Hell Fest is an upcoming slasher flick set in an amusement park that people have been buzzing about all summer. But the main attraction has to be the inclusion of horror icon Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination, Night of the Living Dead). We had a few minutes to chat his Hell Fest character, Candyman’s impact on the African-American community, and what draws him back to horror year after year.
For playing some truly sinister characters, Tony Todd is every bit as warm and humble as he’s often described. Catch the legend in action as The Barker, the ringleader of the traveling Hell Fest Amusement park. Hell Fest hits theaters September 28th, and I can assure you it’s a killer time!
DeVaughn Taylor for Nightmare on Film Street: So I think I speak for most horror fans that you know we’re excited to see you on the big screen again.
Tony Todd: So I do a little TV, you guys think I’m gone forever? [Chuckles]
NOFS: Well we got to hear you on TV, a little different.
TT: Mmmhmm, The Flash…Zoom. Watch out for that DC Universe.
NOFS: Watch out, a little hint there?
TT: I’m just saying, watch out.
NOFS: After all these years, what keeps bringing you back to the horror genre?
TT: Well you know I’m an actor, right? I went to school for it got my masters in theater. My job is to wake up and check out the news, see what’s happening politically whatever socially, share a little music on Twitter. My manager or agent will call. Maybe I’ll see a script, could be any genre. It’s like getting a mystery box. I don’t know what’s going to be in it. One day it could be a drama or a comedy. One day could be horror. The luck of the draw. I mean, maybe I do a horror film once a year and a half or so, but every year I do at least three projects.
NOFS: So you like to switch it up?
TT: Yeah, the ones that make me happy are the theater jobs because they’re completely different and rooted in reality. I got to work with August Wilson twice, the original king Henry II, and you see that and all this other stuff is just part of a tribe. But horror I get to do because I don’t need it, so I get to really pick and choose and I’ve been lucky because the ones I picked end up being franchises which is great.
NOFS: Yes, and like you said, you get to be a little picky. So what was it about The Barker that brought you into Hell Fest?
TT: I’m a music lover. In another life I’m a demented blues musician.
NOFS: What instrument do you play in that life?
TT: Well in that life and in real life, I play a Wabash acoustic guitar, electrified, little Robert Johnson kind of influence. So [The Barker] musically spoke to me. I mean he’s a carnival barker. He owns this attraction, which is not quite clear in this film. Every Season we travel somewhere else and he’s dedicated to giving the audience, the people to come to his park, the best thrill of their life. The best night, scare wise, that they can have. Not just some junky connected theme park thing, something as a total experience. Good food, good thrills. Get closer to your partner. leave and go home safely. So things go wrong always in the perfect world.
NOFS: And The Barker, like you said, he owns the park. You’re essentially the embodiment of the park, if you will.
TT: And if you listen to the soundscape, you hear him continually.
NOFS: And that’s what I was get into. You know your voice is almost more iconic to me than seeing you on screen sometimes…
TT: That’s what DC said!
NOFS: So when I hear you doing these attraction announcements, were those written or did you get to do your own thing?
TT: A little bit of both. I actually did a separate ADR session. That was where we record voices after work, […] and we had a very nice voice studio. I’ve seen almost all of them in Hollywood. We just improvised, do ten times and throw it away sometimes, it was a fun process.
NOFS: What was the best part of the production process?
TT: I think everybody involved is passionate and hopeful for this. You know this is the season for the elephant in the room which is Halloween and that’s going to drive all of us forward and hopefully next season instead of there being five horror films, there will be ten. You know, success duplicates itself.
NOFS: Speaking of successful horror films. My very last question, of course you know there’s been rumblings about a new Candyman movie possibly coming around and Jordan Peele in talks, who did some big things with it Get Out.
TT: Real big things!
NOFS: It was such a big movie for horror fans, but especially for African Americans. What has that meant to you with Candyman? As a kid seeing you on screen; leading a horror film was huge for me. So what’s the importance of that representation mean to you?
TT: I Didn’t realize that importance at the time, about how impactful Candyman was, particularly in the inner cities which had some of the strongest fanbase. But yes, he was that African-American representing, you know, us. So before that I was able to play the heroic character in Night of the Living Dead. So between the two, that was the stuff of HBO, you know back in Def Jam generation. So I’m honored. If Jordan wants to do it, do it. I know I’d rather have him do it, someone with intelligence, who’s going to be thoughtful and dig into the whole racial makeup of who Candyman is and why he existed in the first place. I know he’ll give homage and I know that if it gets made, I’ll have a plate at the table one way or the other.
NOFS: Well we gotta make it out of Hell Fest before returning to Cabrini Green! Thank you so much for your time, truly a pleasure.
TT: The pleasure is all mine