(Originally published August 17, 2011)
Tony Todd, the star of Final Destination 5, is on his way to visit his hometown of Washington D.C. on a sunny August morning, and hasn’t a care in the world. While audiences know Todd for his role in the 1992 cult classic Candyman, he is a classically trained thespian whose roots started in theater. Born into poverty to a single mother in 1954, Todd first fell into acting as a teenager since–as he puts it– “I wasn’t any good at basketball.”
After 22 years in the game, and over 150 acting credits under his belt, Todd has carved out an impressive and enviable career—not bad for a geeky 6’5 teenager from Chocolate City.
The Urban Daily chatted with Todd about his return as William Bludworth in the newest Final Destination movie, his iconic role in Candyman, and the current state of the horror film genre.
TUD: Tell us about the plot of Final Destination 5.
Tony Todd: We have a new cast of young people with tragic demises and I have more than one scene. I like doing more than one scene, I like continuity (laughs).
There are a few theories going around as to who your character, Bludworth really is—one theory is that he’s death incarnate. What do you say to that?
I think that’s too much of an easy choice, I mean how can you be death incarnate when you’re only in the movie for five minutes? Actually someone came up to me and said maybe Bludworth had cheated death himself. I’ve never personally accepted he was the angel of death, or the emissary of death. Just a very unpopular guy.
Why do you think the Final Destination franchise has remained so popular?
Because it’s the perfect date movie. Everybody loves a horror story because it’s a roller coaster ride –you wait for the slow ride to the top then speed down with all the bumps, twists and turns. If you’re a smart person, you bring your date and for every bump that goes on, you squeeze a little closer. I think Final Destination is singularly responsible for more births in America in the last 10 years than any other movie.
You might be on to something there.
I know I’ve done the research. I interview people when they leave the theatre, and when they see me they’re like “Oh my God!” That really freaks them out!
Final Destination movies are known for their graphic death scenes. Which ones are the most memorable to you?
Well I’m a big fan of the first movie, because that was the template. Jeffrey Reddick, the creator of this franchise, is a genius. In Final Destination 5, the bridge collapse sequence is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Audiences still remember you from the Candyman movies. Do people still stop you in the street about that role?
Candyman is almost 20 years old and not a single day goes by when someone doesn’t stop me in the street. It was a great role and one of the greatest experiences in my life.
Have your kids seen Candyman?
They didn’t watch it until they were well into their teens. True story—When Candyman first came out, my daughter and I were Christmas shopping, and people
were harassing us. Finally my daughter puts down her shopping bag and said “That’s not Candyman! That’s my dad!” I will never forget that, because that’s when we really bonded.
Let’s talk a little about your background. When you were growing up, which actors or actresses did you look up to or admire?
When I was a kid I really loved Humphrey Bogart. But when I was in theater school, Robert DeNiro was my go-to guy. I like good actors like Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. I grew up a poor kid to a single mom, so as an African-American actor I have a responsibility to hold the mirror up and reflect our stories. I’m living the dream and also escaped the inevitable.
Your first lead role in a movie was in the remake of Night of The Living Dead. Your character in that movie has historical significance, as the original was the first horror movie to cast an African-American (Duane Jones) in the lead role. What are you memories about being cast in that project?
I actually saw the original while I was studying to be an actor, and watching Duane Jones I thought “Good, there’s hope.” When I heard they were casting for the remake I ran to the casting office and told them they had to let me audition. I think they already had someone in mind, but the casting director took a chance on me and gave me the job. It was my first leading role and my son was born around that same time. It was a chance to play a hero, so I was very appreciative.
We shot the movie in Washington, Pennsylvania, singularly the most racist place in America. The beautiful thing is all these people were lining up to play zombies, and if I wasn’t an actor, they wouldn’t have anything to do with me.
You also do a lot of voice-over work as well. How did you fall into that?
When I was younger, I wanted to do Disney movies but I could never get a role. When I finally got a part in Transformers 2 I called my daughter and told her “Honey, I’m gonna be a Transformer!” and she said “Grow up Dad!” But it paid her tuition, so there you go!
What are your thoughts on the current state of the horror genre, and should actors of color be more open-minded to doing these types of movies?
Television is dying because of the influx of reality shows, so I think smart horror movies like “Final Destination” area great thing because it makes people think. I’m not a fan of torture for torture’s sake. That’s why you’ll never see me in Saw. I think young African-American filmmakers and actors need to hold their heads up and know if a project is meant for them, they’ll get it.
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