Genre icon Tony Todd’s career is expansive, with credits in classics like Candyman and Final Destination, TV appearances in Star Trek and The X-Files, and an impressive history with theatre… and he’s not stopping anytime soon. Todd has an astounding 230 acting credits to his name, with 13 of those currently in pre-or-post-production. His most recent film (aside from the yet-to-be-released Candyman) is the newest entry in the visionary horror anthology series, Tales From the Hood 3.
In Tales From the Hood 3, Todd is our through-line for each story as he (William) and a young girl (Brooklyn, played by Sage Arrindell) flee an unspeakable evil. As they hide from their pursuers, Brooklyn tells William a series of scary stories that come to life on screen. Ah, horror from the mouths of babes.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with the wonderful and talented Tony Todd about his career, his passions, Candyman, and Tales From the Hood 3.
Tales From the Hood 3 landed on DVD and digital on October 6, and premiers on SYFY October 17th at 9pm
Kelly McNeely: The first Tales From the Hood in 1995 was very prescient in its segments with police violence and racist politicians. And this particular entry — Tales From the Hood 3 — addresses the current cultural division within America. Horror has always been a socially conscious medium because of its exploration of societal fears, I think. Do you think we’ll ever take the hint and learn from it? Could horror make the world a better place?
Tony Todd: I think that good film makes the world a better place. I’ve been a mainstay of some horror stuff, and I’ve been a mainstay of straight films. I love storytelling. And I think what Tales From the Hood 3 does is — all of them actually — is telling three or four segments that act like slices of life in America, as the filmmakers see it. And horror films have always been cautionary tales anyways, so it’s a good way for people to look and say “ok, I don’t ever want to make that mistake”.
Kelly McNeely: Now, you’ve been involved in some films that have become iconic, particularly Candyman and its representation of a community that’s often been underrepresented in film. Now with Tales From the Hood 3 — which has such a strong voice as an anthology franchise, how does it feel to be such a vital part of genre history?
Tony Todd: I’m humbled. You know, when I was in high school, and I was pulling girls’ hair, and putting tacks on teachers’ seats, I never dreamed that I would be on the big screen. But I knew that I wanted to act, I’m a theatre guy. So that’s where I first started, that’s what I always go back to. As soon as you believe the hype, then the hype is gone, and so I always learned to keep my feet grounded and my aspirations looking forward. If that makes any sense. I appreciate you telling me I’m an icon, but I don’t walk around beating my chest saying “I’m an icon”, then I would lose the charm [laughs].
Kelly McNeely: Is there a role or film or play — as I understand that you have done a lot of theater — that really inspired you to become an actor?
Tony Todd: I’m a huge Billy Wilder fan, he wrote so many great films. I remember seeing Sunset Boulevard with William Holden and Gloria Swanson when I was like 12, and being in pure rapture over the storytelling, the acting, the stylistic techniques. When I went to acting school, we were all infatuated by what Robert De Niro was doing with Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, you know, cutting edge stuff. He’d change the look, and you’d look at the world in a different way through a camera perspective, and you seek out a good eye. Whether it’s horror, thriller, psychological drama, straight up drama, comedy, I’m a huge Richard Prior fan for example. And that’s the cycle despite itself. It’s great to have the great spices, but it’s good to have the ones people don’t know about that well.
Kelly McNeely: I understand the backstory you created for the Candyman was used to inform the sequel, were you able to have any collaborative process on the new film at all? Just out of curiosity, I don’t know if you can even talk about it at all.
Tony Todd: My collaborative process was they mined what had already been established. It’s in great hands, Jordan [Peele] wrote it and gave it to Nia [DaCosta] and it’s wonderful to have a feminine perspective telling the story. And we’re back in Cabrini-Green — which no longer exists — so that’s a wonderful feel. I wish that the film was able to drop when we last said it was, October 16th, but the powers that be want the most people in the seats when it does, because I think it’s going to be a phenomenon. Everybody’s anticipating it, everybody’s waiting for everyone’s waiting for it, which is great. To be in one of the top 5 horror movies that are most anticipated, it’s a blessing.
Kelly McNeely: The anthology format allows Tales from the Hood to address a lot of different real life issues such as racism and gentrification. I know you’re a passionate writer. Would you ever want to tackle the anthology format?
Tony Todd: I am a writer, but I’m more into creating a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Not that this isn’t an important one — I mean I grew up with The Twilight Zone which was a half hour drama every week, you never knew if you were going to be on a planet, or a train, or a plane, you know, it was crazy. So I appreciate the form, but I’m more into a long day’s journey into night when it comes to scripting, I write way too much [laughs] then I edit it down over time.
Kelly McNeely: Now doing these press junkets, you’re invariably asked the same questions all day. So what’s your favorite topic to discuss? Or is there something that you’re really passionate about that you like to talk about or discuss?
Tony Todd: Well, theatre. Theatre saved me, I’ve also been a teacher and helped save young students who were directionless and finally found their passion. One of the best experiences of my life was working with the late, great August Wilson, I debuted King Hedley II. And talking about the writing process, when we opened that for the public it was a four-hour production. By the time we hit Seattle, we were getting it down to three- hours and fifteen. Because a good writer learns. You don’t edit, you vomit it out, it’s the passion of the moment. So those are the moments that changed my life. And I’ve also been working on a one man show about Jack Johnson called Ghosts in the House. As long as the world keeps turning the way it is and keeps surprising us, we all have inspirations that we can reach out and pluck.
Kelly McNeely: Now again, I know that you do have your history with theater, and I work in theatre as well. So just out of curiosity — and this may be a loaded question — what do you think is the future of theatre with everything that’s sort of going on right now?
Tony Todd: Well, I think this is gonna be a fervent time for writers. We’ve all been in lockdown for almost a full year. Writers have had to endure relationships and buckle down and find new economic streams of revenue, and I think three or four years from now, we’ll start to emerge from that. Bernard Rose and I — who directed the first and adapted Candyman — are working on a project that’s going to be quite extraordinary, so that’ll come out sometime next year, and that’s all they’ll allow me to say about that [laughs]. We shot it in real time at the beginning of the pandemic.
Kelly McNeely: With your career, you’ve obviously been a part of several major genre franchises like the DCU, Star Trek, The X-Files, Stargate… Do you have a personal favorite or certain one that you haven’t done yet that you’d really kind of secretly like to do?
Tony Todd: I always look for good father roles every now and then. I’ve been able to do a few, but not to the level I want. I’ve got two grown kids, and I always wanted to give them something that they can watch. I like surprises. They keep surprising me, I think my agents and my people now are pushing me towards television, so we’ll see. I know there are two projects that are being developed, so we’ll see what happens. And I always want to go back to teaching, I love teaching, there’s nothing more rewarding than that.
Kelly McNeely: You’ve been teaching for quite some time.
Tony Todd: Yeah, I mean, off and on, you know, you’ve got to give back. I got a free scholarship to a wonderful program at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and then Trinity Rep Conservatory, and they let me in, they said to pay it forward, and that’s what I try to do. When I got in a play, I went back to my hometown of Hartford, Connecticut, and I worked with some… we’ll call them incorrigible students, and we were able to make them corrigible [laughs]. And well spoken and passionate.
Kelly McNeely: I know there’d been some ridiculous sequel ideas floating around, such as Candyman versus Leprechaun.
Tony Todd: Yeah, we shot that down. You don’t want to put Candyman in the camp category. He’s a well-loved horror character for a reason. And I was the one that squashed the Leprechaun idea. But I think the new film will open up all kinds of new avenues and possibilities. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to stop with just one.
Kelly McNeely: Do you think that there’s one villain that the Candyman couldn’t win against, if they were to decide to make one of those movies?
Tony Todd: No. No, I do not, no. [Laughs] None of them are as grounded in reality as he is. And I’m saying that with a smile.