him, the stories behind his ink certainly do not. His first tattoo was by a guy in Oakland who had a self-made tattoo factory in his house and “barely charged anything.” It’s his mother’s name on the left side of his back. “It’s been redone since then, so now it’s actually nice,” says Steeples. “Because when I was 18, I didn’t have the money to get anything too detailed. Two hundred dollars seemed like a lot of money then.” Now, sunrays surround his mother’s name, and the rays are tipped with the initials of all seven of her children.
Other pieces include an image of drama and comedy masks that rep resent his career, the word “Entity,” the names of the guys in his crew, his Chinese sign (the Ox), and an assortment of others. The funniest and most noteworthy is his tattoo of the tic-tac-toe game with the letters O and X filled in the boxes to spell Ox (his sign). Having fallen for his jokes several times already, I ask if he’s for real. He laughs, “Yo, I could play tic-tac-toe for hours.”
Of all that ink, the only tattoo he has in color is a heart with a lock inside it. “At the time I was searching for that person to turn the key,” he starts to explain. “Listen, I know that’s corny. In fact, it’s the only one I kind of regret. I’m thinking of getting it removed, but I don’t know.” I tease him for being a sap and he admits he’d love to find a girlfriend and get married, but that it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. “I haven’t traveled enough. … Or just gone to random places around the world, you know? Taken that time to explore the world on [my] own.”
Taken that time to explore the world on [my] own.” So, the ladies are out of luck; it looks like this funny man has plenty of jet-setting left to do. He’s also got other pursuits to keep him occupied: He’s a member of the hip-hop group No Surrender and is expanding his behind-the-scenes work, having already produced the Sundance Film Festival entry In Time and written the comedy When Is Tomorrow with director Kevin Ford. With all that going on, who can blame a guy for sneaking off to Hawaii for a much-needed break?