Today, the indie thriller VANish arrives on Blu/DVD and VOD and to celebrate, Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with prolific character actor Tony Todd, who portrays an oddball highway cop that unknowingly stumbles upon a kidnapping-gone-wrong during a routine traffic stop. During our interview, Todd discussed his involvement with the project, what’s coming next for him and how his enduring legacy as Candyman has allowed him to continue to pursue his interests in social work.
Thanks for speaking with me today, Tony. I thought VANish did a really nice job of doing some unexpected things even if it didn’t have a huge budget. It got very creative with the characters which was a great decision, I think.
Tony Todd: Oh yeah, I’d agree that the story kept things interesting and those choices make it a better experience for audiences, I believe. Because once you start watching something and the viewer is able to get ahead of the story, that’s when you’re in trouble as a storyteller. I liked that the hero of the movie was also this strong woman in her 20’s who finds clever ways of surviving. That’s something I really appreciate in an action movie because it’s not very typical these days in film to see women in that demographic. It also has these strong cameo performances from myself and Danny and so I thought this was a great project all around. It was also my first time playing a highway state trooper too (laughs).
Was that the big appeal, then? Taking on something completely new as an actor?
Tony Todd: It was a big reason but the script itself had to grab me and it did. Plus, I liked the filmmakers. They all went to USC and banded together to make this movie and I respected that. This is their first film, and probably first of many because they were very talented. And so I took this role as a highway trooper which was cool because I got to ride around in a cruiser and it may seem like a small thing but with every role, I try and turn it into something different than the role before and shuffle the cards up.
Your scene in VANish is a lot of fun because it turns so surreal and it gets really uncomfortable too which then makes it a bit hilarious so I thought it was a highlight.
Tony Todd: Oh, thanks! They wanted to maximize that time that I was going to be onscreen so that it would feel like it wasn’t just a tossaway cameo. So it was a little bit of them and a little bit of me just because I just wanted the guy to be a real character. His uniform was immaculately pressed, they never show them but his shoes were shined up to perfection and he wore his belt in such a way. Those details mattered and I even gave him a back story where I saw him as this lonely guy who spends his days just sitting on the side of the road with barely any cars passing through. He’s been on this job for 25 years and his wife has left him so he’s got some time on his hands (laughs).
But you have to go deep with your character, regardless of how big or small, because otherwise it shows.
Because you’ve been able to enjoy such a lengthy and busy career for decades now, does it get any harder for you to find great roles that can keep you interested or is there still good projects out there to be found?
Tony Todd: It’s still easy and I’ve been fortunate because I’ve been involved in some great films lately. I just recently worked on this movie called Cold December; I star in it with Michael Eklund and it’s a supernatural western that takes place on a train and I’m really proud of it. I also just reteamed with Bernard Rose who did Candyman for his version of Frankenstein which takes place in the underbelly of Los Angeles. I play a blind, homeless musician in it so I get to sing a little bit of blues in it. Bringing back my Chicago blues background.
I know that because of you taking on the role of Candyman that you and that character have become beloved icons to genre fans which is really awesome. Beyond that though, what has this role come to mean to you over the years outside of being one of the most recognizable villains of all time?
Tony Todd: When it first came out, I didn’t really ‘get it.’ I mean, I loved the movie and the character but I didn’t recognize the longevity. A lot of people told me when I was working on it that this was going to be something that would stick with me for a very long time but I just thought they were being nice. It wasn’t until about two years after I worked on it where my daughter and I were shopping in a mall in Ohio and people kept coming up to me. That was the first time I’d ever really been recognized. I think cable had started to run Candyman in the rotation a lot and I guess that’s how a lot of people discovered that film.
Over the years, there isn’t a day that goes by where someone wants to talk about Candyman with me and say something about what it means to them. And most people I talk to are incredibly nice but they tell me how I gave them nightmares so it means a lot to me that not only was Candyman such an effective character but it also stuck with viewers long after they watched the film. But I’m honored to have played this character, I’m honored to have worked with Bernard and Clive Barker is a dear friend too. It’s inescapable but it’s also opened a lot of doors for me as I do a lot of public service work now with gangs and the popularity of Candyman has allowed me to do that, which is just wonderful.