2021 Ford F-150 debuts Thursday with Denis Leary, here's how to watch

We caught up with the actor and longtime Ford Trucks spokesman ahead of this week's big event. Bookmark this page to watch Thursday's reveal.

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
4 min read

will take the wraps off its 2021 F-150 full-size pickup Thursday, June 25, and in this COVID-19 era, that means the debut won't be in a crowded arena or auditorium full of media and special guests, it'll take the form of a streamed online presentation. As America's best-selling vehicle and the linchpin of the automaker's profits, the stakes for this new truck couldn't be higher. The rollout event for the 14th-generation F-Series will be emceed by Denis Leary, the actor and comedian who has been the voice of Ford Trucks since the mid-2000s.

With his gritty, streetwise demeanor, Leary has long played the role of the blue-collar everyman in movies like The Ref and The Thomas Crown Affair and TV series like his recently concluded FX Network drama Rescue Me, all of which seem to have made him a natural fit for a truck spokesperson. But as Leary told me in a phone interview on Tuesday, he has also been a longtime truck owner and heavy-duty user himself: "My wife [writer Ann Leary] is a horse woman, so I've always been lugging horses, driving them around, dragging them from place to place. So we actually use our truck and beat the living daylights out of it. So I'm actually a customer," he said. The Leary family presently owns an F-250 Super Duty.

In recent days, Leary has been working with Ford shooting the 2021  reveal presentation and other promotional materials. Given the pandemic, the process has been a bit nontraditional: "We were shooting under strange circumstances, so we had to social-distance, and we're in a very big space and cameras are sort of far away," he said. 

Actor Denis Leary in a Boston Bruins t-shirt
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Actor Denis Leary in a Boston Bruins t-shirt

Denis Leary has been a Ford spokesperson since the mid-2000s.

Denis Leary

Although we don't have detailed info on the format of Thursday's 2021 F-150 reveal event, it's clear that during the streaming broadcast, Leary interviews Ford customers about their own trucks and how they use them. When I asked Leary about how he feels about pickups trending from from basic work tools to full-blown luxury lifestyle vehicles, he said, "Some of the customers were talking about this on camera -- you go from using it for just work stuff, or hauling horses, whatever the reason is that you got it. Next thing you know, you're like, 'We're going out to dinner, let's just take the truck.' That leads to people then working in their truck, spending recreational time in their truck, so it was only a matter of time ... I'm old-school. I wasn't thinking about luxury when I was thinking about trucks. But then after a while, you start going, 'Hey, I'm using this vehicle all the time, why doesn't it have the same stuff I have in my car?'" 

While today's F-150 offers a range of premium, high-content models including Limited, Platinum and King Ranch trims, as the oldest of today's full-size domestic pickups, the departing 13th-generation F-150 has thus far ceded some of the industry's luxury space to Ram's 1500, which offers posh options like air ride suspension and a massive 12-inch infotainment screen, along with higher-quality materials. Upping the premium feel and creature comforts in the new 2021 Ford F-150 is expected to be a key focus for the new generation. On Thursday, it was reported that the new F-Series will feature a novel lay-flat "sleeper seat" that mimics a first-class airline experience. Spy shots suggest the truck is also expected to receive Sync 4 infotainment with over-the-air update capabilities and an enlarged screen.

Check out the 2021 Ford F-150's gigantic touchscreen

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For his part, Leary maintains a working relationship with the Blue Oval beyond his voiceover and onscreen work. The automaker has been a longtime supporter of The Denis Leary Foundation, a nonprofit started by the actor to help America's firefighters receive new equipment and training, as well as helping the families of those who have lost their lives in public service.

While the lion's share of the public's attention around Ford has been centered on forthcoming new models like the Mustang Mach-E and Bronco, the 2021 F-150 is the model Ford needs to be a success more than any other. In addition to Blue Oval die-hards and industry watchers, Thursday's reveal will be studied closely by Wall Street. Regardless of how the proceedings go, Ford at least has one customer waiting for its new truck: "I knew as soon as I saw it, I was like, 'That's the color I want.' And I know the color my wife's gonna want, and I know there's going to be an argument," Leary quipped. 

The new 2021 Ford F-150 will debut on Thursday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, and you can tune in right here to watch the company's YouTube's feed below.