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Set Visit: Masters of Horror - Tony Todd

10.11.2006

Things are quite rushed on the day of my visit to the set of Mick Garris’ season two MASTERS OF HORROR episode: "Valerie on the Stairs". It’s the last day of filming and precious minutes are licking off the clock as the day stretches thinner and thinner. I am told, as I walk into the Burnaby soundstage, that I’m only going to have a few minutes with both Tony Todd and Mick Garris. I nod, agreeing, as I’m pointed to the far end of the stage at to two tiny – from this distance at least – directors chairs. Almost as if on cue, the man himself, Tony Todd enters my frame of vision and takes a seat. He’s only got a few minutes – I’ll have to run.

The night I came home from seeing CANDYMAN in theatres - October 16th, 1992 to be exact - I walked directly into my bathroom, shut out the light, stared into the medicine cabinet mirror and said these five words: “Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman” – Nothing happened. The hook-handed-beehive-ghetto-slasher never showed. The movie lied.


Todd in the role that made him famous: "Candyman"

Fourteen years later, on this, the morning of my second trip out to the set of Showtime’s Masters of Horror (you can check out my first set visit for director Tom Holland's “We All Scream For Ice Cream” episode HERE); I did the exact same thing. Only this time, two hours later, I find myself staring face to demonic face with Candyman himself. A little out of breath from the jog, I take my seat next to Tony Todd, introduce myself, shake his hand…and pull it back smothered in blood. Tony smiles through some very impressive KNB-designed demon make-up and admits, quite proudly –

Tony Todd: I just finished ripping a young lady apart!

I tell Tony that it is my honor to have his victim’s blood on me and, with only a few scant minutes to chat, we get started.

TONY TODD

Tony, you’ve established yourself as one of the most prolific and recognizable actors working in the genre today, what’s it like being so admire by horror fans?

I love it…I love it. I do about four conventions a year, and that’s when it all comes into perspective man…I love horror. You’ve got two-thousand fans waiting in line for you and they all come with comments about your career and everything comes into perspective…as opposed to the seventeen year old son that I’m raising, who just asks why there’s no juice in the fridge. <laughs>

You’re just dad to him.

Yeah, dad with a pocket-book! <laughs>

Who do you play in Valerie on the Stairs, and can you tell me a little bit about your character?

Well, the term for him in the script is The Beast but, there might be another name for him that I can’t pronounce…you might want to check with Mick on the exact pronunciation, it’s all Clive Barker, he came up with the whole thing.  I feel like I look like a Clive Barker painting!

Jesus, you really do! (See the pic above and you’ll agree)

I don’t really want to give anything away so I’ll just say that…The Beast is bad news for a few of the characters.

Speaking of Clive Barker, you’re probably most recognized for playing the hook-handed Candyman but one of my personal favorite performances of yours, and an Arrow in the Head fan favorite I’m sure, would have to be that of Ben in Savini’s redux of Night of the Living Dead.

I remember seeing the original Night of the Living Dead at the drive-in theatre and being blown away! This whole cinema verite, quasi-documentary style was just…wow, you know?  Same with Wes’ (Craven) Last House on the Left, you know…just brutal, tough stuff. They were some powerful films and the start of a lot of what we see today in horror films.

You beat out some pretty talented gentlemen for the roll of Ben, including Lawrence Fishburne and Ving Rhames; how important was it to you that you got that part? A part that, twenty-years earlier, proved to be incredibly groundbreaking for Duane Jones, playing the first ever African American hero in a horror film.

I was in Pittsburgh doing this show called Criminal Justice for HBO and I caught wind that Tom Savini was getting ready to do a remake of Night of the Living Dead and I thought, “Well fuck!” I mean I was already in Pittsburgh, I think I look a little like Duane Jones “Why aren’t I goin’ in for this?” -  I kept thinking. So I literally just bogarted my way into the audition situation, nailed it, Tom was blown away and he made some phone calls to George Romero and…I was cast! It was amazing for me. It was my first lead role. There was also talk about me doing NEW JACK CITY around the same time but I wasn’t feeling it because I didn’t really want to play a drug dealer at that point.

Speaking of which, how important is it for you, as an African American actor to play against type and transcend stereotyping, especially racial?

You have to. You’ve got to. That’s why I also write so, if things stop going the way I think they should go, I can just do my own shit. And I don’t want to repeat myself, I’ve made some mistakes. It was called Scarecrow. <laughs>

At this point, the make-up girl that’s been stalking us from the shadow of a camera-crane steps out and politely motions to Tony; it’s time for him to go. I manage to squeeze in one last question, the a-typical closer:

What’s next for you after you wrap on Masters of Horror?

Ah, we’ve got to do some re-shoots on a film called House of Grimm for about four days. Then there’s Tim Sullivan’s new one, The Beverly Hellbilly’s…

Tony’s eyes shift off me for a second and he nods to the make-up girl.

Sorry, man. I’ve got to get going and get all this shit off me.

No worries, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with JoBlo.com and Arrow in the Head.

Anytime!

Tony stands and shakes my hand again, slathering it in a fresh coat of gore. I look down at my hand for a split-second to assess the damage and when I look back up, he’s gone, nowhere in sight; just like Keyser Soze “…and then he was gone!”  

As I stand there, pondering the sudden disappearance of a six-foot-four inch black man in full-on demon make-up and wearing a bathrobe, I spot Unit Publicist Bill Vigars out of the corner of my eye, waving at me from a darkened doorway. I gather up my notes quickly and walk over to him. Bill ushers me through the doorway and up a flight of wooden stairs, “Recognize the place?” he asks.

I shake my head at him, letting my eyes take in the surrounding hallway as we both crest the staircase. “It’s a mock-up of one of our locations, one of the flea-bag hotels on the east-side” he tells me. I mention to Bill that, since kicking my rock-habit, I have little use for downtown East-side hotels. He calls me a smart-ass and stops me outside another doorway.

Bill fills me in on the day’s activities – what’s been shot so-far and how things are going – and he admits that Mick (Garris) doesn’t have a helluvalot of time to sit and talk today but has asked that I hang by his side all-the-same and pepper him with questions when opportunity permits. I tell Bill that this isn’t a problem and he tells me to go on inside and find Mick.

My interview with director Mick Garris up next!

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