By Stuart Banks
recently to be found starring in the Babylon 5 TV movie,
A Call To Arms, actor Tony Todd is a man who has played
a lot of physical roles - such as Kurn (Worf's brother
in Star Trek The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine),
that suit his demi-god like height and size. Yet as
Stuart Banks discovers this is a man who has an artistic
soul as well.
and raised in Hartford Connecticut, Todd has learnt to
fight to get what he wants as an actor. But acting is
much more to him than just purely a way of achieving
recognition and putting food on the table. By his own
admission, it’s helped to stop him following a well
path trodden by many an Afro-American.
has seen him become well respected within the
science-fiction and fantasy genre, appearing in such
television series as Star Trek The Next Generation, and
Deep Space Nine, The X-Files and Hercules.
credentials extend to film, including The Crow, Night Of
The Living Dead, and of course, Candy Man - his most
widely known role. However, what many will not know
though, is that Todd received his first big break in film
starring in no less a project than Oliver Stone’s
Platoon, but his role was cut.
wasn't in it enough to get the attention of the casting
directors. If he had left what I had done in, then it
would have been better. But I was grateful for that
[Stone] was a crazy guy though. The thing is, he was
getting off on cocaine at the time. There is a lot of that
in Hollywood. I mean, I have battled it and won. Because I
like to work, and not to have too much time on my
hands," explains Todd with frankness rarely
reason I got into acting was because I wanted to change
the world-and I still do," he says earnestly as he
lights up a massive cigar and blows smoke in every
back then I was unhappy with the government: how there was
a rich and poor status, and the middle class was
disappearing. People were becoming polarised. So I decided
that I would use theatre and drama as a tool for
propaganda and get people to listen. Acting has given me
the chance to get a lot of people, who would not pay me a
lot of attention, to listen to what I have to say."
people to listen rather sums up this physically imposing
man. Making them look beyond what they would expect from
his appearance is what Todd enjoys doing.
was in a play called Cry Me A River, which was playing at
Cambridge [in Boston, USA] and there were some people who
were in the audience, who were of the upper classes, who
loved the play. Consequentially I was invited to a lot of
parties. When I went to them all they wanted to do was ask
me about OJ Simpson. I don't know fucking OJ Simpson!
I found I can turn things around through my work. To this
day I find that people accept me, who wouldn't say
anything to me normally. This makes them learn to treat me
as a normal human being and not a suspect black man who
might mug them in the dark!" he adds passionately.
because I am so tall, my size works against me as well.
Especially in Hollywood. There is a long list of actors
who won't work with me because they don't want any one
taller than them."
auditioned for Star Trek The Next Generation five times.
They liked me, but didn't know where to put me,"
the role of Kurn came up. They still had questions about
my height. But I gave a damn good audition and won the
role. When I think about Kurn, I find that there is
something that I can relate to with his sense of honour,
straightforwardness and his dignity, which is always a
part of me. With the exception that he didn't look like
me. This attracted me to the role.
think when it comes to acting, that if you can have
something that identifies you with the character, then it
is not to far too stretch."
the legendary on-set camaraderie between the Next
Generation cast, what was it like working alongside
is a cool guy. I don't think he liked me that much at
first. I think that stemmed from confusion as to who my
character was. When you are a guest star on a series-these
guys work together all the time. I found it humorous that
they were sitting around talking about their Jaguars and
the phones that they were going to have installed, and
that is not really the reality that I come from.
might be reality to them, which is one of the problems of
being a series regular. That is why to this day, I haven't
been a series regular. I like being a hired gun; do the
job for eight days, then I get to go back to my life. I
think doing too much work under those confines can be
dangerous. Even the best of them can get jaded.
should be a joyous thing. I am getting paid to do things
that we did as kids! Not just another job."
the way that Kurn ended up did not please Todd, but he
does admit a certain amount of culpability for it.
didn't like what happened to Kurn in the Sons Of Mogh, but
I signed the contract to do that before I had read the
script. Which was my first mistake. Otherwise I wouldn't
have agreed to do it. Kurn started to turn out a bit like
Hamlet, and I think the fans missed some resolution to
him. They should have done something. Kurn should have
gone out in a fight!
think because he was Worf's brother he was always
struggling against that loyalty. That was the only thing
that kept Worf alive."
Todd completed working on Star Trek altogether on Sons Of
Mogh, he really got the chance to show that he was more
than the sum of his parts, playing Jake Sisko as an old
man in the critically acclaimed fourth season episode The
for Todd, this has come to mean something special to him.
was a role that was totally different from Kurn. Again I
had to audition for it, even though I was known to the
producers. When I got the script, it was one of those rare
occasions that happen for an actor; I just couldn't put it
down. Also, I had a personal tragedy several months
previous that I was able to tap into, which I used as a
tribute. This gave me the chance to portray someone who
was very close to me.
was not a big dramatic role like Kurn, it was small and
closed in. These are the roles that I prefer, because then
people have to really listen to you. This is what I feel
that acting is about; the challenge. Having the good
technique. Especially for a big guy like me-to play
someone so reigned in, when I naturally have such large
feels that despite any critical acclaim for his
performance in The Visitor, his abilities often get looked
over in favour of the more physical roles. When speaking
with him, you always get this feeling of a man who has
more to give to audiences.
it can be difficult, but that is only because of the
choice of roles that I have had shuffled out to me so far.
I have a couple of things in the can which will show a
different side to me.
though I have done The Visitor, it still hasn't really
helped me in terms of getting others to go beyond what
they normally see me as. It is not something that
frustrates me. You see in the industry there is a stigma
about Star Trek. You get people who say they love it;
people like Robin Williams, who wants to be involved. Then
the powers that be - the producers - those that put money
into shit like Meet Wally Sparks, the new Rodney
Dangerfield film, or a Paul E. Shaw movie. You know?
People who can't act, or make no cultural contribution.
are higher people than you would think. I can't name any
names, because it would really fuck with those who should
know, but didn't know about The Visitor. I send them my
tape, which is not quite the same because they tend to
fast forward. They can't have time to sit down and watch
forty-four minutes of it. I understand it though.
who saw it enjoyed it. I'm on-line, and saw two hundred
and fifty postings. That was the value. What people said
on the Internet meant a lot to me."
said all that, Todd thinks for him to have even got on to
the show was quite an achievement in itself.
back, getting on to [the show] was an
accomplishment," he says with a hint of pride.
had watched the original show. I wouldn't say it was my
favourite show, but is within my top five of my awareness
level. To even think that something from my childhood
would still be in existence is mind boggling enough. But
then to find my first scene is one the bridge of the
Enterprise with Wesley Crusher and meeting my brother for
the first time! So that was like `wow!'
thought I was going to explode! Yet everyone there kind of
looked at me like, `this guy must be new'. But I was able
to go and sit down in the captain's chair, which was a
thrill! I didn't think that as an actor struggling to make
it that I had arrived as you might do, because I was a
Klingon: in the minds of the powers that be, I was playing
a cartoon. For some reason they don't respect it," he
at the Academy awards - I am not saying that a lot of
films that were overlooked didn't deserve it - but there
was certainly a lot of special effects orientated movies
this past year.
the Academy awards come out and none of them get any
credit? What does that tell you?" he asks with
is a love/hate thing going on. Again I preface it by
saying that there is a lot of science fiction that doesn't
necessarily deserve acclaim. But had they done them right,
and not just big effects and flaws in the plot, then maybe
would have come up with a film that really meant
to returning in Candyman 2, Todd took the chance to work
on the second season X-Files episode Sleepless. Again, his
frank honesty came to the fore.
was a rushed job. As well as Candy Man 2 and The X-Files,
I was working on Homicide, which is a show that I love
doing - I am pretty lucky. I say to my agent, `I want to
work on these shows and don't bother me with anything
else', and I pretty much get to do that.
everything was so rushed, I didn't enjoy what I was doing.
liked the role, but because of all the pressures on me,
and the speed that I worked, I didn't like what I was
was it like for Todd to work with Chris Carter?
met him and he seemed possessed. Producers tend to be very
myopic, and the good ones care about the whole aspect of
the show, and not just the numbers. I just recently read a
statement by Chris saying that he was, `bummed out by the
X-Files', and that he was thinking about quitting.
think that what he is saying is that he is going to pass
it on to corporate entities to sell product. In order to
keep something really special you need a person who is on
top of it. Not in a dictatorial way, in a loving way.
also said something about that, `he didn't care for his
writers', which I thought was quite harsh. I think the
show has become overrated, it was better when it wasn't as
large. You see? That is the machinery catching on."
had also done work for a series called Them,(1996) which
was due to air on the United Paramount Network last year,
but that never made the starting line up. As he explains
it, this was no fault of the show.
did a good job on it but it didn't fly. The advertising
sponsors said it was, `too dark', whatever the fuck that
means! So we didn't do it. I was willing to do it for five
years. Now I won't sign again."
working on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, playing
Gladius, was a completely different prospect to that of
was fun. But to tell you the truth, I took the job for two
reasons. Firstly, working with Sam Raimi; I respect his
history in the business. The second was New Zealand. I got
to go there and hang out for twenty-one days in this
beautiful land. The offer was right and the money
fantastic, I couldn't refuse it.
thought Kevin Sorbo was a fun guy. We got to hang out; we
went to see the stage version of The Rocky Horror Picture
Show. He was lonely for the company of another American
actor. He kept asking me about things that were going on
back in the States. At that time the show was starting to
take off. It was in its second year and he was a nice,
humble guy - you have got to look at his history. He
didn't too much work. Before that he did commercials.
knew he was in a situation playing an icon. He knew that
if he worked at it one more year he would be soon be
looking at plastic doll figures. You know, going to the
bank. But he was not affected at that time. I have not
seen him in a year, but fame does weird things to
of the fame aspect, Todd is quite comfortable with his
own, while at the same time being practical about how it
can affect an actor.
can either end up believing what people say about you. Or
you try to fight against and become a bitter person. In my
situation, I don't have that huge fame thing happening. I
have had several tastes of it. My fame comes and goes.
What bothers me the most is when people go, `Candyman!' I
liked the part, but that was years ago. Since then I have
done a lot of other things.
don't like being called by any particular character. That
to me is an insult as an actor. I understand that they
mean well. I like the first Candyman, particularly. But
little did I suspect what was going to happen."
appreciated by Todd or not, most of his recognition by the
general public, has come from these movies. And as Todd
explains, the reasons for him being chosen came through
the director seeing him in a film that no one had seen,
and he believed in him. Something which Todd truly
got a call from Bernard Rose, the director. He urgently
wanted to meet with me. When I asked, he said that he had
seen me in a film called Last Elephant, which I love. It
was a film that nobody had seen, but he had managed to.
When I met with him he was very honest. A lot of the time,
when you have meetings with people in Hollywood, they
can't tell you how they really feel. But he said,`I want
you to be in this movie, you're perfect for it'.
then had to go through a period of three weeks where we
had to convince the studio that his instinct was correct.
The fact that someone was willing to fight for me so
passionately. That he had a vision, and kept laying out
what he wanted to do. He let me know that this was not
going to be an ordinary job. [Bernard] was the reason why
the first film was the success it was. He was a genius; he
alienated a lot of people on the set. He was very
passionate, and crazy. It is more than just a job.
is about the art, " he adds poignantly.
second film was more machinery. That was put in place of
the passion. They even cast a woman who resembled
Virginia. Everything was down in place. That was where it
had previously worked on another horror flick, Night Of
The Living Dead, so he was not new to that experience.
Again, it was a role that he chose to pursue.
adored the first film. I was in Pittsburgh doing a film
called Criminal Justice, for HBO. I had this rumour that
they were doing this re-make. I walked up to the office on
my own, without my agent. I admire Tom Savini's work on
special effects - I love movies, period. My favourites are
old black and white crime stories.
was at a time when Last House On The Left was out. You had
the first Halloween. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All those
first ones were ‘splatter’. These types of films were
becoming prominent. IT was like a release: you got to see
evil, and what it was, so you didn't do it.
soon as I met Tom, he said I was perfect, and that I
resembled Dwayne Johns who did it originally. However,
Tom's [Savini] passion for the film didn't continue,
because the money was pulled from them halfway through
making it. Night Of The Living Dead was my first
disappointment within the Hollywood structure.
could have sworn that was my first lead role, and that
this movie was going to go flying through the roof.
Certainly on paper it made absolute sense. That they had
got it right. But they pulled the money and Tom literally
had a nervous breakdown."
made another contribution to genre film making when he
worked on The Crow (circa Brandon Lee). Talking about this
prompts a resigned laugh accompanied by the statement:
"I have done all these troubled films!"
wonders was this not a good experience for him. Especially
with what happened to Brandon Lee.
get offers by all these weird people! The creator of The
Crow [Alex Poyers] was another one of those weird people
who cared about what he was doing.
that shit went down with that film, I don't know. I know
that Paramount was pushing us; we were shooting eighteen
hours a day! Which is inhuman. They were rushing it. They
wanted it done at that time for an August release. We were
shooting in January through to March. Because of this
rushing, they fucked up! Then when it happened Paramount
passed the buck on! They sold the rights to somebody else.
We'll never know who was really responsible. However I was
not on set when it (Brandon Lee's accidental and tragic
same thing happened with Christopher Reeve. We did a
western film together, which was supposed to be series.
But he stalled and went horse riding. That was when he had
his accident. But if he had said yes, we would have been
on location, and perhaps the accident wouldn't have
According to Todd, there is talk about a Candy Man 3.
Listening to him talk about this subject, he seems
resigned to the fact of doing it.
it would be terrific for me, and that would be the only
reason why I would take it. But people are fucking with me
already calling me Candyman, so I might as well do it. But
I’ll do it to use it - to go on.
only way I am going to do it is to get a package deal from
the studio that picks it up, gives me other roles that are
not related to that. And if Clive writes the script. If he
sits down and really thinks about what he will be
turning his attention back to Star Trek, Todd is quite
clear about Voyager.
don't want to do Voyager, I don't like it. There is no
place for me there. I don't think that I would work with
the people who are on it. I could get on it if I wanted
to. After The Visitor it would have to be a damn good