The career of African-American actor Tony Todd spans a little over three decades. Born in Washington, D.C., Todd became interested in acting when he was a teenager. He participated in his high school’s drama program and then continued to study theater at the University of Connecticut, the Eugene O’Neill National Theatre Institute, the Hartman Conservatory, and the Trinity Repertory Conservatory. In an interview with Eric Goldman, Todd considers himself to be “a theater guy first and foremost.”
Besides performing in plays, he eventually pursued acting roles for television and movies and later started doing voiceover work for animated series such as Transformers Prime and The Flash. Although Todd has played everything from Kurn the Klingon in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to an Army sergeant in Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), he is best known for his work in horror films.
Notable Horror Films
Todd’s versatile acting ability combined with his towering physical presence and deep voice made him a great fit for the horror film genre.
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Todd got his first lead role in the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. He was undaunted by the fact that he would have to follow in the footsteps of Duane Jones, the actor who played Ben in the original 1969 film. According to his IMDB biography, Todd “grabbed [director] Tom Savini by his lapels, literally, and said, “You got to read me. You got to read me.”
Even though the film was widely dismissed by critics as an unnecessary remake, a few critics such as Neil Williams noted Todd’s “outstanding” performance as Ben. The remake of Night of the Living Dead did not make him an overnight success, but it gave him more recognition as an actor.
Two years after starring in Night of the Living Dead, Todd landed the leading role of the film that would make him a horror movie superstar. It was called Candyman, a film about a supernatural being that could be summoned by saying his name five times in a mirror. In an interview with Patrick Cooper, Todd recalls how the director of Candyman, Bernard Rose, saw him in a film called The Last Elephant and thought the 6’ 5” actor looked right for the part. At first, Todd was not interested in the movie because of its title. He thought it was “Some kind of Sammy Davis Jr. movie or something.” He eventually warmed up to the role after reading the script. In an interview with Eric Goldman, Todd said that he liked the role because he “always wanted to find my own personal Phantom of the Opera.”
After the success of the first film, Todd completed two more Candyman movies: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999). These sequels were not as successful as the first movie, but they ensured that Todd would be recognized for his role as Candyman for many years to come. And unlike some actors who come to resent the roles that made them famous, Todd still loves the Candyman character. In a 2011 interview with ReBecca Theodore-Vachon, Todd says the following:
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.
Final Destination Movies
Todd might not have been able to top the success he achieved for his work in the Candyman trilogy, but he gained a new generation of fans with his small but recurring role as William Bludworth in the Final Destination movie series. Bludworth is a mortician who is the owner of Bludworth Funeral Homes. Besides preparing the bodies of the young people who die in the movie for cremation or burial, Bludworth provides some cold and cutting observations about death such as this one listed in IMDB Quotes:
You have to realize is that we’re just a mouse that a cat has by the tail, every single move we make from the mundane to the monumental, the red light that we stop at or run, the people we have sex with or want with us, the airplanes that we ride or walk out of, it’s all part of death’s sadistic design. Leading to the grave.
He may not have much screen time in the Final Destination movies, but Bludworth is a popular character because he keeps viewers guessing if there is something more to his character than being a mortician. Could he be Death? Todd addresses some of these theories in his interview with ReBecca Theodore-Vachon:
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.
At 63, Todd continues to perform in movies. According to his IMDB filmography, he has starred in five new films that were either completed or in post-production in 2018. Two of these movies are horror films. Todd plays ex-slave Jericho Whitfield in a fantasy horror Western called West of Hell, and he plays a character called The Farmer Asa in a movie about a secret prison called Death House. The release date for West of Hell has not been announced yet, but Death House will be coming soon to theaters on February 23.
In a 2017 interview with Alex Dueben, Todd mentioned that he is “working on a couple of scripts.” He notes that the “powers that be want me to do a horror project,” but he plans on making his “film directing debut” with a “buddy project called Providence that focuses on a white character who adopts a black lifestyle and similarly a black character who explores another side of life.”
At the East Coast Comicon 2017 convention, Todd revealed in a Comics, Beer & Sci-fi interview with The Q that he is doing voiceover work for a WB project that will be released in 2018. He could not disclose more details about the project, but he said that “it is in the DC universe.” He also speculated that “I’m sure I will be back on Flash at some point.”
Todd may have 197 film credits to his name, but he has not expressed any interest in retiring from acting anytime soon. While he considers the attention that he continues to receive for Candyman as “the most flattering thing” in his interview with Patrick Cooper, he wants to be remembered for something more than the role that made him famous:
Someone asked me once how I felt that Candyman was going to be the opening line of my obituary? And I know it’ll definitely be up there, but I’m doing everything I can to ensure there are other points of discussion.